Global energy landscape is shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy (RE). As one of the world’s most dynamic regions, ASEAN is also continuing to develop RE in their energy landscape. Increased high energy demand and fast-growing digital technologies are pushing ASEAN to start digitalising its energy system. This means moving to the digital business that has been thriving for at least 10 years (Huitema, 2017). Digitalisation uses digital technologies to provide new income streams and value-producing opportunities. Digital technologies operate and connect different areas at any time. Digitalisation will help cut costs by improving efficiency in buildings (efficiency), improving maintenance and components operation (reliability); and helping end-users generate their own power using RE and move it to the grid as needed (affordability) (BNEF, 2017).
Energy system all over the world has been made more connected, efficient, reliable and sustainable due to energy digitalisation. In the coming years, digitalised energy system may be able to identify who needs energy and to deliver it at the right time, in the right place and at the lowest cost. Referring to BNEF (2017), digitalisation in energy system can provide the following benefits:
• Maintain grid stability and reliability. The real-time action of energy assets and industrial loads could provide accurate frequency regulation and demand response, providing new revenue streams for struggling fossil-fuel assets.
• Monitor the grid and identify points of failure and faults. Software and storage could defer grid upgrades, and the digital technologies originally applied to the transmission grid could spread to the distribution grid.
• Optimise and forecast energy production. Forecasting wind and solar outputs is an opportunity for digital technologies. They would enable better RE integration. Equipped with better forecasting system, fossil-fuel assets could be used more accurately as peaking plants to better regulate supply and demand.
• Give end-users more control. Solar home systems like rooftop solar PV could be matched with smart home energy management to enable owners to sell excess electricity to the grid or join blockchain schemes.
• Manage distributed, behind-the-meter generation. More outputs will be decentralised, and digital systems will provide transparent monitoring and data integration.
In the power system, energy digitalisation can bring advantage by reducing the cost of power system. According to IEA (2017), the costs of power system can be reduced by digital data and analytics in at least four ways: 1) by reducing operations and maintenance costs; 2) improving power plant’s and network’s efficiencies; 3) reducing unplanned outages and downtime; and 4) extending the operational lifetime of assets. The overall savings from the enhanced global deployment of available digital technologies to all power plants and network infrastructures could be around USD 80 billion per year over 2016-2040, or about 5% of total annual power generation costs.
Digitalising power plants is an example of energy digitalisation in the power system. The digital power plant will enable its utility and industrial customers to harness information technologies that improve the underlying infrastructure that generates electricity in a manner that will transform the way electricity is generated and managed worldwide, helping reduce the impact of power production and consumption to the climate (GE, 2016). For example, GE has developed Digital Gas Power Plants that may increase 2% output; decrease 5% of unplanned downtime, and 25% of operation and maintenance costs for gas power plants (GE, 2017).
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). (2017). Digitalization of Energy System. Available online at: https://about.bnef.com/blog/digitalization-energy-systems/.
General Electric (GE). (2016). Digital Transformation of Energy Accelerating GE’s Digital Plans for Power Industry. Available online at: https://www.ge.com/digital/press-releases/digital-transformation-energy-accelerating-ge-digital-plans-power-industry.
General Electric (GE). (2017). Private Sector Perspective: Role of Policy and Technology. Presented on Pathway to Paris Workshop on September 28, 2017 in the Philippines by JC Sandberg.
Huitema, George. (2017). Digitalisation of Energy System and Customer Participation (Digital Energy). Available online at: https://www.etip-snet.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/1.-George-Huitema-Digitisation-of-Energy-Systems-and-Customer-Participation.pdf.
International Energy Agency (IEA). (2017). Digitalization and Energy 2017. Available online at: http://www.iea.org/digital/.
Featured photo credit: Siemens AG