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Kristina Dotzauer |

New Constellations for Energy Sector as Data Universe Grows

By 2020, the digital universe will reach 44 zettabytes, or 44 trillion gigabytes; nearly as many digital bits as there are stars in the universe. No horoscope is needed, however, to read the emerging constellations for the energy sector in these digital stars.


Markets are already evolving rapidly: on the supply side networked and automated infrastructure and the rise in distributed energy are having a huge impact on load dispatch – demanding more flexibility and systems integration.


Rapid uptake of storage technologies and distributed energy, are leading utilities to adopt new business models, policymakers to redesign electricity systems, and consumers to demand more participation in grid services. With the global electric vehicle market having grown 72.1% annually from 2011 to 2016, these pressures will only continue to increase.


Data guides the way


As any navigator will tell you, those who can read the stars can always plot their path forward. The data universe offers a clear parallel: a surge in the capabilities – and affordability – of cloud computing, sensors and machine-to-machine learning means reading and analyzing patterns in the space of digital noise is increasingly an industry “must.”


Using data from networked infrastructure, energy providers can implement real-time, remote-controlled asset management and predictive maintenance. High temperature sensors, for example, enable real-time data transmission from rotating components, allowing condition-based maintenance, improving availability and extending operational efficiency.


Basic monitoring of temperature and pressure has existed for years. But as Tim Holt, CEO of the Siemens Power Generation Services Division put it in an earlier interview: “Miniaturization means sensors can now be installed in places they couldn’t before, and robustness means they can go into much harsher environments.”


As Aymeric Sarrazin emphasizes, “We are facing a revolution in technologies and digital capabilities. With this, huge opportunities are opening up. We can simulate, test and optimize products, production processes and plants within a completely virtual environment– improving the productivity of both capital and labor. The extent to which we can support customers by analyzing data is already impressive and we’re just scratching the surface.”


Sustainable planet, sustainable profit


Today’s four sustainable energy system challenges – security of supply, affordability, climate protection, and resource efficiency – require precisely such ingenuity to overcome. Amid a challenging market however, executives on the supply side are often understandably concerned with more immediate commercial questions.


These include “How do I reduce my maintenance costs?” “How do I prevent unplanned outages?” “How do I reduce emissions?” and “How do I produce more without increasing my costs?”


Those bold enough to seize the digitalization opportunity will find that answers are easier to come by than many anticipate: Siemens’ Digital Services team, for example, is using data-driven, tailored services that increase asset availability, optimize maintenance intervals and improve performance that are delivering real value.


Virtual analysis, real results


These are not “magic box” packages. They are developed in close partnership with customers – bringing the digital services team’s world-class experts in pure math, coding and engineering around the table to build lean solutions that identify and resolve client pain points. Siemens Fleet Center Solutions, for example, has achieved a 34% reduction in emissions, 98% starting reliability and 80% reduction in manual operator actions.


As Sarrazin notes: “We are developing contracts that are based on profit-sharing rather than fixed internal payments, in order to share both the risk and the upside generated from our digital offerings. That’s how confident we are that digitalization is a game-changer for our industry and that Siemens is the best-positioned company in the world to tackle this new paradigm.”


The seamless flow of data allowed by digitalization between every step of the value chain, from product design through planning, engineering and production to servicing and maintenance, allows much higher levels of responsiveness. Aligning digital services with innovations such as 3D printing opens up even more opportunities.


It’s blue skies thinking at this stage, but as Sarrazin puts it: “We are not too far from a future in which a gas turbine can be set up that learns directly from the market to optimize performance and profitability in a spot market – and even orders its own parts to be 3D printed on demand.” Not just smart, but autonomous turbines? Watch this space!



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