3 ways AI is accelerating the energy transition
3 ways AI is accelerating the energy transition
Through data analysis and predictive monitoring, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a key role in the energy transition to renewable sources. In this article, Enel takes a deep dive into how AI technologies will support a sustainable future.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) analyzes data to optimize energy efficiency, improve energy supply and demand predictions and increase grid flexibility.
In the transition to renewable energy sources, the analytical and predictive capacities of AI will be crucial to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Three of the most promising ways in which AI will accelerate the energy transition are smart grids, optimized electricity consumption and electric mobility.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the biggest technologies of the 21st century, promising to fundamentally restructure our society. This disruption could not come at a better time: according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2021 global energy-related CO2 emissions rose 6% to reach 36.3 billion tons, the highest level ever.
We need to reverse this trend. To avoid an irreparable climate crisis, we must decarbonize and transition to renewable sources, in a fundamental paradigm shift of how we produce and consume energy.
That is where AI comes in. Studies have found that 93% of the environmental UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be achieved with the aid of Artificial Intelligence powered solutions. Moreover, AI-enabled use cases have the potential to help organizations reach as much as 45% of their Economic Emissions Intensity (EEI) reductions by 2030, depending on the industry.
As we move to a carbon-free future, AI is positioned to accelerate the much-needed energy transition.
AI and energy transition: a data-driven world
We already have too much data for humans to possibly analyze, and we are producing more every day. With the rise of IoT, the International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that by 2025, there will be 175 zettabytes of data globally. Even when we try to put this in perspective, these numbers are unfathomable – it would take 1.8 billion years for someone to download that much data at current processing speed.
AI technologies can be adopted quickly and with a wide range of applications, meaning that even small gains in efficiency, storage capacity or flexibility can result in big savings and CO2 reductions. AI models can lead to more accurate forecasts, improved energy supply and demand predictions, increased grid flexibility, as well as optimized maintenance and operation of assets.
To this end, Enel has recently inaugurated the AI&Robotics Lab in Tel Aviv, Israel. This newest lab in our global innovation network invites startups and entrepreneurs to find solutions for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics in renewables and power grids. By pursuing innovations in AI, we can become more energy efficient, reduce waste and promote environmental sustainability.
Let’s take a look at three ways AI is helping drive the future of sustainable energy.
1. Smart grids
We have come a long way since the construction of the first electricity grids in 1882. The grid, i.e. the network of transmission lines, substations, transformers, etc., is what delivers electricity from power plants to your home, so that when you flick a switch, light turns on. The future of electricity systems is referred to as ‘smart grids’.
Smart grids are networks integrated with sensors, data analytics tools, energy storage systems, energy management platforms and other technologies. These systems collect data from every single device on the grid, which AI can then analyze to optimize energy efficiency for customers.
AI for energy forecasting is important for balancing the grid, reducing congestion and improving efficiency of renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Because companies can monitor energy flow in real-time, they can make predictions to reduce energy consumption during peak hours, resulting in financial savings for consumers and a greener planet for all.
As part of our Net-Zero strategy to eliminate all of Enel’s CO2 emissions by 2040, our Grid Futurability® approach combines robust infrastructure with advanced technological solutions to make digital electricity grids more resilient, participatory and sustainable. By 2024, we aim to reach 81 million grid customers, 63% of whom will be digitalized, thanks to the world’s most advanced smart meter technology developed by Gridspertise.
2. Optimized electricity consumption
According to the World Economic Forum, buildings represent 39% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, mostly from operational energy usage. Thus, wasted energy hurts the planet (not to mention people’s wallets). AI-powered smart buildings and homes can resolve these inefficiencies, a crucial step in the path to a Net-Zero future.
AI can be used in homes, offices and factories to learn about the behavior of both people and equipment in order to reduce electricity. By analyzing sensor data and computer vision, AI can determine occupancy levels and better understand a building’s thermal behaviors. This is good for the environment: integrating smart solutions into existing building could reduce EU energy consumption by 5-6% and lower CO2 emissions by 5%. In one instance, Google’s DeepMind AI optimized efficiency to reduce the energy used for cooling at one of the company’s data centers by 40%, accounting for a 15% overall decrease in power usage.
It is also becoming more common for people to have smart devices such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Nest in their homes. By 2025, it is predicted that there will be 478.2 million smart homes globally. These IoT devices allow customers to monitor their energy consumption and change their habits to reduce unnecessary electricity consumption. Smart homes can also help fulfill power demand with renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels. For example, AI-integrated solutions can automatically turn off unused appliances when power is expensive or switch on when solar power energy is cheap and abundant.
3. Electric mobility
In 2019, emissions from road transportation accounted for 71% of the EU’s overall greenhouse gas emissions. In order to decarbonize, we need to shift to electric mobility (e-Mobility) powered by clean, renewable electricity instead of fossil fuels. Luckily, the market for electric vehicles is expected to boom in the upcoming years. Analysts predict that electric cars sales could increase to 31.1 million by 2030, accounting for 32% of the total market share.
AI will be paramount to the e-Mobility sector, with a variety of applications. For example, the Israeli-based B2B startup Make My Day collaborated with Enel to develop a smart, decision-based algorithm for electronic vehicle driving assistance, helping drivers plan their routes based on electric charging stations. Enel X is also collaborating with global AI software platform Optibus to optimize and manage public transport electric vehicle fleets, as part of the plan to electrify and decarbonize cities. These AI-powered advancements will help drive the e-Mobility sector, and thus, the energy transition to a more sustainable future.
Enel Open Innovability® and AI: together toward a sustainable future
Given AI’s exponential rate of development, we must constantly pursue innovation in order to stay on the cutting-edge. As such, Enel is looking to collaborate with startups and entrepreneurs to build a smarter, more sustainable future. If you have an AI-powered solution to improve energy storage systems or renewable energy technologies, check out our challenges.
While the future is uncertain, one thing is clear: technological advances will be at the core of upcoming environmental, economic and social changes. With AI, we can leverage the proliferation of data to overcome the challenges of today and foresee the opportunities of tomorrow.
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