18 january 2016

Internet of things changes energy sector

Направление деятельности:
Технологии и промышленность
Сопровождение деятельности Фонда Развития Интернет-Инициатив по разработке дорожной карты развития «Интернета вещей» в России

The Global Internet is transforming from the network of data exchange between computers into the Internet of Things (IoT) – an  infrastructure linking intelligent objects, i.e. devices  embedded with  control systems. IoT is spreading over different spheres of life, but its progress is uneven. One of the most promising sectors for implementation of the concept of “connected world” is the energy sector.

Интернет вещей меняет энергетику

The total number of connected devices in all spheres of our life (billion. Pcs.). 

Source – CSR" North-West " Foundation , based on the data provided by Gartner.

Of course, at this stage it would be premature to speak about the Internet of Things in the energy sector as an established consumer market: most complex projects in the world are only approaching the commercialization phase, and only few companies show profit. However, beginning from 2014 the number of companies regarding IoT as a key technology or investment direction in their strategies has increased considerably and the average growth of the group of IoT-related products has totaled about 50% per year.

It is clear that the concept of "connected objects” is applicable to any area where there is a need to control a great number of interconnected objects, or at least to see how these objects are connected to each other. How are these objects controlled? The architecture is multi-layered. At the lower level is the equipment which can receive information from objects: detectors, sensors and controllers. At the middle level are the nodes and systems that transmit data. The upper level is, figuratively speaking, the digital platform, where data is aggregated and processed, and where decisions are taken and implemented.

We conducted a survey of experts in different sectors and found out that Russian companies believe IoT technologies have great potential in healthcare, transport, industry and energy. Investment in digital technologies in these sectors can generate significant gains, for example, it can increase their operating efficiency. In the case of energy sector, digitization is regarded as a vitally important process: energy companies are spread over a vast territory and are often operated remotely without personnel present on site. The cost of accidents in energy industry is obvious and enormous. The Internet of Things makes it possible to connect all these objects to the control center and to establish control over potentially dangerous production sites.

Introduction of the Internet of Things in the energy sector is promoted both by technological progress - supercomputers and their services have become cheaper and capable of handling large amounts of data, as well as by the progress in engineering: for example, there have been created more efficient, cheaper and lighter wind turbines. Energy industry uses composite materials and built-in electronics. Scaling and cost-reduction of innovative engineering technologies gave a whole class of new solar and wind energy plants - in particular, energy accumulation and redistribution devices. The spread of information technology makes it possible to integrate new power generators in micro and macro, grids, two-way communication networks enabling electricity flow in both directions.

Infrastructure becomes much more flexible, changing the energy before our very eyes

The process of technology dissemination and cheapening leads to the fact that the new paradigm of energy, which we explored a few years ago in the form of assumptions about possible major changes in energy balance at the turn of the 2030s, is being formed right before our very eyes. Forecasts predicted that a considerable share of alternative sources of energy would become part of the energy sector. Today we see the emergence of distributed alternative generation, which, in fact, replaces the traditional power generation, with its large power plants, large power lines with different channels of power, but the one-way flow from large generating stations to consumers. The infrastructure is becoming much more flexible, changing the energy right before our eyes. How does it help people? It enables them to manage their energy consumption at the level of an individual household, to correct their consumer behavior. In fact, in some of the countries there already exist whole villages of "active houses" capable of not only saving resources (energy), but, in our case, also of generating it. An “active house” is equipped with a transmitter, able to return any excess power to the grid, so the owner can enjoy profit. In Russia there are few examples of the houses that prove direct economic benefit to their owners. They are built by people themselves, who collect new technology platform for their homes “bit by bit”.

Regarding the complex projects in Russia, for the present all existing projects for Internet of Things in the energy sector are of a rather conceptual and ideological nature. In the logic of solutions for "smart energy" it is planned, for example, to set up a test site in the Akademichesky district, a new district in the city of Yekaterinburg. Similar initiatives for testing a complex of innovation solutions for the energy sector exist in Sevastopol. But there are no new energy neighborhoods or new energy towns as such. As to the needs of the Russian energy business, it has not been interested in the swarming, distributed network so far. A couple years ago we conducted a study on the future of energy sector, which showed that Russia's infrastructure was more interested in optimization of its existing and rather steadily functioning system. A more current issue for us is the network of the first generation, which can be made more efficient, digitalized and equipped with control systems. But it would be a one-way control - the whole system will be reproduced in a large data management center and thoroughly monitored to detect the areas of possible accidents or local overloads. This will take place at the macro level.

Apparently, companies with a focus on the new technology platform and the new type of consumer behavior, demonstrate more interest in microgrids, distributed generation and the Internet of Energy.

Source: Energy Expert Center, based on the interview with Marina Lipetskaya, Director of the CSR “North-West” Foundation.