Connectivity and the digital future of energy
In the last decade, there is no doubt that most sectors have experienced some form of change, with the recent rapid adoption of new ideas and initiatives set to permanently alter the way industries operate.
However, suggests that “few sectors experience the change from quite as many angles as energy, where political pressure, consumer demands and environmental obligations are combining in a series of industry-level transformation imperatives that demand action.”
In SSE Enterprise Telecoms’ latest white paper: , the company identifies three core challenges that the industry is currently facing: the move to RIIO-2; the transition from DNO to DSO; and smart grid adoption.
The move to RIIO-2
“Due for implementation in 2021, RIIO-2 is the new energy sector price control, intended to encourage competition and ensure fair pricing for consumers,” comments .“It’s also intended to put the consumer at the heart of all decision-making that happens within the energy sector, as well as reducing costs, boosting safety and accelerating the low-carbon economy.”
While RIIO-2 will deliver many benefits to the sector, introducing it into the industry will inevitably bring challenges, including the need for a clear digitalisation strategy to support data needs, ensuring data visibility and providing better customer experience. “Succeeding when RIIO-2 becomes the standard, will inevitably rest on infrastructure modernisation,” adds .
The transition from DNO to DSO
While the desire to move to more efficient and environmentally friendly operations is not new to the sector, the challenges to drive this comes from the need to change their operating models. Switching from Distributed Network Operators (DNOs) to Distributed Systems Operators (DSOs) highly depends on improved digitised functions and data to monitor grid performance, supply consumption and efficiency.
Smart grid adoption
Energy companies are at the centre of a smart boom. There’s a dramatic increase in the number of smart devices going into UK homes, cities and workplaces. With all these devices requiring constant connection and power, it is believed that electricity will account for a quarter of all energy demands by .
SSE Enterprise Telecoms explains that “with the DSO model being underpinned by smart grids, this technology will be an essential integration technology to decrease supply costs, reduce outages and increase synergy.”
While there are many benefits of smart grids, SSE Enterprise Telecoms highlights that for the UK, “much of the network infrastructure in place today is not sufficiently prepared for what the government and consumers will demand tomorrow.”
Developing a digital agenda
Although the industry is facing multiple challenges, namely to become consumer-centric, sustainable and efficient, the connecting thread is digitalisation. “By prioritising digitalisation and modernisation, energy companies can hit the markers set for them by their various stakeholders, and grasp the opportunity provided by an evolving, exciting marketplace,” says
While big steps have been made in the energy sector around digitalisation, SSE Enterprise Telecoms suggests there are three focus points for leaders to priorities when developing a digital agenda to mitigate these challenges.
Major move forward for UK’s nascent marine energy sector
Although the industry is small and the technologies are limited, marine-based energy systems look to be taking off as “the world’s most powerful tidal turbine” begins grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Centre.
At around 74 metres long, the turbine single-handedly holds the potential to supply the annual electricity demand to approximately 2,000 homes within the UK and offset 2,200 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Orbital Marine Power, a privately held Scottish-based company, announced the turbine is set to operate for around 15 years in the waters surrounding Orkney, Scotland, where the 2-megawatt O2 turbine weighing around 680 metric tons will be linked to a local on-land electricity network via a subsea cable.
How optimistic is the outlook for the UK’s turbine bid?
Described as a “major milestone for O2” by CEO of Orbital Marine Power Andrew Scott, the turbine will also supply additional power to generate ‘green hydrogen’ through the use of a land-based electrolyser in the hopes it will demonstrate the “decarbonisation of wider energy requirements.”
“Our vision is that this project is the trigger to the harnessing of tidal stream resources around the world to play a role in tackling climate change whilst creating a new, low-carbon industrial sector,” says Scott in a statement.
The Scottish Government has awarded £3.4 million through the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund to support the project’s construction, while public lenders also contributed to the financial requirements of the tidal turbine through the ethical investment platform Abundance Investment.
“The deployment of Orbital Marine Power’s O2, the world’s most powerful tidal turbine, is a proud moment for Scotland and a significant milestone in our journey to net zero,” says Michael Matheson, the Cabinet Secretary for Net-Zero, Energy and Transport for the Scottish Government.
“With our abundant natural resources, expertise and ambition, Scotland is ideally placed to harness the enormous global market for marine energy whilst helping deliver a net-zero economy.
“That’s why the Scottish Government has consistently supported the marine energy sector for over 10 years.”
However, Orbital Marine CEO Scott believes there’s potential to commercialise the technology being used in the project with the prospect of working towards more efficient and advanced marine energy projects in the future.
“We believe pioneering our vision in the UK can deliver on a broad spectrum of political initiatives across net-zero, levelling up and building back better at the same time as demonstrating global leadership in the area of low carbon innovation that is essential to creating a more sustainable future for the generations to come.”
The UK’s growing marine energy endeavours
This latest tidal turbine project isn’t a first for marine energy in the UK. The Port of London Authority permitted the River Thames to become a temporary home for trials into tidal energy technology and, more recently, a research project spanning the course of a year is set to focus on the potential tidal, wave, and floating wind technology holds for the future efficiency of renewable energy. The research is due to take place off of the Southwest coast of England on the Isles of Scilly