Jan 24, 2019

Google commits to first-ever solar power agreement in Asia

Solar
Renewable Energy
Sustainability
Andrew Woods
2 min
Energy Digital reports on Google's new solar power agreement
Google has signed a long-term contract to buy 10MW of solar power generated from 40,000 solar panels in Tainan, a city in southern...

Google has signed a long-term contract to buy 10MW of solar power generated from 40,000 solar panels in Tainan, a city in southern Taiwan, in its first ever Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) in Asia.

The electricity Google has purchased from the solar farm will be wheeled to the same grid to help power Google’s data center in Changhua County, and the solar project will be built on commercial fishing ponds and coexist with local ecology.

Greenpeace Taiwan’s Energy project manager Chih An Lee said: “For years, Greenpeace has been challenging global IT brands to power their rapidly growing footprint with renewable energy. It makes both environmental and economic sense – for business executives, companies can benefit from a long-term fixed electricity cost to avoid market volatility; and corporate demand for renewable electricity can drive investment in renewable energy and energy transition both domestically and internationally.

See also: 

Top 10 Smart Cities 

AB InBev announces green accelerator for startups 

Smart cities and the future of carbon capture 

“The fact that Google is purchasing 10MW is a good start for the company and also demonstrates the potential for other corporates to utilise renewable energy in Taiwan. We need to see more companies step up and demand renewable energy for their operations in Taiwan and elsewhere in East Asia. Expanding the use of renewable energy by business sectors is a multi-win for business, investment, local communities and the environment.”

Share article

May 10, 2021

How technology kept energy flowing through the lockdowns

Mobilemanagement
software
Video
Marc Greggains
5 min
Marc Greggains, Director of Commercial Sales at Totalmobile, explains how scheduling software cleared backlogs and video assistance raised productivity

With the UK Government’s plan for leaving lockdown underway, organisations across the utilities sector are looking forward to returning to a semblance of normality.

The start of 2021 wasn’t what most had hoped for – after the lockdowns of 2020, the new year presented the UK with 'Lockdown 3.0'. But this time there was a difference. This was the first lockdown taking place during winter months, and for energy companies in particular, cold weather typically brought a spike in demand. 

However, organisations had been through this twice before – albeit in warmer weather – and therefore many were in better positions to continue to provide excellent customer service despite the tight restrictions that were in place. With the lessons that had been learned from the previous 12 months, businesses have been in a better place with much greater understanding of how to ensure their employees can keep working. 

Low temperatures = high energy use

The UK rarely sees winters as cold as the recent storm in Austin, Texas where during its coldest day, the state’s average temperature was just 11.8 degrees Fahrenheit – or -11.2 degrees Celsius. But that doesn’t mean that the months of cold British weather don’t cause their own problems. Particularly this winter with the majority of the country working from home, many would be cranking the central heating up and using more electricity for lighting during the darker days and evenings.

This rise in energy usage meant that suppliers were working harder than ever to ensure that homes were kept warm. During lockdown, completing maintenance in houses, offices, or any other site is trickier than usual, as companies have had to limit the number of workers they send to a single location. But as mentioned previously, lessons have been learned, and new technologies have been integrated by many companies to ensure that they could cope with the challenging situation.

How scheduling saved time

With the country moving in and out of lockdown in 2020, there was likely to be a backlog of jobs going into 2021 that didn’t get completed last year. Prioritising scheduling will have been necessary for many companies to ensure that this latest lockdown didn’t push them further behind.

Scheduling software is being adopted by a range of utilities companies to help speed up this process. These applications can identify a backlog of jobs in one geographical area and ensure that local teams can focus on these jobs first and move between them quicker. This is more productive than, for example, completing the tasks in order they were initially due, which could force teams to retrace their steps over the course of a week traveling to different sites and likely take longer overall.

Scheduling applications also help ensure that the right workers and resources are sent to the right jobs, reducing the number of repeat visits required to complete a repair. When it comes to compliance, having detailed schedules in place is also enabling companies to better meet strict SLAs when carrying out maintenance – this preparation ensures they have everything they legally require. Similarly, newly automated audits are speeding up this process, meaning workers can complete jobs and move onto the next site quicker.

While scheduling can of course always be carried out manually, companies that have integrated software which is designed to map out their jobs saves time, reduces the margin for error and eases the pressure on teams. Crucially, this has meant that customers haven’t been left waiting for long periods of time during the latest lockdown for essential maintenance to be carried out.

Using video to spread the workload

Another solution that has been making a positive impact on customer experience during lockdown is the increasing adoption of video-based remote assistance.

In the ‘new normal’ where limiting face-to-face contact is a priority, any technology that can reduce the number of people visiting multiple locations, and the amount of time they need to spend there, is beneficial. Video-based remote assistance is enabling gas and electricity maintenance workers to complete their jobs with less risk to themselves and others – be it workers from other organisations on-site, such as Highway Maintenance, or members of the local community. 

A smaller team can attend a job, and should they require advice from a more experienced team member, they can use the video livestream to show a supervisor the situation they’re dealing with and complete the job themselves under guidance. This reduces the number of workers that need to attend a site at one time, thereby helping the business to deploy resources more widely, and maximising labour utilisation when potentially dealing with a reduced workforce during the most recent lockdown. The supervisors working remotely can assist multiple maintenance workers in one day without travelling between locations, helping to reduce any potential spread of asymptomatic illness.

What the future holds

While these technologies have been on the rise recently due to the restrictions of COVID-19, according to Gartner, the next few years will see field service management tools continue to transform the mobile worker industry. 

Last year, the analyst firm predicted that by 2025, algorithms and bots will schedule over two-thirds of field service work for field service providers dependent on automated schedule optimisation, up from less than 25% in 2019. In the same time period, we will see over 50% of field service management deployments include mobile augmented-reality collaboration and knowledge-sharing tools, up from less than 10% in 2019. 

As far as 2021 is concerned, solutions such as these will continue to help energy – and other utilities – companies supply all customers with a consistent service regardless of the seasons.

The latest lockdown may have been the most challenging as the stakes were higher during winter, but rapidly developing technology innovations combined with the government’s lockdown exit strategy mean that it shouldn’t be long before life returns to a semblance of normal. And with it, utilities companies will have the technology in place to boost efficiency and productivity beyond what we’ve seen before.

Marc Greggains is Director of New Business Commercial Sales at TotalMobile 

Share article