As worldwide energy consumption is expected to grow by 40% over the next 25 years, the need for smarter energy solutions has reached an all-time high.
Luckily, there are some major shifts toward more efficient energy management. From smart light bulbs to completely autonomous offshore oil rigs – the current impact of IoT on the energy sector is hard to underestimate.
Driven mostly by the growing demand for process automation and operational efficiency, more businesses are exploring IoT use cases in energy management.
So, how has IoT impacted the energy industry? What are the potential use cases for smart energy solutions? We will try to answer these questions below.
But first, let’s talk about the benefits of IoT in the energy industry.
As mentioned above, the major driver for the use of IoT technologies in the energy industry is the need for more efficient, streamlined energy management. Yet, there are many more ways IoT energy devices can transform the industry.
Namely, the main impact of IoT on the energy industry lies in the following:
- Higher energy efficiency using IoT. Largely due to the improved control over energy consumption, organizations can significantly reduce waste. This leads to major cost savings and allows for the cutting of CO2 emissions, which has a positive impact on the environment.
- Cost savings. IoT solutions for the energy industry help organizations cut maintenance and operating expenses through system modernization and minimized human effort.
- Increased reliability of power supply. The average cost of a power outage in the US currently equals to $150 billion per year, and around 25% of all industrial outages were caused by equipment failures. With that being said, a proposed solution to address these issues is to always be connected by IoT energy systems, as they offer a more stable and reliable source of power.
- New data sources. In terms of collecting and processing tons of data, IoT energy devices offer real-time insights into system’s performance. By using this data, it is possible to implement predictive maintenance models as well as improve staff safety.
Despite the number of undeniable advantages, smart energy solutions have their implications. Namely, here are some of the pitfalls you need to take into account when considering the use of IoT technologies in the energy industry.
1. Security is a common threat to all IoT solutions. The APIs that connect your devices into a unified network can be used as an entry point for targeted attacks.
2. Connectivity: your system needs to always be -on, with a minimum delay for data processing and feedback.
Important: There is a solution to address both security and connectivity issues within the IoT – edge computing. You can learn more about the impact of edge computing technology on IoT and some of its use cases in our article.
3. Integration challenges may arise when you need to connect your new IoT network to the existing legacy systems that often rely on outdated technologies. In this case, you’ll need to first start by modernizing the current infrastructure.
1. Industrial IoT use cases in energy management and production
- Energy system monitoring and maintenance
IoT in the energy industry can be used to keep track of a number of system metrics, including its overall health, performance, and efficiency, and as a result, simplify its maintenance. Be it a wind turbine or other critical equipment, it might be hard to identify a problem before the system goes down. Plus, checking for problems manually is an extremely wasteful and laborious process.
Case in point: General Electric is using IoT sensors to monitor the output and productivity of its equipment. By using data from the sensors, GE was able to implement predictive maintenance models based on its Predix platform.
As a result, the company can better forecast their maintenance needs, achieve better operating efficiency, and minimize system downtime.
- Process automation
IoT makes it possible to build completely autonomous energy plants or oil drills. As mentioned above, smart sensors can be used to monitor the system’s performance in real time, and as a result, automatically adjust its efficiency using machine learning and AI.
At the same time, IoT-enabled drilling equipment can automatically tailor the drill depth and adjust to the external conditions using AI algorithms for optimal performance. As a result, the need to manually tamper with the equipment is minimized.
- Increased efficiency
Similarly, this can make power plants more efficient and reduce waste.
For example, the IoT-enabled system deployed by General Electric helps increase a coal power plant efficiency by up to 16%, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 3%. This is achieved by optimizing fuel combustion and adjusting the process to the specifics of the fuel being burned, i.e. automatically regulating the oxygen flow in the boiler.
- Safety and disaster prevention
IoT solutions can also be used in the energy industry to improve operational safety and prevent production accidents (as well as eliminate their consequences).
Namely, the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has been using drones to find methane leaks during the Northern California wildfires. The drones communicated data to the unified control system which, in turn, automatically isolated leaks until the damage was fixed by the crew on-site. The organization has been testing this approach to conduct routine infrastructure inspections as well.
Safety drones can also be used as a part of the hazard management system to lower employee risk on nuclear plants or at mining locations.
2. Consumer-facing IoT energy devices and use cases
- Smart meters
These IoT energy devices connect consumers directly to the power distribution station, allowing for a two-way communication. As a result, they can send critical operation information to the utility agencies in real-time. This helps utility agencies quickly address any performance issues, including outages, and reduce the system downtime.
Smart meters can also identify and automatically isolate the damaged section of a line without affecting the performance of the rest of the network.
All in all, Accenture finds that there are many ways consumers can benefit from using smart meters.
No wonder smart grid spending in the US will reach $36 billion between 2018 and 2030.
- Smart grids
Smart meters connected in a single network create smart energy grids. This represents another way the Internet of Things can be used in energy management.
Namely, Duke Energy, a Florida-based company, has introduced a “self-healing grid system” which can automatically re-calibrate itself after a power outage and, as a result, minimize the downtime.
Another example: Chattanooga, Tennessee, was one of the first cities to implement smart grid technology. This resulted in over 50% shorter outages and helped the community save over $1.4 million in operating costs during a single storm.
Moreover, smart grids have a positive impact on the environment: by 2030 they are expected to cut air pollution by 30%.
- Smart buildings
IoT devices can be used to autonomously manage the lighting, heating, and humidity in a building, be it an office or a private house. This is how IoT can reduce energy consumption and, as a result, make buildings more efficient.
Learn more about the use of IoT in the workplace: Smart Office Applications for Better Productivity
IoT solutions for energy also make possible the so-called “Zero Net Energy” buildings, the ones where the total amount of energy consumed is roughly equal to the amount of energy created on-site (through renewable sources). The concept is quickly gaining traction: there was a 75% increase in zero net energy homes between 2016 and 2017.
- Sustainable cities
Just like separate buildings, an entire city’s infrastructure can also benefit from using IoT energy solutions.
From smart street lighting systems to electrified public transport, IoT energy solutions offer dozens of ways to optimize power consumption, reduce waste, and, as a result, build more sustainable urban communities.
Copenhagen, San Francisco, and Vancouver are only some of the cities that have made a significant effort to become sustainable through the reduction of energy consumption and improved energy efficiency.
Whether you are the owner of an energy company running multiple energy plants across the country and are willing to automate your operations or are simply a savvy business owner looking to cut energy consumption, there’s an IoT energy solution to fit every need.
Regardless of your primary business focus, investing in smart energy initiatives is a great idea, especially now as the global community is striving to live a more sustainable, waste-free life. Moreover, you still have a chance to become one of the early adopters, securing a foothold in the market.
So, if you are willing to explore the opportunities within the IoT energy sphere, make sure to first of all partner with a reliable and experienced technology provider. We at Eastern Peak have a solid track record building scalable IoT solutions across a number of business domains and can help you bring your products to the market.
Let’s get the ball rolling, contact us to receive a free expert consultation with one of our senior product managers using our contact form.
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