Enterprises and industries are experiencing a wide range of energy-related issues, including rising prices amid growing consumption due to increasing electrification, sustainability imperatives imposing renewable energy sourcing, and energy market complexities requiring new purchasing strategies. A range of new smart energy technologies and solutions enables enterprises to drive down costs, achieving more independence from energy service providers and contributing to decarbonization goals. These include on-site microgrids, Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESSs), Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, energy monitoring, management, and sharing platforms, energy marketplaces, and energy efficiency management software. Enterprises and industries can take control and accelerate their own smart energy digital transformation.
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Smart Energy Challenges
Over the past year, the debate around energy has taken center stage, especially due to the gas crisis in Europe. More specifically, enterprises and industries are facing a wide and increasing range of challenges related to the supply of their (electric/sustainable) energy:
- Energy Costs: Geopolitical disruptions resulting in higher and/or volatile energy prices reducing visibility and predictability (resulting in high levels of insecurity).
- Electricity Consumption: Fast increasing electrification of vehicles, heating systems, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), and other industrial equipment, significantly increasing consumption and the associated cost of electric energy.
- Sustainability: Increasing regulatory pressures to decarbonize buildings, plants, and operations.
- Energy Market Complexity: Sharp increase in the number of (renewable) energy providers and the emergence of marketplaces for energy trading, making the energy purchase environment less transparent.
- Energy Reliability, Availability, and Quality: For many industrial operations, (electric) energy is a mission-critical enabler for the continuous operation of production facilities with any, even brief, interruptions in the energy supply, causing significant revenue losses and potential damage to manufacturing infrastructure.
- Energy Flexibility, Resilience, and Independence: Industries are increasingly seeking to become less dependent on their legacy suppliers of energy, mainly centralized utilities, by tapping into multiple providers, accessing energy marketplaces, and/or investing in their own on-site energy generation and storage infrastructure.
- Lack of Awareness and Expertise: Enterprises and industries are increasingly relying on professional services providers for assistance and advice on smart energy purchasing and technology strategies.
Adoption of Energy Technology Solutions and Services by Enterprises and Industries
The energy challenges listed above are prompting enterprises and, especially, mission-critical industrial operations to adopt one or more of the following smart energy technology solutions:
- On-Site Microgrids: Local generation of renewable energy from solar or wind sources. Some mining operations in Australia have already installed large-scale solar farms and associated energy storage.
- Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESSs): Complementary with microgrids, BESS technology allows buffering unpredictable renewable energy supply and/or protecting against sudden, brief outages.
- Electric Vehicle (EV) Fleet Charging Infrastructure: Private, on-site charging infrastructure as a critical asset to charge both passenger vehicles of employees and commercial fleet vehicles.
- Energy Sharing with Public Grids: Enables selling surplus energy back to the energy utilities, including Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) sharing.
- Energy Monitoring, Control, and Management Platforms and Software: Either deployed on-site or offered as a managed service by utilities or smart energy technology providers. This will evolve from largely manual operations to fully automated optimization of energy systems based on Artificial Intelligence (AI), including the autonomous balancing of demand and supply, real-time participation in energy marketplaces, and preventive maintenance or shutdowns.
- Energy Efficiency Management: Activity or presence-based operation of lighting and Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) in buildings; adoption of energy-efficient equipment and infrastructure; and overall optimization of energy usage in plants and data centers, increasingly controlled by automated AI-based software.
Moving toward a Future of Collectively Managed Distributed Energy Resources and Assets
Enterprises and industries can no longer afford to passively watch the energy markets being disrupted and put their fate in the hands of legacy energy utilities, centrally generating power at below par efficiency levels, and often still under quasi-monopolistic conditions, patiently waiting for their slow-paced digital transformation processes to take shape. The emergence of a range of smart energy technologies is now offering realistic perspectives for enterprises and industries to become active participants in the energy generation and distribution markets, gaining more independence and benefitting from higher quality and renewable energy at lower price points.
Cleary, the ultra-conservative and largely monopolistic energy sector has been long overdue for fundamental disruption and digital transformation. It’s unfortunate that it took an energy crisis in Europe and beyond to start and/or accelerate this process. However, other critical drivers for reinventing the energy market include regulatory pressures around sustainability (the elephant in the room), accelerating electrification, and, critically, more affordable and available local energy generation, storage, and digital management technologies, very much borrowing from the Industry 4.0 wave raging throughout the manufacturing market. All of this is now coming together in “a perfect storm” for global smart energy innovation and digital transformation, which will accelerate toward the end of this decade.
Importantly, and significantly, this will be an enterprise and industry-led revolution, moving along the ultra-conservative energy utilities and technology companies in their stride toward an energy market characterized by Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) and collectively managed interconnected (micro) grid assets unlocking the full potential of smart energy paradigms and driving global electrification. This is covered in more detail in ABI Research’s forthcoming Smart Energy for Enterprises and Industries report.