Australia is one case where technology is leading the energy market’s revolution, but EnergyTech-Disruption is driven from global impacts. The core of Australia’s disruption is from the investment and innovation within ‘Big Data’ in sectors like telecom, energy, banking and IT. Big Data has also born an industry of artificial intelligence, where technology is tracking our every move and behaviour, then making predictive analysis and assumptions of historical data.
The idea of an interconnected tech-heavy future, engaging and interacting with humans is not far off.
General Electric is currently running a digital transformation project, utilising big data analysis, through cloud-based software platform Predix. This is a platform allowing machine operators and maintenance engineers with real-time information to schedule maintenance checks, improved machine efficiency, and reduce downtime. Bill Ruh, GE’s Chief Digital Officer said to MIT Sloan Review: “Machines generate time-series data, which is very different than social or transactional data. We had to optimize for the kinds of analytics that would help us understand the behaviour of machines.”
Thinking machines, following advice based on operating results they’ve tracked, or entire industries actioning optimisation plans designed by computers without the need for human involvement. Currently there is an incredible amount of data being collected on our everyday lives with smart phones tracking where we are, where we live, our facebook profiles now suggesting people we may know, just by being in near proximity to them at a conference for example. This data is being used to improve our experiences with technology daily, and allows markets like Internet of things (IOT) technology to be used. Even large scale, utility scale projects are now utilising this incredible amount of data and seeing huge results.
Barcelona, is now a ‘Smart City’, using IoT on a large, city wide scale. Their purpose: achieve sustainable results combining technology. One of the actions consists of monitoring with sensors on the ground live data on humidity, temperature, wind velocity, sunlight, and atmospheric pressure. This program is generating 37 million of dollars a year in energy costs, just by obtaining information about when to turn the city lights on or sensing where people are.
In Australia similar projects are taking place within a community/precinct perspective, providing consumers with a portal of real time visibility information about how their home is being powered – whether via solar, battery storage, the grid or a mix. Measures of the level of electricity stored in a battery or being exported to the grid are also provided. The portal updates every minute and the entire minigrid is managed by a cloud-based software platform that monitors and analyses data in real time.
Australian start-up ‘The Distributed Energy Exchange’ is aiming to establish smart grids to allow the exchange of energy between across property boundaries and households. The key behind this concept is utilising data in the grid to understand where energy is needed. The system will work as a traffic light controller and will let all of those with solar panels and a storage system to sell their energy to the grid. This is a globally pioneering project that is able to occur in Australia due to a deregulated energy market.
On a smaller scale, Internet of things has also impacted home behaviour. Products like google nest, google home, amazon echo and many other similar devices that are all connected and provide us information and control of our life. Run a washing machine, dryer, sensor, camera or to heat/cool our house from long distance.This is technology driven behavioural change.
In Australia we are supportive of these types of innovations due to the large, expensive and coal dependant energy market we currently have. One of the key political discussions happening at the moment, is how to do transition to utility scale storage solutions. In California, United States, there is already a large utility scale prototype system named, Grid-Saver™ under construction. The battery storage utility uses low-cost lithium-ion cells that could help meet growing stationary energy storage demand in a safe, efficient and cost-effective way.
Energy generation locally as seen an exponential growth, with solar panel pricing plummeting due to a declining local demand for solar panels in China – the largest global manufacturer, combining with a rapidly increasing cost of energy in Australia. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, solar costs have decreased by a factor of 150 since 1975. Technology improvements in panel efficiency and funding markets maturity, has helped build strong confidence in the application on on-site renewable energy generation.
There are many considerations in a changing, political energy market with key issues such as utility scale storage to help handle baseline energy demand profiles and Internet of things, artificial intelligence and big data analysis disrupting our energy market.
Australia has a housing price boom, infrastructure boom, and currently has one of the highest amount of new building approvals in the world. This means our architectural and design principles need to evolve in line with technology innovation. This will be explore in more depth in part III of our series ‘Australia’s Energy Market Disruption - Sustainable Design’.
There will be new challenges in our near future, but if we incorporate smart design principles and integrate them with the rapidly evolving technology sector, our behaviours will change. Our aim is to seamlessly transition into a new, lower carbon, less grid dependant Australia.