Preparing for the digital future of energy

With an overwhelming emphasis towards smarter and more eco-friendly methods of power generation and distribution, the future of the energy sector appears rife with opportunity.

The transition is not without its challenges, however.

While all sectors are having to adapt, few are evolving to the same extent as energy. With the demands of customers, environmental obligations and political pressure all driving industry-level transformation, IT leaders are sure to be bearing the brunt.

The conversation is dominated by three major developments within the industry:

1. The move to RIIO-2

With new pricing controls due from 2021, the consumer can soon look forward to a more competitively priced market, while decision-makers within the sector will need to demonstrate how their directives are working to improve safety, adopt a low-carbon economy and lower costs.

2. The transition from DNO to DSO

As the generation, transmission and trade of energy becomes a more open market with the proliferation of the prosumer, energy companies are having to navigate the tricky path of migrating from Distributed Network Operators (DNOs) to Distributed System Operators (DSOs). To achieve this successfully, the DSO model must be highly digitised with the capacity to move and manage grid data in real time.

3. Smart grid adoption

Looking ahead, it won’t just be energy companies that require instant access to network data and performance statistics. The increase in smart devices installed in UK cities, homes and places of work over the next five years is predicted to be exponential, and energy usage information will be required for all striving to be environmentally efficient.

With each of these challenges the digital agenda of energy companies can play a pivotal role. IT networks should be front of mind for leadership teams. Equally, forming the right technology partnerships will be critical.

Priorities in digitalisation

The way the landscape is changing will make for a more flexible network, designed to facilitate modification of energy production or consumption, based upon the demands of consumers and businesses.

But this will only work to its full potential if scalable infrastructure is in place that can respond to demand variability in real time, with a comprehensive understanding of capacity needs and the level of supply. But achieving this level of insight will require energy firms to install sensors across the grid to an unprecedented degree.

Failing to implement clear visibility of network performance means IT leaders will run the risk of limiting efficiency or failing to spot faults, in turn compromising the smart, customer-focused nature of the grid.

Getting the right technology partnerships in place now, will mean energy companies are best prepared to take advantage of the opportunities arising from this evolutionary change.

How telecoms can help?

To date, legacy infrastructure has proven to be the thorn in the side of many businesses, not just within the energy sector. And the story is much the same here; for the proliferation of connected devices and need for real-time grid performance data, technology will need upgrading.

Partnering with organisations that appreciate the challenges affecting network infrastructure, particularly within the energy market, is the first step in the modernisation journey to help keep the nation connected.

Visibility is also vitally important. Next-generation technologies such as SD-WAN can provide IT leaders with the holistic view of their organisation’s network performance, providing real-time data to facilitate informed and reliable decision-making. And unlike many other solutions, SD-WAN is simple to install and can provide an outlook over the entire IT estate, from HQ to regional energy storage sites or substations.

While the future of the energy market may seem unclear at present, smart grid investment is undoubtedly rising and opportunity is there to be grasped. Now is the time for industry leaders to take action.

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