The energy revolution continues to advance. Today, we’re seeing Commercial and Industrial (C&I) companies grapple with announcements from their CEOs that they will be totally “green” in terms of energy supplies by 2025, and with investor demands to exploit their existing “data swamps” to increase productivity through greater operational efficiency.
If you’re the head of energy procurement, what should you do? Probably two main things. One is identifying and securing a rising proportion of your energy from renewable sources. The other is exploiting the potential for data-driven insights from devices connected via the Internet of Thing (IoT).
You won’t be alone in focusing on these priorities. Far from it. My everyday conversations with clients confirm that these two themes are increasingly dominating today’s energy landscape, as it continues to evolve and transition to a lower-carbon future.
To explain why these priorities have come to the fore, let me begin by looking at the energy landscape itself.
We’re now in a world where the impacts of the energy evolution are both profound and pervasive. From electric vehicles to robots to massive cloud-based computing capacity to Industry X.0— the digital reinvention of industry—virtually everything we do is both enabled by energy and also, in turn, allows us to measure and drive operational efficiency across the business.
Bringing asset and #energy management & operational performance together for #sustainability is a struggle. It can be done – here’s how
Amid this continuing rapid change, it’s not surprising that companies are struggling to bring together asset management, energy management and operational performance with emissions reduction to create sustainable value. But it can be done. And growing numbers of companies are realizing that the key lies in focusing on the two themes I mentioned above.
First, IoT connectivity. The projections for connected devices globally keep on rising—current estimates are around 24 billion by 2020. But whatever the precise figure, the explosive growth in IoT-enabled sensors is a transformational shift, opening the way to completely new and more energy-efficient operating models.
To realize this opportunity, businesses are expected to overcome a key challenge: how to avoid drowning in the deluge of IoT data—the so-called “data swamp”. The answer lies in applying advanced analytics—including predictive capabilities—to translate the mass of data into actionable real-time insight to facilitate better decisions.
Take a machine equipped with energy monitoring sensors. When that machine starts to consume more energy, it’s a sign that it’s about to break down—enabling an intervention that both prevents downtime and reduces power consumption.
That’s just one granular example among many. By connecting the entire operational environment using sensors feeding into real-time management dashboards, companies can achieve major efficiencies and savings both in terms of money and energy. A vital success factor is collaboration and the removal of silos across the enterprise, with everybody on board and involved—from procurement to asset managers, facilities, operations and so on.
Second, renewable energy. At a recent workshop that I hosted on renewable PPAs, a corporate participant observed: “Reducing carbon is important and urgent. It’s not five to twelve any more. It’s twelve o’clock.” And every day, I’m seeing more C&I clients across many industries approach this issue strategically, by creating a detailed roadmap for their energy consumption and efficiency across areas ranging from cooling to transport to packaging. They’re then following up with the deployment of renewable energy solutions.
In most cases, these organizations are embracing renewables for three main reason. First, to reduce carbon emissions and/or meet targets. Second, to improve security of their supply. And third, to gain a cost advantage, as the price of renewable continues to fall—even below market pricing in some cases. What’s more, the opportunities in renewables are being constantly expanded by advances in areas like energy storage and blockchain, which are opening up new options in demand response and energy trading respectively.
But while the promise of renewables is open to all businesses in all industries, the way they realize it should be unique in every case: a bespoke approach is vital. What’s also required at a market level is greater openness between renewable generators and corporate buyers to accelerate the renewable PPA marketplace, and help get more new projects funded. If this happens, it could trigger a virtuous circle of rising renewable consumption and investment.
This new “collaborative energy” approach is already delivering results for those companies that are actively seeking to deliver lower emissions and create greater value in their operational business models. These first movers are positioning themselves at the heart of the Fourth Industrial revolution to leverage this strategic opportunity—and to remain at the forefront of business tomorrow and beyond.