Through technologies that acquire and analyze data before using it to make changes to the physical environment, digitization has the potential to boost the efficiency of power, either automatically or through human intervention.
Sensors and smart meters collect data on energy consumption and other factors that influence energy consumption. Data analysis techniques such as artificial intelligence algorithms transform data into valuable knowledge. Finally, the data is relayed to equipment that can make physical adjustments to improve energy efficiency. To optimize energy use, several technologies require human intervention: A smartphone app, for example, can recommend an energy-efficient route to work, but the commuter must follow the recommendations.
What is Digitization?
The process of turning information into a digital representation is known as digitization. Information is divided into distinct units of data (called bits) that can be addressed separately in this fashion (usually in multiple-bit groups called bytes). This binary data can be processed by computers and many other computing devices (such as digital cameras and hearing aids).
Information can be digitized to make it easier to store, access, and share. An actual historical document, for example, may only be accessible to those who visit its physical location. Still, its information can be digitized and made available to individuals worldwide.
How can we Achieve Efficiency of Power with Digitization?
The digitization of our homes, businesses, and transportation systems, underpinned by the expansion of high-speed communications networks, has the potential to boost the efficiency of power through a combination of technologies that perform three fundamental tasks:
- Data collection: Smart meters, which collect high-resolution energy consumption data from households and businesses, as well as technology that collect a variety of data linked to energy use, such as sensors that record light levels, temperature, or location, fall under this category (e.g., GPS tracking).
- Data analysis: Data may be processed and analyzed using powerful computers and more “intelligent” software algorithms to produce insights on how energy can be used more efficiently. Examples are information models in commercial buildings, industrial plant ‘digital twins,’ and a car’s onboard computer.
- Using data analysis to alter the physical environment: Our linked devices and equipment are increasingly equipped with technology that can rapidly optimize energy use based on digital signals. Depending on the day and occupancy levels, linked devices such as lighting systems, heating and air-conditioning equipment, and water heaters can be configured to optimize the efficiency of power in buildings.
A modern office building or a “smart office” is an excellent example of how digital technology can be combined to improve the efficiency of power. Intelligent building energy management systems (i-BEMS), which collect data from buildings’ sensors, such as light sensors, thermostats, and occupancy sensors, are becoming more common. These data are integrated with data from the electrical grid (acquired via a smart meter) and weather data. The data is processed by artificial intelligence systems, which ‘learn’ over time to optimize the efficiency of energy while also considering comfort and potentially responding to signals from local grid controllers.
Digital technologies offer the ability to reduce the amount of energy required in various energy-intensive activities, such as manufacturing or air conditioning. This translates to a boost in the efficiency of power, as measured by the amount of energy utilized per unit of activity.
The International Energy Agency’s focus on Digitization and Energy Efficiency
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has begun a multi-agency initiative to investigate the possible impacts of digitization on the efficiency of power and policy implications. They’re looking at how digital technologies provide more control, optimization, and analytics, which leads to improved end-user and system efficiency, especially when combined with the correct policy frameworks and creative commercial models.