Forbes recently published a list of top 10 trends for 2019, in which the use of data analytics made two appearances in the form of data monetization and IoT edge processing, while growing concerns over climate change (and the resulting shifts in policy and regulation), made another. In addition, DNV GL’s 2018 Energy Transition Outlook predicts that electricity consumption will more than double by mid-century to meet 45 percent of world energy demand—with solar PV and wind energy supplying more than two-thirds of that electricity. The digitalization of renewable energy assets will undoubtedly play a key role in enabling this substantial increase in generation, with data analytics leading the way into the digital transformation.
Energy markets are becoming increasingly complex—presenting a number of challenges that must be overcome before the benefits of data analytics in asset management can be fully realized. For instance, operational technology and information technology were two virtually isolated worlds that are now being integrated through industrial software platforms. There is a large amount of ‘dark data’ from legacy systems that may have been lost in the process or ‘raw data’ that had no way of being monitored or recorded.
In contrast, today the commoditization of sensors of all kinds is resulting in the generation of huge amounts of data. But having said that, there are many factors that inhibit attribution and analysis of information. Sensor data may consist of ‘structured’ time series, yet the context and metadata is often missing or difficult to trace. There is also the issue of obtaining and understanding environmental data and its impact on both generation and asset lifetime.
Even if the challenges of accruing data are overcome, it can be easy to lose track of the obvious: that no matter how much data and how advanced the analytics, the value of data lies in the conclusions arising from the analysis. And finally, even after investing in training and knowledge to accomplish this, by the very nature of being digital, the safety of this data and its analysis is consistently under threat.
These are not simple challenges. There are a number of pieces to put together—but if they are assembled right, the benefits are enormous. Analytics has paved the way to a proactive approach to asset management—an age of predictive maintenance rather than reactive— where assets are not just operational but optimized. It is now possible to integrate all kinds of data onto a single platform, one that is secured and protected against attacks and accessible by experts who can use this data to make impactful conclusions, predict failures before they happen, and forecast performance for better planning and investment.
The technology is here; the need now is for custodians of this data. The need is for reliable bodies that have the resources to integrate data into one secure, stable platform. Bodies that hold enough experience and expertise to conduct due diligence on big data, separate the wheat from the chaff and press it into usable, practical knowledge. But most important of all, custodians must be impartial, independent parties that hold data with principles of stewardship and operate with no agenda but facts.
Recognizing this need in the market, DNV GL recently launched its first-ever 24/7 Global Operations and Analytics Center in Bangalore, India. The center uses digital monitoring solutions including Wind GEMINI (a digital twin for wind turbine operations) and the newly launched GPM Horizon(the world’s first data monitoring tool with full integration of current and future renewable energy systems including solar PV, wind, and energy storage assets), to create a one-stop solution for asset management. The objective of the center is to strengthen performance and operational efficiencies of renewable assets, alongside detecting, analyzing and predicting failures. Further, to address the rising need of flexible solutions in a power system dominated by renewables, we are also planning to introduce performance and failure analysis services to newer areas like energy storage and cyber security.
Initiatives of this scale are increasingly necessary to solve data-related challenges for independent power providers, developers, and investors for whom in-house monitoring centers may not be ideal in terms of investment, hardware, manpower, and training in operations and management. But ultimately, the vision that will pave the way for both a digital and green future comes down to a simple consensus that—while there may be many ways to remain relevant in the energy transition, one of the most enduring paths is common purpose: to co-create value for all stakeholders involved. To be a custodian means to not only achieve this but to set standards that will shape the future of asset management.