How IoT is Disrupting the Energy Industry

  • 10 March 2018
  • Damon Lapping

The Internet of Things is a concept that affects every area of the economy and is set to disrupt many industries and even set to change the way we live. It’s all about the connection of devices, data and personalization of technology. More and more devices and sensors are being connected to the digital world. Where data is collected, analysed and used to manage the environment we live in. Making our cities and home environments better places to live-in. Plus, improve day to day operations through operational efficiency improvements. How will the IoT affect the energy sector? The energy sector is set to be revolutionised by the IoT. From the way the electrical grid is operated, to power generation to energy efficiency improvements.

Developing Intelligent Energy Efficient Buildings with IoT Technology

Kaspars Grinvalds/123RF

The Green Building concept isn’t something new and has been around for a while. With larger buildings, investment has gone into energy efficiency technology. To keep energy consumption costs and greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum. Building Energy Management Systems or BEMS as they are known in the industry play a major part in the buildings' operational efficiencies. For instance, how, a large building is managed from an energy consumption perspective. Building Management Systems have often been out of reach for the smaller office buildings. As they lack the lack the technology to generate the kind of data that ties energy consumption to operational and bottom-line performance. The IoT is changing the energy management landscape in the smaller office building and even home environment. An IoT platform in the BEMS environment includes sensors, gateways, and wireless communications. To deliver better data to the analytics engine that in turn presents better insights and actions to customers. The reductions in cost from this approach to technology. As compared to traditional controls and automation. Make the benefits of developing intelligent buildings attainable for smaller office buildings. IoT-enabled intelligent building systems are secure, scalable, and interoperable. IoT technology allows the facility manager to have a centralised view of building operations by aggregating all the building data collected and does away with the silo approach to data collection. Another benefit of an IoT-enabled intelligent building is to provide powerful visual communications of sometimes complicated data sets. Dashboards, mobile applications, and automated alerts can give facility manager’s a quick and concise view of the building performance.

IoT for the Energy Utility

As population growth expands so does the demand for electricity. Vast amounts of investment and long lead time’s go into constructing a new power station not to mention increased carbon emissions. Utilities are finding novel ways to use IoT technology to limit energy demand. Thereby reducing the need for building new power stations. The most popular installed IoT device nowadays is the SMART meter. SMART meters are attached to buildings and are connected to a SMART Energy Grid. The data that flows between the meter and the utility is bi-directional and allows utilities to manage energy flow into buildings more effectively. IoT can also be used to manage the electrical grid more efficiently. Using IoT sensors, data can be collected real time on utility assets and monitor their health etc. The data flow between the grid and the central operational facility is b-directional. Thus, almost making the SMART grid an intelligent living organism that is managed and monitored real time. This further extends to the running of power stations on the generation side. IoT technology can be used to tune the operation of a power station in real time. Balancing production with life cycle cost of maintenance and life of equipment. Renewable energy plants are becoming larger and more geographically diverse when connected to the same grid. This introduces new challenges in terms of operational management and is becoming ever more complex. IoT data analytics, data collected from IoT sensors at these renewable energy power plants can collect and analyse data real time. Access to this data will allow for quick decisions to be made to improve operations, reduce wastage and maximise power output.

IoT in the Home Environment

Alexander Kirch /123RF

Home automation and SMART homes have become buzz words. About everything we know of nowadays is becoming SMART. The SMART home is no exception when it comes to IoT technology. The concept of home automation is nothing new but IoT technology has made the home much more “SMART’er” than ever before. The true value of IoT is the ability to interconnect devices in the home and have AI collect, analyse and act upon the data. This could mean switching off unused appliances. Or adjusting the temperature controls on your home heating or cooling system. The result is reduction in energy consumption, a more energy efficient home and reduced utility bills ends of the month. Thermostats, hot water heaters, lighting and window shades are all home devices where IoT sensors can add real value. By adjusting the environment to the best level of operation.

An Inter-Connected IoT City of the Future

The future will entail an entire inter-connected SMART city. Everything will be interconnected all the way from the SMART home to the SMART City and SMART Grid. With bi-directional flow of data between all IoT devices the entire electricity grid can be managed in real time. An interconnected eco-system that has intelligence and is able to respond real-time to events. Reducing waste and improving operational efficiency. IoT will be a major driver for energy efficiency and energy sustainability in the future.

About Damon Lapping

Damon is an experienced energy management consultant, passionate about sustainable energy. He provides Energy Management and Resource Efficiency consulting services to the UNIDO NCPC (National Cleaner Production Center) program being rolled out to developing countries. In the past he was involved in Africa’s largest utility, Eskom’s Demand Side Management program in the corporate sector. He also provides sustainable energy consulting services to clients globally. He currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa.