GE Power exec offers takes on smart energy trends of 2017

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The new year 2017 is only 11 days old, which means we still have 354 days remaining for much to change in the energy sector. It’s never too late—or too early—to try and guess where we’re going in the energy sector this year.

Ganesh Bell, chief digital officer for GE Power, offered thoughts on several possible developments this year.

They cover everything from the Industrial Internet to Digital Twins and renewable energy. Here they are:

Artificial Intelligence For the Energy Sector: Full Steam Ahead:

Bell: “The Industrial Internet will likely be twice the size of the Consumer Internet, with data from machines dwarfing the data created by humans. A typical power plant, for example, will generate more data in a day than a human will in a year. However, to-date just 2 percent of power industry data is being used to make plants run smarter. AI will have a huge role to play in delivering cleaner, more reliable, more affordable electricity in the year ahead.

“A new class of Industrial Internet software is emerging that applies analytics to key streams of sensor data that can predict outages, with 75 percent of unplanned downtime prevented this way. Where AI comes into its own is in when a machine can let us know — based on past data and current readings — when a breakdown will occur and what to do to avoid it. We call it prescriptive intelligence. We’re going to see broad applications for AI in the electricity industry: applied to data from smart meters, wind turbines, nuclear plants and drones used for remote plant inspection, we will solve problems that previously required humans to conduct hazardous and expensive inspections manually. This application of AI has the potential to tangibly improve business-wide efficiency and increase the reliability of machines that generate the world’s power supply."

Digital Twins will be Integral to the Industrial IoT:

Bell: “Virtual models of large scale machinery powering the Industrial sector will becoming increasingly important. These “digital twins” enable industrial businesses to better understand machines and will be core to the growth of the Industrial IoT.

“In 2017, we will see continued adoption of virtual machine, or “Digital Twin,” technology as well as business gains for industrial companies deploying these technologies. In the energy industry, for instance, Digital Twin models enable us to significantly increase the reliability of the machines that generate power. The applications running as part of these “Twins” can reduce the unplanned downtime for power generation machines by 5 percent and reduce operations and maintenance costs by up to 25 percent, resulting in millions of dollars in value. The analytics running Industrial IoT data on these virtual machines is creating that value, and we can expect growth across the in the number of Digital Twins enabling results like these across the Industrial IoT in the coming year.

Renewables Become Competitive:

Bell: “More than 75 percent of the global energy supply still depends on nonrenewable sources. In 2017, more utility-scale wind and solar will reach grid parity, and in many regions these generation sources will offer lower-priced options to traditional options.

“The reality is that changes to pricing for wind and solar will not completely edge out power generation sources such as coal and gas. These legacy sources are needed during consumption peaks and to account for changing weather conditions. Moving forward, pricing pressure and emissions standards will push new and existing power plants to become far more efficient and very flexible.  

“Software will play a key role in the renewable transition in two key ways. First, we will get more out of wind and solar. For instance, getting 20 percent more energy from the same wind turbine.

“Secondly, new and existing plants using fossil fuels will become more efficient. The focus here is on the power of 1 percent – it doesn’t seem like a big number, but the impact could be huge. A 1.5 percent efficiency improvement applied to power plants around the world would drop the annual global CO2 emissions from 11,266 million metric tonnes (Mt) to 10,757 Mt. That’s a reduction of 4.2 percent per year, equivalent to taking 250 million cars off the road every year.”

Ganesh Bell is the chief digital officer of GE Power, GE’s largest industrial business, with more than $28 billion in revenue in 2015, and approximately 38,000 employees serving customers in more than 125 countries. GE Power’s technology generates approximately one third of all the world’s electricity.

Ganesh is also General Manager of GE Power Digital Solutions, GE’s largest and fastest growing software business. His team is applying data science and software to monitoring, predicting and ultimately optimizing electricity generation, transmission, distribution and consumption. He was previously VP of Product Strategy & Management at SAP, led platform strategy at PeopleSoft, and was Chief Software Architect at J.D. Edwards.

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