By Felix Guerzoni, Product Application Specialist at Shell
Global energy demand is on the rise and it shows no sign of slowing down. An ever-growing global population – which is projected to rise to 9.8 billion by 20501 – brings with it rising living standards and greater ownership of electrical goods, both of which will contribute to this demand. As a region, Asia has a large population still lacking access to electrification, meaning this demand is unlikely to be satiated any time soon. Pair this with overextended grids and an ageing infrastructure and it’s clear that action is required for the regional energy transition to be successful.
Along with this demand, there is pressure from consumers and governments alike for not only more, but cleaner, energy. This places further strain on the industry to reduce costs in line with renewable and distributed power. And with several Asian countries still relatively dependent on coal – it accounts for 69% of energy consumption in India and 58% in China2 –power companies are turning to alternative solutions that can enable greater energy efficiency and grid flexibility, while simultaneously avoiding overloads.
Here is where digital and data-driven technologies make their entrance. The World Economic Forum estimates that $1.3 trillion could be generated by digitising electricity generation worldwide by 20253, meaning the industry must take this transition seriously if companies are to maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace. This development is especially evidenced by the proliferation and success of smart grid systems which, as a result of digital integration, have opened up a host of new capabilities for consumers and utilities alike. Digital automation, increased connectivity and intelligent appliances all come together in smart grids to empower consumers with real-time energy consumption information, while helping utilities to reduce outages4.
Behind each piece of digital and data-driven technology though, is a maintenance team that must understand how to effectively leverage it. Without securing engagement from the ‘people behind power’, companies run the risk of being left behind their competition.
A recent Shell survey revealed 59% of power sector staff interviewed believes that improved operational efficiency will be a benefit of new equipment maintenance technologies, such as connected equipment, autonomous machinery and data-based technologies5.
Though this suggests progress is being made in regard to awareness of the impact that digitisation can have, there is arguably still more that can be done to help connect the dots between digitisation and maintenance. So, it is vital for power companies to engage and interact with experts who are able to provide effective support and offer best practices and solutions around maintenance and performance, part of which is demonstrating how these technologies can help reduce total cost of ownership.
Consider oil monitoring for example, a crucial part of maintenance that enables the identification of potential oil or equipment failures before they occur, to help provide operational efficiencies and improve the reliability of power supply. Digital tools like Shell LubeAnalyst provide such a service, utilising the latest technology to streamline the process, while providing more than 25 million data points covering in excess of 700,000 components. Having accrued a substantial amount of high-quality data, it can then be fed through AI-driven or Internet of Things technology to provide even greater actionable insights.
Although the integration of data-based and digital technologies may seem like a significant transformation for the power industry, in reality, it is simply a means of enhancing the two considerations that have always remained at the core of energy supply: efficiency and reliability. By underpinning maintenance with a digital foundation, the industry – and the region – can move one step closer to meeting the growing energy demand.
About the Author:
Dr Felix Guerzoni is the Lubricants Product Application Specialist Team Lead for Asia Pacific and Middle East based at Shell Shanghai Technology Centre, Shanghai, China.
1United Nations, ‘World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision’ (https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/world-population-prospects-the-2017-revision.html).
2Institut Montaigne, ‘Global Energy Demand: How to Sustainably Respond to the Asian and African Challenges?’, 2018 (https://www.institutmontaigne.org/en/blog/global-energy-demand-how-sustainably-respond-asian-and-african-challenges).
3World Economic Forum – Digital Transformation of Industries: Electricity Industry [https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/accenture/conversion-assets/wef/pdf/accenture-electricity-industry.pdf].
4University of California, Riverside, ‘The Future of Smart Grid Technologies’ [https://engineeringonline.ucr.edu/blog/the-future-of-smart-grid-technologies/].
5A survey, commissioned by Shell Lubricants and conducted by research firm Edelman Intelligence, based on 350 interviews with Power sector staff who purchase, influence the purchase or use lubricants / greases as part of their job across 7 countries (USA, China, India, Germany, Russia, Indonesia and the UK) from March to April 2018.