Are advanced technologies the solution to energy and climate challenges?

  • Collaboration is essential to advance environmental sustainability and expedite energy transitions.
  • Initiatives are fostering partnerships with startups innovating in energy technologies.

In the age of digital transformation, environmental sustainability and energy transitions are being tackled through the lens of big data. Cutting-edge technologies such as machine learning (ML)/artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), compute, hybrid cloud, databases, data lakes & analytics, and global infrastructure have become critical tools in this journey, driving innovation and transformation across the energy value chain.

Energizing the energy sector with advanced technologies

This shift is visible across the entire energy industry, spanning all phases of the oil and gas industry—from exploration and production to refining and retail, power and utilities, and renewable energy development and integration.

Energy producers like Shell and BP, for example, who are increasing their development and distribution of renewable energy sources. At the same time, power and utility companies like Engie and EDF are modernizing their electricity systems to integrate renewable energy sources and cater to evolving customer needs, such as electric vehicle (EV) adoption.

Tech Wire Asia recently had the privilege of interviewing Bill Vass, VP, Engineering, Amazon Web Services (AWS). Vass shared his insights on how AI, supercomputing, and data analytics are being harnessed to confront pressing energy and climate challenges.

Are advanced technologies the solution to our energy and climate challenges?

Bill Vass, VP, Engineering, Amazon Web Services

“To help our customers transform, AWS provides deep industry expertise across the energy value chain and offers services such as high-performance computing, machine learning and artificial intelligence, IoT, and energy data platforms. We work with our customers to help them overcome complex business challenges, such as grid modernization, asset management, and decarbonization,” said Vass.

Vass stated that energy producers are increasingly developing and distributing renewable energy sources. Concurrently, power and utilities companies are modernizing their infrastructure to integrate renewable energy sources and accommodate evolving consumer needs, like the adoption of electric vehicles. This digital integration results in a reduction in carbon emissions and the establishment of a cleaner energy future.

Take, for instance, Vector Limited, New Zealand’s largest distributor of electricity and gas. This company has showcased the power of integrating cloud-compatible grid software solutions into its operations, thereby increasing reliability, productivity, and efficiency in managing its electricity distribution network.

“Vector has successfully deployed GE Digital’s Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) software, which is designed to increase reliability, productivity, and efficiency in the management and orchestration of the electricity distribution network, on AWS Outposts, a family of fully managed solutions that delivers the same AWS infrastructure and services to virtually any on-premises or edge location for a truly consistent hybrid experience,” Vass explained.

By deploying a hybrid solution, Vector is experiencing the best of both worlds as they extend the benefits of AWS cloud services and infrastructure to operational technology (OT) provided by GE Digital’s ADMS.

Collaboration and ethical considerations: The path towards responsible innovation

Collaboration remains integral to addressing environmental sustainability and accelerating energy transitions. Various initiatives designed to facilitate partnerships with startups developing breakthrough clean energy technologies and open data programs promoting sustainability research have been launched to support these efforts.

“However, as transformational technologies such as AI and data analytics are harnessed to address the challenges of our time, ethical considerations and potential risks cannot be ignored,” Vass noted. “Ensuring the responsible use of these technologies is crucial for continued innovation.”

AI and data analytics can help optimize energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By analyzing vast amounts of data in real-time, companies can make more informed decisions, leading to significant decreases in emissions and energy consumption. For instance, energy company Cepsa has reduced its emissions by an estimated 70,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year (the equivalent of removing more than 15,000 cars from the road) and lowered overall energy consumption by 2 percent across its operations while increasing the production of some refinery products by nearly 3 percent.

AWS’s commitment to environmental sustainability and energy efficiency

The industry’s commitment to reducing carbon footprints and promoting sustainable development is ever-increasing. AWS, for its part, is committed to running its operations in an environmentally friendly way. A recent study by international analyst firm 451 Research found that AWS’s infrastructure is 3.6 times more energy efficient than the median of surveyed enterprise data centers, mainly due to a more energy-efficient server population and higher server utilization.

In addition to the environmental benefits associated with running applications in the cloud, AWS is committed to powering its business with 100% renewable energy by 2030 and is on track to reach that target five years early, by 2025.

“To achieve these goals, we focus on four complementary areas: increasing energy efficiency in our facilities and equipment, continuous innovation in our data centers, advocacy at the global, federal, and state levels to create a favorable environment for renewable energy, and working with various power providers around the world to increase the availability of renewable energy,” Vass commented.

In conclusion, AI, supercomputing, and data analytics are proving themselves as powerful tools in the energy sector. Their potential to drive significant advances in energy efficiency and climate change mitigation heralds a promising future for the industry. The challenge lies in responsibly and collaboratively harnessing these technologies to realize their full potential. As companies like AWS continue to innovate and provide infrastructure to help businesses and organizations meet their sustainability goals, the energy landscape continues to evolve, promising a future marked by a cleaner and more efficient use of resources.