The energy ecosystem should move to make the “internet of energy” a reality – TechCrunch


As Vice President of Innovation at National network partnersI’m responsible for developing initiatives that not only benefit National Grid’s current business, but also have the potential to become stand-alone businesses. So obviously I have strong opinions on the future of the energy industry.

But I don’t have a crystal ball; no one does. To be a good manager of our innovation portfolio, my job is not to guess which is the right “basket” for our “eggs”. It is about optimally distributing our finished eggs in several baskets with the greatest collective benefit.

In other words, global and regional trends make it clear that the next big thing is not a one-size-fits-all at all. Instead, the future is about open innovation and the integration of elements across the entire energy supply chain. It is only with such an open energy ecosystem that we can adapt to the highly volatile – some might even say unpredictable – market conditions we face in the energy sector.

Just as the digital internet rewards innovation wherever it serves the market – whether you build a better app or design a cooler smartphone – the internet of energy will also provide greater opportunities throughout the market. energy supply chain.

I like to think of this open and innovation-friendly approach as “the internet of energy”, and I think it represents the most important opportunity in the energy sector today.

The Internet analogy

Here is why I find the concept of the energy internet useful. Before the digital internet (a term I use here to encompass all of the hardware, software, and standards that make it up) we had several technology silos such as mainframes, PCs, databases, office applications and private networks.

However, as the digital internet has evolved, the walls between these silos have disappeared. Now you can use any platform behind your digital services, including mainframes, core server hardware, and cloud-based virtual machines.

You can transport digital payloads over networks that connect to any customer, vendor, or partner on the planet with the combination of speed, security, capacity, and cost you find most appropriate. This payload can be data, audio, or video, and your endpoint can be a desktop browser, smartphone, IoT sensor, security camera, or retail kiosk.

This mixed internet has created an open digital supply chain that has resulted in a historic boom in online innovation. Entrepreneurs and inventors can focus on specific value propositions anywhere in this supply chain rather than having to continually reinvent the supply chain itself.

The energy sector must move in the same direction. We must be able to treat our different generation modalities like server platforms. We need our transport networks to be as accessible as our data networks, and we need to be able to deliver energy to any point of consumption with the same flexibility. We also need to encourage innovation at these endpoints, just like the tech industry has done.

Just as the digital internet rewards innovation wherever it serves the market – whether you build a better app or design a cooler smartphone – the internet of energy will also provide greater opportunities throughout the market. energy supply chain.

The future 5D

So what is the internet of energy? As a basis, let’s start with a model that takes the current industry discourse on digitization, decentralization and decarbonization a step further:

Digitization: Innovation depends on information on demand, supply, efficiency, trends and events. This data must be accurate, complete, timely and shareable. Digitization efforts such as IoE, open energy and what many call the ‘smart grid’ are essential as they ensure innovators have the knowledge they need to continuously improve physics, logistics and economics. of energy supply.

Decentralization: The internet has changed the world in part because it took the computing power out of a few centralized data centers and distributed it where it made sense. The internet of energy will do the same. Digitization supports decentralization by allowing assets to be integrated into an open energy supply chain. But decentralization is more than just the integration of existing assets – it is the proliferation of new assets where they are needed.

Decarburization: Decarbonization is, of course, the whole issue of the exercise. We need to move to greener supply chains based on decentralized infrastructure that leverages energy supply everywhere to meet energy demand everywhere. The market demands it and the regulators demand it. The energy internet is therefore more than just an investment opportunity, it is an existential imperative.

Democratization: Much of the innovation associated with the Internet has arisen from the fact that in addition to physically decentralizing technology, it has also democratized technology demographically. Democratization is about putting power (literally, in this case) in the hands of the people. Dramatically increasing the number of minds and hands tackling challenges in the energy industry will also accelerate innovation and improve our ability to respond to market dynamics.

The diversity: As I said above, no one has a crystal ball. Thus, anyone investing in innovation at scale must diversify, not only to mitigate risk and maximize returns, but activation strategy. After all, if we truly believe that the Internet of Energy (or Grid 2.0, if you prefer that term) will require all elements of the energy supply chain to work together, we need to diversify our innovation initiatives to through these elements to promote interoperability and integration.

This is how the digital internet was built. Standards bodies have played an important role, but these standards and their implementations have been driven by industry players such as Microsoft and Cisco, as well as top VCs, who have ensured the ecosystem’s success by fostering the integration throughout the supply chain.

We need to take the same approach with the energy internet. Those with the power and influence to do so must ensure that we actively advance integration across the energy supply chain, even as we improve the individual elements. To this end, National Grid launched a new industry group last year called the NextGrid Alliance, which includes senior executives from more than 60 utilities around the world.

Finally, we believe that it is also essential to diversify the reflection within the energy ecosystem. National Grid has sounded the alarm about the serious under-representation women in the energy industry; and female undergraduates in STEM programs. On another side, Deloitte research discovered that diverse teams are 20% more innovative. Over 60% of my own team at NGP are women, and this perspective has helped National Grid capture powerful ideas in company-wide innovation efforts.

More wins, less predictions

The concept of the Internet of Energy is not an abstract future ideal. We are already seeing specific examples of how this will transform the market:

Green transnationalism: The internet of energy is fast becoming as global as the digital internet. The United Kingdom, for example, now receives wind power from Norway and Denmark. This ability to take advantage of a decentralized energy supply across borders will have significant benefits for national economies and create new opportunities for energy arbitrage.

EV charging models: Pumping electricity is not like pumping gas, and it shouldn’t be. With the right combination of innovation in smart meters and the design of fast charging terminals, the internet of energy will create new opportunities in office buildings, residential complexes and other places where cars and the comfort can equal money.

Disaster mitigation: Recent events in Texas have highlighted the negative consequences of the lack of an energy internet. Utilities and responsible government agencies must embrace digitization and interoperability to more effectively troubleshoot infrastructure and better protect communities.

These are just a few of the myriad ways that an open and accessible energy internet will foster innovation, stimulate competition and generate big wins. No one can predict exactly what these big wins will be, but there will surely be plenty, and they will benefit everyone.

This is why even without a crystal ball, we should all engage in digitization, decentralization, decarbonization, democratization and diversity. In doing so, we will together build the energy internet and enable a fair, affordable and clean energy future.


About Chris McCarter

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