The global energy system is on the verge of significant changes. Global warming is stimulating many countries to move towards reducing CO2 emissions. So many responsible industrial manufacturers, oil and gas companies are gradually transitioning to renewable energy sources (RES). The oversaturation of the conventional resource market, in particular with oil, promotes projects aimed at improving the quality of the resources produced rather than at increasing their volume. High-tech production is of great help here; the energy industry has been rapidly introducing digitalization and artificial intelligence over the past few years.
Renewable energy is definitely the most popular trend in the global energy sector today. The top five leaders in the use of renewable energy are China, USA, Japan, India, and Germany.
Unfortunately, Russia has not made it into the top five yet, mostly because our country is a huge energy power with its energy resources (oil and gas), along with covering the national energy needs, also being one of the main sources of national income. Still, in 2019, Russia adopted a program for the development of solar and wind energy. And, while in 2015 the share of renewable energy in Russia was less than 1%, after the completion of the program in 2024, it is expected to reach 4.5–5%.
Its level is going to be even higher in the future, when three more power plants using renewable energy will go on stream in 2022–2024, with a total installed capacity of 84.95 MW.
Today, renewable energy in Russia is represented by eight types – solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, waste processing, biogas, waste gas, and tidal energy. As in the other countries, solar and wind energy are the most developed of all renewables. The local manufacturing of respective equipment in 2016 reached 70% for solar energy projects; in 2018, 65% for hydropower generation; and in 2019, 65% of equipment for wind energy projects became locally made.
The main problem all countries that have embarked on renewable energy research are facing at this stage is the sources’ unreliability. Solar panels cannot be used in cloudy weather or at night, and windmills are useless without wind. Many Russian and European scientists are already working on a hybrid system that will incorporate solar panels and wind turbines. It will allow for neutralizing energy fluctuations and provide a general reliability of the equipment.
Digitalization is the second important trend. The energy industry has already been using artificial intelligence and computerization to collect and analyze data: new home electricity meters not only measure the amount of energy consumed, but also record the time when it is consumed the most. Smart homes, where the computer and AI control electric appliances, water and heat usage, are also gaining popularity.
Now it is necessary to use AI not only for energy consumers’ needs, but also at the production facility as much as possible. The use of robots and AI will allow for reducing the time and labor needed for energy production. At the same time, the quality of the process will remain the same or even improve.
Both Russia and the world are currently implementing pilot projects in digitalization to streamline daily production processes. Thus, for instance, due to the introduction of IoT at Russian power plants, their capacity has been improved. According to statistics, the use of IoT in electrical energy production brought RUR 532 bln ($6.7 bln) economic benefits with RUR 180 bln being the result of energy loss prevention.
A deeper usage of AI and digitalization will help us come closer to solving one of the most pressing global problems: the continuous operation of power plants. At the moment, the US have the highest reliability index of electricity production: 99.97%. But even several disruptions at such a facility per year may lead to serious economic consequences.
Smart Grid technology can help to solve this problem. Rosseti power company is introducing it in Russia. IDGC of Siberia opened one of the first digital substations in Krasnoyarsk in 2018. According to preliminary estimates, the digital substation will bring some RUR 75 mio ($955K) in economic benefits in the next 30 years.
As we can see, the current energy industry is trying to adapt to the changes on the market. For instance, when there is an overstocking of the energy market, instead of increasing production, producers develop more efficient ways to produce energy by streamlining production processes and preserving the climate balance.
By Oleg Shevtsov, General Director, Transenerkom