30. March 2022 By Stephen Lorenzen, Georg Benhöfer and Lars Zimmermann
The potentials of cloud computing for the energy sector
The energy sector is facing enormous challenges. According to adesso’s Great AI Study 2021 (in German), the topic of sustainability is at the top of the list, followed by the topics of ‘price pressure’ and ‘new technologies’. However, all three aspects must be considered together:
‘If a company manages to keep wind turbines running longer and more efficiently because drones with camera systems and AI algorithms detect damage early on, then the use of AI has a positive impact on sustainability and costs.’
Using new technologies to address these three challenges equally doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Cloud computing is an interesting technology in this regard. It unites artificial intelligence (AI) with the use of cloud platforms and can unleash enormous potential for utility companies. This is also confirmed by representatives from the energy sector. Those who invest in AI over the next five years will gain a competitive edge (see adesso’s Great AI Study 2021).
We’d like to show you the potential cloud computing can unlock the energy sector.
What is cloud computing anyway?
Put simply, rather than using a local server or data centre in one place, cloud computing uses a network of data centres and/or servers to store, manage and process data remotely. It promotes access, availability and easy maintenance.
And how is this supposed to benefit utility companies?
Cloud computing offers the best opportunities for utility companies to achieve rapid development in the areas of spending, flexibility and scalability, performance and data analysis, data availability and real-time reporting as well as in the area of sustainability:
- Capital expenditure and operating expenses: Instead of incurring capital expenditures (CapEx) for an in-house data centre (and all of the additional costs incurred by on-site data centres, such as utilities, personnel and maintenance), the only expenses to consider are the operating expenses (OpEx) required to maintain a cloud computing infrastructure. With cloud computing, you only pay for what is needed in terms of computing power, storage capacities and additional cloud services and/or operational support (operating expenses). The utility company no longer needs to purchase local servers and data centres that require specialised management and maintenance personnel, take up physical space and consume energy around the clock. Capital expenditures for hardware, facilities or utility services for an on-site data centre are eliminated as a result. The on-site IT personnel no longer need to perform costly maintenance tasks or install updates, since these are placed in the hands of cloud administrators.
- Flexibility and scalability: The required adjustments to computing power or storage capacities manifest themselves in a significant increase in flexibility and scalability. This is because the cloud’s infrastructure, performance and services can be flexibly adjusted to suit the situation and requirements. Moreover, cloud computing provides the agility utility companies need to experiment with new potential solutions or improve their existing solutions without suffering any material losses.
- Performance and data analysis: In light of the rapidly increasing complexity and variety of data, it’s essential for utility companies to increase their data analytics capabilities in order to make intelligent and informed business decisions. However, cloud computing-based data analysis requires a high degree of computing power – a requirement that could not be met with the existing IT infrastructure. By flexibly adapting computing power and using advanced data analysis applications, even complex data (volumes) can be quickly linked and processed in a targeted manner in order to gain insights and recommendations that increase the operational efficiency and profitability of production facilities. These insights and recommendations are gained not least from the development and implementation of new data-driven products and services.
- Central data availability and real-time reporting: Real-time reporting, based on an efficient cloud computing architecture with a live-streaming service, makes a significant contribution to accelerating the decision-making process. Data that is relevant to the decisions being made no longer has to be obtained manually or communicated via different channels, but can be integrated into a centralised data platform and made accessible to a wide range of user groups in real time by using reporting tools. Collaboration, communication and the exchange of information are virtually seamless. Data silos in individual areas of application, for example, in operational technologies (OT) or information technologies (IT), are replaced by a central, integrative cloud platform. The real-time capabilities of cloud technologies makes it much easier to coordinate the various parallel workflows found in dynamic power generation plants.
- Sustainability: Using or migrating to the cloud also tackles the issue of sustainability to a certain extent: the migration would mean that data centres wouldn’t have to be upgraded, replaced or updated at regular intervals, and old or worn-out hardware wouldn’t have to be disposed of in landfills.
The potential plain is to see
Cloud computing offers tremendous versatility with scalable solutions, exceptional performance, virtually unlimited data access/storage capacity and potential cost savings that come as a result. Utility companies can experiment and improve their solutions with little expenditure, giving them flexibility and agility with minimal investment. In addition, cloud computing provides transparency and real-time reporting, and gives decision-makers valuable support. Cloud technology plays an important role in the utilities sector, as it enables companies to develop and deliver solutions and services quickly and efficiently. It also makes a small contribution to sustainability.
However, a smart shift to cloud computing should be accompanied by a well-thought-out strategy, a thorough assessment and a precise roadmap that encompasses a holistic and integrative approach, from design and implementation to operationalisation. As the year progresses, we’ll shed more light on the various aspects that need to be considered when engaging in cloud computing projects in the energy sector.
adesso has the all the necessary experience and expertise and develops industry-wide, innovative and state-of-the-art cloud solutions and services to accompany our customers from the utilities sector on their journey to the cloud.
By the way, you can find out more about our services in the energy sector on our website. Our experts bring the right mix of technology expertise and sound understanding of your digitalisation project.
You will find more exciting topics from the adesso world in our latest blog posts.