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Delivering (renewable) Energy as a service

India has a renewable energy generation target of 175 Gigawatt by 2022. The ministry of new and renewable energy breaks this down by different sources such as solar, wind, biomass, hydro power. The current generation from renewable sources is 57 Gigawatt, and this clearly highlights the investments that are required to achieve the target - http://factchecker.in/modis-175-gw-renewable-energy-target-for-2022-needs-160-billion-investment/ 

Energy is influenced by and influences economy, geo-politics, international trade, manufacturing, agriculture, consumer consumption and just about everything else. It is indeed a complex domain that has a far reaching impact across the entire societal fabric. In this blog, I focus on leveraging IOT solutions to deliver energy as a service efficiently, on-demand and in as small units as possible. While there is a lot of research across the entire value from generation to consumption, the fundamental business models and consumer experience have not drastically changed. 

Broadly speaking, IOT based solutions can be leveraged in 3 aspects to improve the energy quality through the value chain, enhance operational efficiency, and amplify customer experience. Let us look at each of these elements now

1. Improve quality through the value chain of generation, distribution and consumption
  • Through the intelligent spread of sensors, and real time monitoring ensure that the generation is at its peak efficiency. Identify anomalies real time and fix it
  • To ensure that the output that is generated from the power plants are distributed with minimal acceptable loss
  • Define quality parameters across the entire value chain, and measure them constantly to determine actual vs. target
2. Enhance operational efficiency through intelligent monitoring, self-healing and remote management
  • Condition based monitoring of the assets, coupled with predictive maintenance will enhance asset longevity and overall equipment efficiency
  • Remote software upgrades increases operational efficiency by reducing maintenance costs, and improving demand visibility for spare parts
3. Amplify customer experience through real time data and insights
  • Provide real time energy consumption though multiple channels anytime and anywhere. While utilities has now moved online, the jump is to other channel
  • In addition, there's a great opportunity for providing value added services through the digital channels, integration with 3rd party systems for instance smart homes, connected vehicles to become an integral part of digital lifestyles
The above describe a few ways of leveraging IOT based solutions to enhance operational efficiency, prolong the life of assets and deliver a better customer experience. I also believe there will be disruption in business models, increased customer expectations and ecosystem innovation in the renewable energy space. These forces will accelerate the adoption of technology in the traditional players. I don't think it's too far out where it is no longer about MW/GW energy generation but bundled value added services that are going to be the differentiators. 

So, here are a few forward looking thoughts. I believe most of this will be driven by a software world, and there will be increased collaboration and competition among the energy companies to provide best services to the consumers. 

1. Uberisation of energy consumption
  • In the future, consumers might have an option to choose the energy source for a particular appliance at a given time at the best tariff. This is definitely a paradigm shift from the current consumption model, where there is no variability or choice for the consumer.
  • Bundled offering is where appliance manufacturers promote their products through discounted energy units to increase their sales. This would require partnership and collaboration among the energy consumers i.e. appliance manufacturers and energy generators i.e. utility companies
2. Micro billingprepaid energy unitssurge pricing and bundled offers
  • Closely associated with letting the consumer make choices are the associated billing models. Micro billing in the energy sector could be about time based measurement of units, for a particular appliance which consumed a certain amount of energy
  • Surge pricing is based on real time monitoring of consumption in a particular region and algorithms that determine the best price based on demand and supply
  • Prepaid energy units can help households and commercial units plan their energy consumption efficiently and provides the generators visibility into demand

3. Ecosystem disruption
  • The telecom world saw quite a bit of disruption by OTT (Over The Top) players and in my opinion similar such opportunity exists in the energy sector especially with the renewable source
  • The traditional energy and utility companies have to step up their innovation quotient and work towards embracing "as a service" model. This would mean partnerships and integrations that are not natural in the industry
4. Intelligent Systems that learn continuously 
  • High compute capability, coupled with advanced artificial intelligence algorithms will propel next generation distribution systems. Real time, historical data, weather information, industrial and population density can all be combined to generate and distribute high quality power
  • Energy is a complex domain and hence systems that can learn and augment humans will be extremely useful. Learning is the critical component, and will help squeeze every bit out of expensive capital assets
The energy sector is integral to economic, social, societal growth of a nation. While the sector itself may not appear to be as dynamic, as the new age digital companies - there's tremendous scope and opportunities round the corner. Implementation however challenging will become a necessity and accelerate with renewable energy sources

I'd like to thank my colleagues Ram and Shenoy to get me interested in this space. My friend Sriram helped me refine some of these thoughts. 

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