Insights / How big data is helping energy management

How big data is helping energy management

14th January 2022

Driven by data, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) gives businesses a golden opportunity to manage their energy use and reduce both their costs and carbon footprint.

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Smart grids, driven by intelligent information and technology, optimise the generation, distribution and consumption of electricity. As a result, they’re now giving customers more control over their energy use.

Previously, users probably received a monthly or quarterly bill detailing their consumption. Now, data-driven grids can notify them about their usage as and when they need it. Since the UK electricity market started working on a half-hourly basis, businesses have the opportunity to more efficiently manage their energy use. And they won’t be alone; more than 200 million intelligent meters should be transmitting data across the EU by 2022.

Devices such as smart thermostats – including Nest, owned by Google – allow users to monitor energy consumption and adjust their controls accordingly. However, this desire to take control of energy consumption hasn’t yet gained momentum in the workplace. This is a little surprising when you consider that businesses are responsible for 18% of the UK’s carbon emissions.

With the emergence of greater data intelligence also comes the opportunity for large half hourly metered power consumers to think more strategically about the potential financial benefits of Demand Side Response (DSR). A better understanding of when and how electricity is used on site can allow businesses to 'shift' their demand of electricity by adjusting their power load on various activities and processes. In doing so, they’re sourcing benefits from the many DSR financial incentives which are currently available, and from the new schemes which will certainly emerge as our economy continues to decarbonise.

So, increasing energy efficiency among businesses is key to meeting the country’s climate change targets, as well as reducing companies’ fixed cost overheads.

The Industrial Internet of things (IIOT)

In the past, simply getting hold of accurate data about real-time energy usage was a challenge – so taking action to change it was even harder. However, the so-called ‘Industrial Internet of Things’ (IIOT) now gives businesses the opportunity to bring information and operations technologies together, to provide real-time information on asset performance.

The IIOT refers to the network of connected devices in the industrial sector. This network of devices collect, share and analyse data, with a core focus on optimising operations. These businesses can analyse then act upon the data instantly, allowing them to manage their energy consumption quickly and more proactively.

For example, a horticultural company with a network of remote sensors may see that ambient temperatures inside their greenhouses are beginning to rise. With old ‘analogue’ technology, the thermostat would reach a critically high level before triggering the use of more energy to drive the air conditioning until the room cooled. Now, the company can analyse the temperature data in real-time and use the data to predict when they need to take action – earlier than in the non-digital scenario. The system will then rely on the IIOT to automatically open cooling vents – requiring almost no energy and costing almost nothing to run. What’s more, the company will be helping to reduce carbon emissions.

Ultimately, big data has the potential to help businesses become even more efficient. It can also help a company determine the perfect time to switch on or off demand side response, as the real-time market prices of electricity fluctuates.

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