As chief digital officer at AES Clean Energy, I am part of a team helping customers to reduce their carbon emissions and build a more sustainable future.
According to a recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency, today's renewables are the cheapest form of energy; amid the declining costs of electricity from onshore wind, offshore wind, and solar PV, renewables are cost-competitive and can play a key role in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
AES is one company developing energy solutions to meet customers' current and future needs in this area, combining all available technologies to address the intermittency and overall capacity of renewables. Of course, since the sun does not shine (nor does the wind blow) for a full 24 hours a day, energy storage solutions such as extremely large lithium-ion batteries can help to make renewable energy consistently available and meet the growing demand for renewable generation.
The current perspective on transitioning to renewables requires balancing two realities:
- The more renewable power capacity we have available, the less we will require fossil fuels.
- We need to triple renewable power capacity to effectively drive down demand for fossil fuels.
In the decade to come, we can expect an increase in the need for renewable deployment, with customers and governments alike pushing that demand, as well as advancements in energy storage to mitigate the intermittency of renewables. We must also prepare for an increase in grid modernization, as infrastructure continues to improve and advanced grid management systems are deployed to accommodate this.
Demand for "green hydrogen" will increase, as excess renewable electricity can produce hydrogen and contribute to decarbonizing transportation. Regulatory policies will embrace renewables, expediting necessary permits and enabling project developers to interconnect distributed generation systems to the grid. Expect further technological innovation, with improved solar and wind assets, as well as increased global collaboration and further energy efficiency measures. As overall demand for fossil fuels is reduced, it will become easier to replace them with renewables.
Managing renewable energy assets involves various technology considerations to ensure efficient and effective operations; in particular, it will be important for all of us to understand the processes supporting the engineering, design, procurement, construction, operation, and maintenance of these assets, as follows:
- Asset Monitoring and Control Systems: Crucial for real-time visibility into the performance of renewable energy assets, these include Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, IoT sensors, and remote monitoring platforms.
- Data Analytics and Predictive Maintenance: Utilizing data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence can help predict maintenance needs, optimize asset performance, and reduce downtime. Predictive maintenance algorithms can analyze data from sensors to identify potential issues before they become critical.
- Weather Forecasting: Accurate weather forecasting technology is essential for renewable energy asset management, helping us to predict energy generation from sources like solar panels and wind turbines while allowing for better grid integration and demand forecasting.
- Asset Performance Monitoring: These tools provide insights into the health and efficiency of renewable energy assets by monitoring equipment degradation, assessing performance against expected benchmarks, and identifying areas for improvement.
- Cybersecurity: As renewable energy assets become more interconnected and reliant on digital systems, robust cybersecurity measures are essential to protect against potential cyber threats and attacks.
- Asset Management Software: Designed for renewable asset management, this software can help to streamline operations, track maintenance schedules, manage contracts, and handle financial aspects like revenue forecasting and invoicing.
- Remote Operations and Maintenance: These technologies allow for remote monitoring and control of renewable energy assets, reducing the need for on-site personnel and improving operational efficiency.
- Drones and Robotics: Drones and robotic systems can be used for asset inspections, reducing the need for manual inspections and improving safety.
AES uses SAP as its core enterprise resource platform to support supply chain management, asset management, predictive maintenance, reliability, and financial management. Effective technology management is essential for maximizing the performance, reliability, and profitability of renewable energy assets while minimizing operational costs and environmental impact. Investing in the right technology solutions, AES believes, can significantly enhance the success of renewable energy projects.
Alejandro Reyes is Chief Digital Officer at AES Clean Energy.