The technological resources available to society increase every day. The area of energy and utilities management can be considered a strategic priority, since it is associated with large financial consequences in every part of the world.
Industry 4.0, Internet of Things, cognitive systems, and artificial intelligence, among other recent technologies, are here to stay and are available to those who face challenges in the area of energy and utilities.
The current scenario
A department responsible for the management of energy and utilities in large consumers is constantly under pressure to reduce costs and increase productivity or even reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and particulates.
Today we can say that most energy and utilities managers heavily use spreadsheets to manage data. This option results in excessive labor, uncertainty with respect to the updating of links between spreadsheets, and the need for continuous and consistent backups.
The systems used by companies (supervisory, PIMS, MES, ERP, etc.) are usually not integrated, which makes migration of data between them difficult or even impossible.
There are still few initiatives to implement energy management standards such as ISO 50001. Exceptions can be found in Europe, principally Germany, France, and The Netherlands, which together are responsible for more than half of ISO 50001 certifications globally.
Energy and utilities consumption forecasts are conventionally made based on simple rules and without considering the production mix and other seasonal factors.
Given the perspective of new technologies and other changes sweeping over companies and management, a few future trends for energy and utilities management can be highlighted:
1- Large data flow
"Big data" technology has been increasingly helping companies through management of large databases, and the flow of information is continuously increasing. With the concept of data lakes, many different types of data are stored in their original form, and from there they can be extracted, combined, correlated, and used in different ways depending on the requirements of each business.
Cost-effective systems are already available that allow easy access to a large amount of data and information.
2- Management without the use of intermediaries or suppliers
Information regarding contracts managed and the precise forecasting of energy consumption will greatly facilitate management without relying on intermediaries or suppliers. In this way contracts will be negotiated directly with suppliers, reducing costs. With an enormous amount of information available the challenge becomes making educated decisions, whether with regard to the duration of the contract or to the definition of the energy matrix to be used. The **reselling of energy by large consumers should also become more common.
3- Renewable energy
The search for renewable energy generated in a distributed manner is on the rise. According to the New Energy Outlook study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, by 2040 Brazil is expected to attract $300 billion in investments for generating electric energy – with 70% of this investment going to solar and wind projects.
This projection reaffirms the need to deploy systems that facilitate decision-making regarding optimal provision of energy, taking into account both cost and availability.
4- Energy storage
The increase in the share of renewable energy brings with it an increase in the demand for energy storage to enable the integration of renewable energy sources with current distribution systems.
Energy storage systems that are already available and whose costs are continuously decreasing will have a significant impact on the management of energy and utilities. Promising new energy storage technologies at an advanced stage of research include electrochemical capacitors as well as superconductor-generated magnetic fields.
5- Fully integrated corporate systems
Corporate systems that are fully integrated within the company, with the use of large volumes of information and high visibility of the consumption of energy, are becoming increasingly common. We are currently experiencing an era of convergence. The advancement of new technologies already allows systems to be unified and integrated, with architecture based on data lakes, allowing the creation of new information and analyses that combine data of widely varying types.
6- Artificial intelligence
The use of artificial intelligence for process optimization will become more and more common. This is accompanied by the use of dedicated systems that use models developed specifically for that equipment or installation.
These models analyze the significant variables of the process, classify them in order of importance, and search a consistent database for the best adjustments, always aiming for a reduction in energy consumption.
7- Contracting by performance of services
Contracting by performance of services and systems specialized in the area of energy and utilities is becoming more commonplace. This type of business will bring about capex reductions and permit gains both for consumers and for companies specialized in providing this type of solution.
8- ISO 50001 certification
The quest for certification in energy management standards such as ISO 50001 is becoming increasingly frequent and will help companies elevate their level of energy management. Certification helps companies achieve new levels of efficiency in a cycle of continuous improvement since the certification process is recurring.
With the relentless pursuit of increased business productivity there is a trend towards fusion between energy, utilities, and the environment, and increasing demand for professionals qualified to manage these areas.
Therefore professionals who wish to remain in this market must be attentive to change and adapt quickly, that is, the old saying of William Jennings Bryan still holds true: "Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."