What is Energy Digitalization?

Digitalization is the process by which ICT solutions permeate into the entire economy and daily life. This advent has brought reams of data, leaps forward in data analytics, and higher levels of interconnectivity between people, devices, and machines than ever before.

There is an enormous opportunity to transform society into a more digital, intuitive world, but as the population grows and technology innovates further, energy consumption is rising accordingly.

The world will consume approximately 580 million terajoules of energy in 2022, or about the equivalent of 13.9 billion tons of oil equivalents. While renewable energy is getting cheaper and investment is growing at a rapid pace, it still pales when compared to the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.

In order to help facilitate a more rapid transition and change to cleaner energies and optimize humankind’s current use, the energy sector needs to modernize.

Enter energy digitalization.

What is energy digitalization?

Source: International Energy Agency

There is a digital transformation in the energy industry taking place. As the industrial, commercial, and private sectors come to terms with the reality that how we source and use energy needs to change, digital technologies will lead the way in finding ways to be more efficient with their consumption.

Energy digitalization is the transformation of the energy sector and energy use in general from traditional manual and binary processes to intelligent remote controls, monitoring, and management.

These digital energy transformations will take static data like utility bills and turn them into actionable insights with that information to reduce energy costs and identify peak usage times to control energy network load. It can also help providers make better, data-centered business decisions and shift their business model according to these insights.

The key to energy digitalization is the introduction of communications equipment and capabilities to analog machinery. From remote monitoring to predictive maintenance and threshold alerts and even remotely controlling assets remotely from an office, these technologies have a wealth of potential.

For telecom and data center operators and service providers using these facilities, they need to determine where their energy pain points lie to stop wasteful energy spending. This includes energy assets operating improperly or when unneeded, wasted power, and which sites are polluting the most, among other energy KPIs.

Why is energy digitalization important?

The multiple benefits that energy digitalization provides to multiple sectors
Source: Gov.uk

Energy digitalization’s impact can be felt across nearly every sector of industry and society. Digital innovations in the energy sector could save over $80 billion annually up through 2040 from reduced downtime and outages, improved power network efficiency, and extended asset lifetime and warranty.

One of the largest areas that can be improved is buildings and their construction, which are responsible for nearly a third of global energy consumption and 15% of CO2 emissions. If the world wants to meet its carbon neutrality goals by 2050, every new building and one-fifth of every old building standing today would need to be “Net-Zero ready” by just 2030.

This is driven by increased energy access in developing countries and skyrocketing demand for air conditioning in warmer climates. The introduction of digital technologies has the potential to reduce this energy use by 10 percent over the next 16 years.

How can we digitalize our energy?

There are many steps and areas that need to be involved in the process of transforming the energy industry and energy use to meet our ambitious climate goals and start eliminating wasted energy. We’ve collected some of the primary aspects that will be pivotal in implementing smart energy infrastructure and use.

In order to bring global energy use into the smart and modern age, some stakeholders and sectors are critical in that process. Many more vectors require changes to be made to them, but these are the most significant of them.

Sectors

Energy Sourcing

One of the most critical changes for energy digitalization to become widespread is a seismic shift towards clean and renewable energy sources and away from fossil fuels. By their very nature, renewable energy sources are interlinked with digital energy technologies, without which they would not be able to be used.

For energy digitalization to occur, we need to shift as fast and wide as we can to phase out fossil fuel use wherever possible. Recently, renewable energy sources have become even cheaper than fossil fuels both in terms of upfront and long-term costs, making this goal more achievable than ever.

Energy Infrastructure

We need to introduce millions of units of digital energy and carbon-efficient technologies, including solar panels and other renewable infrastructure, and backup energy storage, to the global energy network. One of the most significant barriers to the effective harnessing of renewables is a lack of capacity and proper connections from generation sources to sufficient storage equipment to handle it.

Live monitoring of these assets is also critical to ensure you maximize their collection capabilities and take into account geographic and weather data to optimize their usage further.

This also includes having the necessary resources in place to properly monitor existing fossil fuel-based energy assets, ensuring they are used as little as possible and only when necessary. Though we can’t simply give up fossil fuels, we can make their use significantly more efficient or even use them to charge energy storage devices instead of directly powering sites and facilities.

Stakeholders

Consumers

Consumers are the core of any successful strategy to modernize the world’s energy use. Accurate information regarding tariffs and services will help them reduce costs while being carbon conscious. Energy digitalization will also bring the advent of private individuals entering the energy market, selling their surplus from private solar or wind infrastructure to the grid. They will also be able to track peak use times and adjust their energy purchasing to focus on cheaper times of the day.

Energy Providers

Energy providers will need to make sweeping changes to their systems and management with the advent of private individuals, entities, and independent energy projects like microgrids. They will need to introduce tools that can intelligently track and predict energy load ebbs and flows and automate a wide range of traditionally manual and time-consuming processes like periodic site checks.

The system will also need to be effectively reactive to the sudden power supply and demand spikes, which could create price fluctuations and energy network instability. Most of all, these processes and assets must be tracked with live performance monitoring and predictive alerts to prevent potential maintenance or power supply outages.

9 Smart Building Technologies for Optimal Energy Usage

Did you know residential and commercial buildings comprise nearly 60% of the world’s electricity consumption? Including over one-third of greenhouse gas emissions?

Moreover, these numbers are growing at a rapid rate. To lower greenhouse gasses and to prevent the threat of climate change, smart buildings and available technologies are needed more than ever before.

By 2030, the smart buildings sector is expected to reach $78.2 billion, doubling from 2022. Over 115 million smart buildings will be complete and in use by 2026.

Let’s look at what smart building technologies are and why they’re proving vital in 2022.

What are Smart Building Technologies?

Smart building technologies are any IoT-based solutions, including software, hardware, and connectivity used to remotely monitor and manage energy, HVAC, lighting, and security assets.

Unlike traditional building management, which requires onsite visits to diagnose and remedy issues, these innovations provide organizations an intuitive look into their building operations from afar.

Most smart buildings are designed from the ground up, with digital systems that can collect raw data and organize it to track trends and identify potential malfunctions.

These systems drastically improve energy and utility efficiency while reducing wasteful or unnecessary usage and carbon emissions.

How do Smart Building Technologies improve efficiency?

A chart detailing the various use cases and improvements that smart building technologies provide

Knowledge is power, but most buildings are still stuck running on an analog system where insights can only be discovered by physically inspecting each individual asset. This leaves ample room for inefficiencies, wasted energy and cooling, and needless carbon emissions.

Introducing smart building technologies like clean energy-based heating pumps could reduce carbon emissions by 9% annually.

Efficiency-optimized smart buildings are estimated to save around $18 billion in energy costs and 80 million tons of CO2 by 2030.

It’s not just the carbon emissions and costs that are lowered with the introduction of smart building technologies; they also:

  • Provide in-depth insights into energy, utility, and HVAC usage
  • Help quickly identify potential malfunctions or areas for optimization
  • Provide actionable insights into operations to help make data-driven decisions based on live usage
  • Automate many analog processes making management more straightforward and effective
  • Deliver significantly more accurate usage tracking and identify places for improving operations

Smart building technologies improve building managers’ visibility, provide insights into which assets need to be optimized, and can determine why malfunctions occur.

By actively monitoring energy assets and other machinery, these issues can be detected as they happen, and alerts sent to relevant stakeholders to mitigate the problem.

These technologies help with accurate billing when multiple tenants are involved, as smart meters can streamline the billing process, ensuring tenants pay correctly with usage attributed to the correct unit.

9 Smart Building Technologies for Optimal Energy Usage

With the importance of smart building technologies for efficiency and conscious energy use out of the way, let’s look at some of the best technologies and solutions to help you achieve these goals.

1. Internet of Things (IoT)

Diagram of the different smart technologies that are included within the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) relates to any network-connected technologies that help analog assets provide data and insights into their operations. From light bulbs to generators to entire buildings, IoT technologies are an inseparable element of any smart building.

Without this connectivity, there would be no way to accurately track various assets’ performance and tenants’ utility usage nor mitigate potential malfunctions without being onsite. 

IoT solutions simplify a wide variety of traditionally hands-on tasks that saves building managers time and money while helping them maintain access and visibility over their buildings and assets.

2. Smart Sensors

An integral part of IoT technologies is smart sensors which connect with remote assets and sites to retrieve information to be organized and analyzed. From asset monitoring to remote access and security controls, smart sensors provide a litany of functionalities that streamline building management.

Smart sensors can help accurately track colocated tenants’ utility usage and even determine the health and stability of the building itself.

3. Remote Monitoring Solutions

Galooli's Remote monitoring solution with an example of the energy management and monitoring dashboard

All the technology and connectivity in the world won’t make a difference to your bottom line if you have no way to actively monitor your building(s) and assets.

Remote monitoring solutions like Galooli provide overarching visibility while establishing performance thresholds attached to alerts whenever they are crossed.

This lowers costs as work can be done away from the site, saving on resources and contractors. It’s particularly beneficial for those with hard-to-reach locations.

4. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are transforming organizations’ capabilities to delve into their operations to detect trends and areas for improvement on all levels.

These algorithms take insights one step further by considering potential scenarios or future issues that could arise and provide the alert needed to remedy or address them ahead of time.

AI is an intrinsic part of building a “digital twin” of your buildings, using mass quantities of data to develop a digital model to run scenarios and simulations to optimize operations further.

5. Aerial Drones

Aerial drone with a backdrop of buildings

Another challenge to successful business management is accessibility. Some issues cannot be easily or safely reached by managers or technical and maintenance staff and require machines or remote platforms to diagnose and even remedy such situations.

Fortunately, aerial drones have grown beyond cinematography and hobbyists and can be deployed in industrial and commercial applications. Beyond identifying and gathering information, drones can be used for security and surveillance and connected to a phone to track footage in real-time and examine data feeds.

6. Lighting

Modern advanced lighting controls use nearly 45% less energy than their analog counterparts.

With smart lighting solutions, they can keep track of room occupancy, locate items quickly, and track power consumption. 

Smart lighting can also take variables, like available natural light, and adjust for certain times of day, like waking up and going to sleep.

7. Ultra-efficient Heat Pumps

Diagram of the function of efficient heat pumps as compared to traditional HVAC equipment

Heat pump systems are a relative newcomer to the HVAC sector and have replaced traditional fossil-fuel-reliant heating and cooling systems with smart, electrified heating and cooling. They can move around liquid refrigerants or heat to where it is needed, and through this, energy consumption can be reduced by 50% compared to conventional HVACs.

These efficiency-first pumps help building managers maintain temperature controls on a room-by-room basis, with the ability to change each on demand. 

When integrated with AI modeling, these pumps can use historical and live data to predict heating and cooling use and automatically adjust the temperature accordingly.

8. Plug Loads

Buildings must have the electric flexibility to power and handle multiple types of equipment throughout the building. From laptops and phone chargers to office equipment and building infrastructure, each device has its own energy requirements that must be met.

Smart plug load controllers can access any and all sensors related to energy use and load and cut power to any devices or machinery running unnecessarily. 

Introducing smart plug load sensors can reduce related energy consumption and some can even detect secondary connected devices, like in the case of devices connected via UPS or power strip.

9. Reflective Roofing

Reflective cool roof deployed and monitored in India

Roofing may seem like a redundant space in smart tech, but not anymore.

Traditionally, roofs are sealed with tar or similar compound that seals the building from the elements. But, that sealant also absorbs a great deal of sunlight, and that thermal energy needs to be dispersed.

Cool roofs are metal coated with materials containing pigments that reflect sunlight and absorb significantly less heat than regular roofs. This, in turn, lowers the overall temperature of the building and reduces the need for additional HVAC and overall energy usage.

In addition, buildings are installing solar panels on their roofs to harness, instead of absorbing or reflecting solar energy.

Take Back Control of Your Building’s Operations

Buildings are getting smarter, and managers would do well to hop on the trend and start integrating intelligent building technologies into their operations plan.

Though the world is still heavily reliant on older, unoptimized buildings, smart buildings are trending upward as we become a much more digitally connected world.

The potential to minimize wasted energy while improving building energy efficiency and carbon footprint is enormous, with many innovations focused on achieving this.

Along with creating a more customized and responsive experience for managers, these technologies will remove the need for onsite visits, automate analog processes, and save on operations and energy costs. If you want to transform your building operations while eliminating wasted energy, learn more here.

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