Digital Disruption - To Drive Next Wave Of Renewable Industry Transformation
To give you a glimpse of Renewable energy potential, sunlight striking earth in just one hour delivers enough energy to power the world economy for a year. Whereas Wind alone has the potential to produce 20+ times world’s energy consumption. With this potential & aggressive government roadmap the sector is still mired with its own challenges. In the Indian context, nodal agency SECI recently cancelled multiple solar bids on the grounds of high quoted price. In the Wind, Generation-based incentive and 10-year tax-free benefit were withdrawn in 2017.
Changing market dynamics across the value chain, demand new capabilities to counter externalities. Organizations failing to respond will be left behind with the risk of going extinct. There is no better time than now for organizations to kick-start their digital journey in alignment with business strategy. I suggest adopting sequential approach by spreading the digital journey in the following 3 phases.
“Renewable being a relatively new sector, it is hard to find established digital solutions. I find co-innovation with technology partners can be the winning proposition to come up with industry specific comprehensive digital solution”
ENABLE – Laying foundation for Digital future
These initiatives are primarily led by IT function to lay the groundwork by digitising the enterprise information. One of the critical success criteria is to have an integrated, scalable, autonomous and secure application platform ecosystem. Having limited number of platforms enables easy maintenance & ensure data security. What could be a simple approach to identify platform landscape is by segregating business operations into ‘Core’ (e.g. one platform to capture, process & manage Operational Technology), ‘Peripheral’ (one platform standard processes e.g. ERP, HCM, BPM) and ‘Support’ (one platform to develop business specific applications e.g. Legal Compliance).
Further for embracing digital cloud adoption is essential to enable on demand limitless scale-up/down infrastructure environment at optimised cost. Though with cloud adoption, pragmatically designed multi-layered security architecture becomes critical due to physically dispersed technology infrastructure and need of multiple OEM’s for comprehensive security solution.
OPTIMISE – Digitally Optimizing Business Operations
Once the foundation is laid, it becomes imperative to selectively adopt emerging technologies to gain competitive edge. This is critical to optimize operating cost, gain operational efficiency & enrich customer experience.
I see extensive IoT usage to capture real-time machine data using sensors. The data in itself is of no use unless leveraged for better asset utilization impacting top-line. To have a holistic view of the business, enterprises require a robust descriptive analytics platform which uses data mining and aggregation to provide insight into the past. This answers the question “What has happened” but not “What could happen”. This comes from Predictive Analytics which uses statistical algorithms build on organization’s operational expertise, leveraging Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning and Big-Data.
Action on ground still performed manually though Augmented/Virtual Reality can enable field workforce with remote maintenance capabilities. Wearables like Microsoft HoloLens & Google Glass are already in use. Digital Twin, conceptually replica of physical assets, can further be deployed for real-time monitoring & simulations to optimize unscheduled downtime. GE already has one developed on Predix platform. I see not far in future we humans too will have digital twins!
Prescriptive Analytics on top uses optimization and simulation algorithms to advice on possible outcomes. In fact, intelligent robots with Cognitive Intelligence can auto fix machine defects. The day is not far when power-point/ excel presentations in board-room will turn into real time Digital Board-Room integrating data insights from multiple analytical layers enabling quicker business decisions.
On operational efficiency front, repetitive and standard processes can be automated using Robotics. In fact, we in IT spend considerable time on infrastructural issues which can be done away with using AIOps to spot and react to issues without human intervention.
On customer side, next level of engagement can be achieved leveraging message/voice enabled Chat-Bots with NLP capability. Omni-channel (web, voice, digital, email) customer selfservice support system helps in enhancing the service quality and deepening the customer relationships.
TRANSFORM – Digitally Transforming Business Operations
I am sure the strategy teams in utility organizations have Uberization of energy sector in sight. Hence, the tipping point for business transformation to exploit new revenue streams or business models is critical depending on the organizations growth stage & market dynamics.
We have seen data collection & exchange creating newer business threats along with valuable opportunities. Leveraging digital, mountains of data generated can be converted into extraordinary in-depth insights creating newer business services.
We all have seen cryptocurrencies like bitcoin decentralizing the transactional economy & creating a new business line altogether. The underlying technology Block-chain can similarly enable utilities to venture into platform business in space like demand management, energy services etc.
In Industry 4.0 era, the most tangible threat to conventional utility industry comes from new age tech pioneers like Google, Tesla etc., mainly at the customer interface where information is more critical than material assets. With next generation of reforms, the utilities in near future will own the distributed facilities and sell the optimized hours to customers. The real-time generation & consumption data by Smart meters can be leveraged to handle peak load. Smart grids are more efficient & less capital intense, allowing for predictive maintenance & better asset health.
Internet of Energy “IoE” which integrates smart grid for renewable and conventional energy networks based on ICT technologies will automate electricity infrastructure for energy producers.
Renewable being a relatively new sector, it is hard to find established digital solutions. I find co-innovation with technology partners can be the winning proposition to come up with industry specific comprehensive digital solution. To thrive amid the current challenges & emerge as an industry leader, it is no more optional to embed digital in the core of the organization. The potential opportunity is worth many times the attending cost and risks. The organizations that move ahead will be ready for future market challenges, rest even Google will not search for you.