Imagine building an unmanned, fos- sil-fuel power plant abroad that can be turned on and off remotely from
an office in New York City. It’s not a
pipe dream. One such plan is now under discussion and there are probably
more in the works.
It’s not surprising, considering the
convergence of digital solutions, power
plant technologies and technical advancements in automation. Consider
this: A significant percentage of jobs in
the U.S. ( 38 percent) and abroad will
be lost to automation in the next 15
years, according to a new study from
The power sector is on the cusp of un-
precedented transformation, which is
being driven by technological forces out-
side the power sector. Expect both great
collaboration and intense competition
between these brash newcomers and the
industry’s established players
The power sector has traditionally
been slow to embrace change. Most ma-
jor changes in the power sector have been
driven by those on the periphery of the
power industry, not by those within the
industry. The transformation underway
now is no different.
The heart of this transformation can
be found in the digital realm of the Information and Communication Technology
(ICT) sector. The technical innovations
in this sector are re-shaping entire industries, economies and societies. Innovations based on digital ICT include
the introduction of artificial intelligence, the use of augmented reality
and self-driving electric vehicles. The
power sector isn’t exempt from these
ICT-driven evolutions. ICT innovation
will be a major factor behind demand
BY RUSSELL RAY, CHIEF EDITOR
growth for electricity worldwide.
Opportunity is knocking for power
generators in desperate pursuit of increased efficiency amid flat or declining
demand for electricity. For power producers, the opportunities to exploit these innovations to trim costs, increase sales and
boost efficiency are growing at breakneck
speed, thanks to new digital technologies.
In this issue of Power Engineering, we’ll
be examining one of the benefits borne
from digital innovation. Specifically, our
author from Expert Microsystems Inc. explores the benefits of advanced pattern
recognition software and how it can
be used in conjunction with advanced
analytics to identify warning signs of
an impending failure. This kind of automation also means a much smaller
capital and human resource investment for power producers.
The new power sector will be very different. Decentralized power systems
will flourish as entities other than
investor-owned utilities and independent power producers enter the power
generation market. Today, small and
large businesses in every sector can
produce their own power to better
manage their demand and create new
revenue streams. Utilities and IPPs are
struggling to adapt and should take advantage of abundant opportunities for
collaboration between centralized and
decentralized power providers.
Although the threat of more consum-
ers leaving the grid to produce their own
power is real for utilities and IPPs, reports
of a looming death for providers of cen-
tralized power are outdated and exagger-
ated. Some utilities and states have made
great progress in modifying their business
models to reflect the growing popularity
of decentralized power.
Some utilities are redefining their role
as a power provider to reflect this ongoing shift in the power market. Expect traditional power companies to evolve into
energy management companies charged
with managing the complexity created by
growing supplies of decentralized power.
Expect utilities to begin designing, building and managing onsite power systems
for their industrial customers. And expect
an overhaul of traditional energy economics that places a higher value on information borne from digitalization.
At the turn of the century, more than
half of the nation’s power was produced
with coal and the prospects of renewable
power and energy storage playing a starring role in U.S. power generation were
quickly dismissed. The technologies were
too expensive, unproven and difficult to
integrate into a grid built around coal.
Today, renewable power and energy
storage are two of the biggest emerging
markets in power generation. The cost
of energy storage has plunged 60 percent
in the last two years and officials predict
the U.S. will add 7,300 MWh of storage in
2022 alone, up from 336 MWh in 2016.
Renewable resources accounted for most
of the generation capacity added in the
U.S. in 2016 – 63 percent to be exact.
Solar led the way at 39 percent.
These new drivers of change are
creating new possibilities for power
producers and consumers. The established players and these new drivers of
change will be gathering in Las Vegas,
Nevada, later this year at POWER-GEN
If you have a question or a comment,
contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow me on Twitter @RussellRay1.