According to business consultancy firm KPMG, there are five key emerging technology trends positively impacting the energy sector.In a presentation staged during the African Utility Week on Tuesday, Frank Rizzo, director of technology at KPMG in Africa, said the five key emerging technology trends are the IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotics, blockchain and Virtual Reality.
Amongst the five key areas, IoT, AI and robotics are the main drivers of the positive changes within the energy landscape, compared to others.
Rizzo said KPMG forecasts Virtual Reality technologies within the utility sector to generate revenue amounting to $120 billion by 2020, whilst revenue generation within the IoT sector will rise from $4.9 billion in 2015 to $20.8 billion in 2020.
The utility AI market is expected to grow from $419 million in 2014 to $5.05 billion by 2020.
The use of blockchain technologies within the energy sector will generate $1 billion within the next 24 months, said Rizzo.
The presentation focused on highlighting the challenges being faced by utility firms in Africa and how emerging technologies can be applied to address the constraints.
Project importation in the energy sector
Phil Dingle, marketing director at UK-based Lucy Electric, said challenges being faced in the region's electricity sector include ageing infrastructure and rising energy theft, distribution losses and renewable energies.Dingle presented a case study of how the UK managed to address some of the above challenges.
He recommended African governments to introduce innovation funds similar to the Ofgem Low Carbon Network Innovation fund.
The Innovation Fund would improve funding of projects for research and development of technologies to address grid complexity, distributed generation, network data, demand side management and maximise the operations of grid assets.
In addition to Innovation Funds, he highlighted the need for utility firms to engage in secondary grid automation, develop self-healing networks and engage in distribution automation projects.
By so doing, Dingle said energy companies would be able to ensure real-time monitoring of grid networks to produce actionable information on faults, power quality, energy losses and asset planning.
For instance, a project on secondary distribution automation deployed in the UK resulted in increasing consumer flexibility by 53% in 2013 with the percentage forecasted to reach 98% by 2023. [Con Edison selects ICF for rollout of residential energy efficiency projects].
In deploying the projects and technologies, he urged the utility industry to:
- Have a clarity of decisions driving investments
- Draft what improvements would their investments bring
- Invest in sustainability with core flexibility in mind
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