News In Context

New Report Says AI Is A Critical Enabler Of The Energy Transition

A new report from the World Economic Forum concludes that AI technologies will need to be deployed at a much larger scale and at a much faster pace to speed up the energy transition and lower the associated costs if the world is to rapidly, safely and economically transition away from fossil fuels.

The  Harnessing Artificial Intelligence to Accelerate the Energy Transition  report, which was written in collaboration with BloombergNEF and Deutsche Energie-Agentur (dena) – the German Energy Agency, reviews the state of play of AI adoption in the energy sector and outlines high priority applications for how AI can accelerate the transition to low-carbon energy future.

AI could, for example, identify patterns and insights in data to increase efficiency and savings. According to BloombergNEF’s net-zero scenarios, fully decarbonizing the global energy system will require between $92 trillion and $173 trillion of investments in energy infrastructure between 2020 and 2050. Even single-digit percentage gains in flexibility, efficiency, or capacity in clean energy and low-carbon infrastructure systems can therefore lead to trillions of dollars in value and savings.

 Coordinating power systems with growing shares of renewable energy is another area where AI could have a key impact. As electricity supplies more sectors and applications, the power sector is becoming the core pillar of the global energy supply. Ramping up renewable energy deployment to decarbonize the globally expanding power sector will mean more power is supplied by intermittent sources (such as solar and wind), creating a need for better forecasting, greater coordination, and more flexible consumption to ensure that power grids can be operated safely and reliably, says the report.

AI could also play a crucial role in managing complex, decentralized energy systems at scale. The transition to low-carbon energy systems is driving the rapid growth of distributed power generation, distributed storage, and advanced demand response capabilities, which will need to be orchestrated and integrated into much more networked, transactional power grids. 

Speeding up the search for performance materials that support the next generation of clean energy and storage technologies is yet another area where AI could play a role, says the report. However, despite its promise, AI’s use in the energy sector is limited, with it primarily deployed in pilot projects for predictive  asset maintenance.

During a roundtable series conducted between March and May 2021 with AI and
energy industry experts, participants highlighted issues that are preventing AI from being adopted rapidly at scale in the industry.

The report offers a road map and practical recommendations for the energy and AI industries to overcome those hurdles. It includes nine “AI for the energy transition” principles that aim to create a common understanding of what is needed to unlock the potential of AI across the energy sector. The recommendations are:

  • Grid operations move towards automation and increased autonomy. Standard,
    and new power system equipment must be designed and set up ready for automation.
  • The most energy efficient infrastructure, as well as best practice approaches, tools and methodologies for building energy-efficient models and sustainable computing, be adopted industry-wide. This includes running algorithms on hardware powered by green electricity, recycling waste heat and managing computing resources in an energy-optimized way.
  • AI be developed in a way that is easy to interpret and use for everyone so it can become
    an integrated base layer for a variety of operational tasks. This entails developing AI algorithms that explain how they were trained and developed, designing AI algorithms that explain their actions, and building low-code tools that are easy and
    quick to use and amend by non- across different applications or domains.
  • Common data standards be agreed. Once these are put in place, secure, trust-based systems for data sharing  within the energy sector could be adopted, for
    example, through wider cloud and blockchain adoption or anonymized data aggregation activities moderated by regulators.
  •  Market designs and regulatory frameworks be created that allow AI use cases to capture the value they create. For example, permitting the use of smartmeter
    data when aggregated and anonymized. The report notes that AI applications will only scale once there are clear value propositions for customers and other market players. Only regulators can establish the foundational structures and frameworks.
  • Educating the energy sector workforce and consumers about AI to establish trust.
  • The industry agrees on a common technology and education approach to managing risks presented by AI.
  • All energy system stakeholders and market participants, including regulators, grid
    operators and equipment manufacturers, agree to adopt common standards and designs to allow interoperable “plug and play” devices to be installed.
  • AI ethics and responsible use be at the core of the energy sector’s AI development and deployment.

In Other News This Week:


Israeli Startup SavorEat To Launch U.S. Pilot Of Robot Chef System With Sodexo

SavorEat, the Israeil company that developed a smart robot chef that uses 3D-print technology and a plant-based formula to create meatless alternatives, announced in August that it has signed a deal with theUS subsidiary ofFrench food services and facilities company Sodexo to launch a pilot program in the US. As part of the program, Sodexo will examine SavorEat’s robot chef system and its first product, a plant-based burger, within higher education institutions across the US. The two companies are also working on reaching an agreement for the distribution of SavorEat products.


Amazon To Launch Branded TV Sets Powered By Alexa

Amazon is planning to launch Amazon-branded television sets  powered by voice assistant Alexa in the United States as soon as October, Business Insider reported. The launch, involving teams from Amazon Devices and Lab126, has been in the works for almost two years, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter. The TVs are being designed and manufactured by third parties


Four Countries Launch Central Bank Digital Currency Scheme

Central banks in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa will conduct a cross border payments trial using different central bank digital currencies (CBDC) to assess if this allows transactions to be settled more cheaply and easily, the banks said on Thursday.

Many governments and central banks around the world are exploring the use of CBDCs, which are digital forms of existing currencies. Some, like China, are trialing retail-focused CBDCs designed to replicate cash in circulation, while others are considering using so-called wholesale CBDCs to improve the internal workings of their financial systems.


U.S. Marketplace For Renewable Energy Gets Backing From Total

TotalEnergies Carbon Neutrality Ventures, the investment arm of France’s TotalEnergies, and Norway’s Equinor Ventures were among the investors backing a  $35 million Series C funding round for LevelTen Energy. The Seattle-based startup runs the world’s largest platform for connecting buyers and sellers in renewable energy deals. 

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.