Without innovations, the energy sector of tomorrow will not be built. The digitalisation will help to manage electric grids better and reduce the risk of their faults, but also carries with it the challenges such as assuring appropriate protection against cyber threats – stressed the participants at the Brussels debate on the ”EU Power Sector on the Road to Innovation”. The event was organised by the Polish Electricity Association in collaboration with Microsoft.
As Dariusz Dybka of the PKEE highlighted, the digital economy and innovation topic is enjoying an increasing interest in the EU. “The energy sector is the industry that is reaching for them increasingly willingly. The Polish power sector considers innovation as one of the investment directions in the industry. It is one of the megatrends that cannot be overlooked” – he said.
In this context he reminded of the report published by the PKEE in December 2018, entitled ”Power sector on the road to innovation”. One of its objectives was to assess the potential for investments in innovation by the biggest Polish energy companies and also to point out the key trends that in the future will be impacting the energy production and distribution sectors. Among them, the PKEE has listed the digitalisation, diversification, decentralisation, energy efficiency and electrification.
Already at present, 20 percent of the energy consumed globally is powering the data centres that are also being used by the energy sector. “Microsoft is providing the technologies to various sectors, including the energy sector. Digital solutions help in, among others, process automation” – said Maciej Surowiec, EU Government Manager at Microsoft, adding that increasing numbers of companies throughout the world are striving to have their data centres powered by green energy and thus to reduce their carbon footprint.
However, he has pointed attention to the necessity to assure the relevant level of cybersecurity. “Every year Microsoft is spending 1 billion euro on cybersecurity. The energy sector is one of the most important and critical areas of national economies and the most exposed to attacks coming from the cyberspace. This is why the energy industry is one of the key partners in the introduction of solutions for protection against cyber attacks” – he added.
The discussion highlighted that digital solutions may also foster the growth of the renewable energy sector. “The wind energy is gaining increasing importance in the European energy sector. In the perspective of a few decades, it will become number one. Last year, 27 billion euros were invested in new build wind farms. 6.7 GW of new build wind capacity was installed. The European energy sector is undergoing increasing diversification” – said Pierre Tardieu, Chief Policy Officer at Wind Europe.
In this context, he pointed to the fact that one of the factors that may contribute to the growth of renewables will be the digitalisation that may lower the cost of energy generation with these sources. “On the one hand, digitalisation will be requiring more and more energy but on the other, it will help to reduce the operating expenditures and to increase the efficiency of green energy, so building new data centres and collaboration between the energy and the IT sectors is important. Everyone may profit from innovations – grid operators and citizens alike. The public needs to be educated about the benefits and about the threats” – he stressed.
“We are not able to electrify everything. Electrification is a good solution, for instance, to heat houses. In the case of industry, the costs matter. If innovations will also be applied in this area then we have a ready to use decarbonisation formula” – he added.
The discussion participants have also pointed the attention to the growth of blockchain technology, which is becoming more often used also by the energy sector. “It allows, among others, analysing customer behaviours, controlling the smart grids, anticipating faults, monitoring the networks and energy consumption by customers. Blockchain is a technology with big potential, however, it brings the challenges of, among others, assuring a reliable level of security” – said Agnieszka Konkel, International Policy Officer at the Center for MeRemove this imagedia, Data and Society, adding that the technology requires appropriate legislation both on the EU and on individual Member State levels.