The energy sector is essential to modern life but is facing a host of challenges — and that’s where AI can help. From optimizing power grids to accelerating renewable energy, AI can improve many aspects of the energy industry.
SwissCognitive Guest Blogger: Zachary Amos – “How AI Can Power the Energy Sector”
The energy sector is essential, but it faces its fair share of challenges. Growing pressure to transition to clean power sources, aging infrastructure and rising cybercrime risks pose substantial obstacles, but artificial intelligence (AI) can help. Here’s a look at five ways AI can improve the energy industry.
1. Optimizing Power Grids
One of the most important applications of AI in the power sector is improving the way grids distribute energy. Roughly 70% of power lines in the U.S. are over 25 years old. These aging grids can’t always keep up with modern demands, as recent large power outages highlight. AI-powered smart transformers offer a solution.
AI can analyze how different areas use electricity in real-time and adjust the energy flow accordingly to ensure everyone gets what they need. These automatic, data-based adjustments would direct power away from low-consumption areas to allot more power to the processes using more, changing throughout the day. As a result, grids would waste less energy and there would be less risk of power-hungry operations overloading the grid.
2. Enabling Timely Maintenance
AI can also help keep energy infrastructure in good condition. Predictive maintenance uses AI and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to analyze equipment performance and predict when it’ll need repair. With these early warnings, power companies can fix issues while they’re still small.
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Transformer downtime can cost some businesses as much as $2 million from lost productivity alone, not counting repair expenses. AI-powered predictive maintenance keeps these to a minimum and the improved infrastructure uptime will prevent potentially dangerous outages.
3. Accelerating Renewable Energy
Sustainability is one of the biggest challenges facing power today and another ideal use case for AI. More and more power grids worldwide are moving to renewable energy, but things like wind and solar power don’t produce electricity on demand. As a result, grids need ways of storing energy or moving it where it’s necessary to prevent waste — AI can do just that.
AI can monitor energy consumption levels to direct renewable electricity to areas using the most power, even if that’s not where the energy is generated. That way, more buildings can use sustainable electricity and grids avoid waste. Those improvements will help renewables grow faster.
4. Protecting Infrastructure from Cyberattacks
As more power companies install technologies like IoT sensors, they must also consider cyber risks. Wirelessly accessible energy infrastructure has many benefits but is also susceptible to hacking. Thankfully, cybersecurity specialists are already using AI to defend against attacks in other industries.
AI security tools can monitor networks 24/7 to detect suspicious activity. Once they find these potential beaches, they can shut down parts of the network to contain it and alert cybersecurity workers to investigate it further. These quick responses can prevent massive cyberattacks, making new connected infrastructure technologies safer to use.
5. Improving Customer Service
Because electricity is crucial to everyday life, customer service is a big part of running an energy company. AI can help improve these processes through intelligent chatbots and personalized services.
AI chatbots can provide around-the-clock support, even when human service agents are unavailable. That way, customers can get answers quickly, regardless of when they need help. AI can also analyze how each user uses electricity and offer tailored promotions or solutions to meet their specific needs.
AI Has Vast Potential for the Energy Industry
The energy industry has room for improvement in many areas and AI provides solutions for each. As the sector deals with these obstacles, AI could differentiate between thriving utility companies and those struggling to remain competitive. As AI improves the energy sector, it will make everyday life safer and more convenient for the people and businesses that depend on it.
About the Author:
Zachary Amos is the Features Editor at ReHack, where he writes about artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and other technology-related topics.