At the heart of boardroom discussions the world over, AI is transforming a myriad of sectors. It is, for example, allowing the energy industry to boost efficiency and improve safety.
In an open letter published in 2017 to future graduates the world over, Bill Gates encouraged students to steer their careers toward AI and the energy industry. Microsoft’s founder foresaw a correlation between the development of AI and fighting the threat posed to the planet by climate change.
In the United States, the department of energy has already overhauled the country’s electricity network, rendering it intelligent and practically autonomous. Next, the federal government is going to install sensors and equipment to transform the US electricity network into a smart-grid that will supply electricity in a more reliable and cost effective manner, and reduce the number and length of power outages while also mitigating against disruption caused by storm damage etc. Consumers, benefitting from easier access to their energy-consumption data, will have a greater say in their energy use and in influencing the size of the monthly electricity bill.
Silicon Valley leads the way
The oil and gas industry is also using AI-enabled technology to streamline production. Total, for example, has signed a deal with Google Cloud to develop a project using big-data applications that analyzes sub-surface data during the exploitation phase, with the eventual aim of being able to provide its engineers with a smart assistant which can optimize the activity of workers using data collected on their movements. This technology, called machine-learning, constitutes an opportunity for companies whose activities carry an elevated risk, such as those in the oil and gas industry, because these connected devices will be able to analyze the data they receive in real time and adapt the operation of machinery accordingly. Google, whose optimization services are in high demand in the US, recently announced it had made a major breakthrough in the area of wind turbines, thanks to its DeepMind affiliate, whose algorithms are able to predict the quantity of energy produced in relation to the strength of the wind. The smart grid can alter the distribution of energy to avoid losses. Microsoft has developed a similar system in Asia, through its Envision subsidiary.
Power to the people
Opening a new chapter in the history of energy use, AI allows companies and individual customers to have more control over their own energy consumption. It’s rapid implementation in the field of renewable energy constitutes an opportunity for companies. However, the costs involved in turning an electricity network into a smart grid and the thorny question of using consumers’ personal data poses significant problems going forward.