Saturday, July 13, 2024

The need for suppliers to prove environmental accountability

It is no exaggeration to say that we are currently in the midst of one of the most consequential energy transitions since records began.

The increasing availability of clean electrons has motivated business across nearly every market to think green. And for good reason. Being environmentally conscious attracts customers, appeases regulators, retains staff, and can even gain handouts from government.

This move towards a greener future will only continue to gather pace as we move through the decade. In fact, renewables’ share of the power generation mix is set to rise to over a third by 2025 alone. With solar and wind driving most of the growth, the renewable energy market is expected to grow from its current $1.21 trillion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.2% between now and 2030.

Capturing even a sliver of this market represents a massive opportunity for energy suppliers. However, some need to work hard to win back customers. In their drive to appeal, certain energy suppliers have been guilty in the past of ‘greenwashing’ to exaggerate their environmental credentials. Those suppliers – and those that have played fair – have recognised the need for greater accountability. They are looking to produce a certificate of authenticity – such as a Renewable Energy Certificate (RECs) – to prove that the energy they generate is indeed from the renewable sources they say they are.

The need to ensure complete energy genealogy

The problem with producing with any certification is that ensuring complete energy genealogy throughout the supply chain remains remarkably difficult. One of the reasons is a lack of consistent data from top to bottom. This is partly because the majority of energy production globally still runs on clunky, outdated software. This causes data to be siloed and difficult to access.

Also, there is the fact that the systems themselves have been designed for predictable assets like coal or oil, not dynamic renewable assets like solar and wind. This dynamism makes the problem of extracting intelligence more difficult as it increases the amount of data being produced. It is a huge problem. So huge, in fact, that the energy industry is now thought to generate up to 200 exabytes of data each and every year.

Thankfully, there is now technology available – underpinned by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – that can sift through this mountain of data in a timely manner. By doing so, it helps facilitate accountability by collecting the requisite data to produce the aforementioned REC.

How technology can help

For some time, technology has been used to facilitate everything from providing an end-to-end connected journey for energy sales, to managing risk at a time of unprecedented price volatility. Yet, recent advancements in technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, robotics, and AI have helped create novel approaches to help meet climate and sustainability goals. However, accessing these devices – and the data held within – can still involve manual and time-consuming processes. Even when technology such as AI can help, it must be remembered that it is only as good as the data the flows into it.

Today, it is not about collecting more data from such devices, but the right data. So much so, that the market for such big data analytics use within the energy sector is expected to grow from $8.37 billion in 2023 to $14.28 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 11.28% during the forecast period (2023-2028).

Helping the world access cleaner energy

As well as legacy energy suppliers looking to clean up their act, there are also countless new entrants wanting to set themselves apart by being seen as an environmentally conscious alternative. And for good reason. Any suppliers that can help the world access cheaper and cleaner sources of energy will only grow into an enduring brand for years to come.

Accountability will be key. Ensuring energy genealogy throughout the supply chain is certainly challenging as the production of energy has become increasingly decentralised as it has become decarbonised. However, technology such as IoT sensors can be used to facilitate this accountability by collecting the right data from a myriad of distributed devices.

For some time, data has been imperative in the sector to help predict weather patterns, production demand, and optimise operation process efficiency. But as regulators, stakeholders and customers look to hold energy companies accountable for the claims they are making, proving the energy they are producing is from renewable sources has never been more important. Or more difficult. Yet, using the latest in AI empowered technology can help complete the circle.

Matt Tormollen

Matt brings over 20 years of executive leadership in global, venture-backed businesses. His experience in building high-performing teams that deliver demonstrable customer value in downstream energy through scalable cloud solutions drives POWWR’s strategic focus. He has a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.