26 Aug 2020, 12:26
Sören Amelang

AI can advance energy transition, but must be sustainable – energy agency

Clean Energy Wire

Artificial intelligence (AI) has started to arrive in some areas of the energy industry and has the potential to further advance the energy transition, according to an analysis by Germany's energy agency (dena). "Initial positive examples from the energy industry show that AI can drive new business models, accelerate innovation and help increase the potential for efficiency," said dena CEO Andreas Kuhlmann. But it can only make a substantial contribution to the energy transition "if it is allowed free rein now and positive experiences from initial applications are transferred to other segments of the energy system", he added.

AI's greatest potential to contribute to the energy transition lies in forecasting as well as optimising operations and inventories, according to the study. "For example, AI can be used to predict the production and demand of fluctuating renewable energy sources earlier on and more precisely, for power generation and trading purposes." Dena cited the operational planning of power generation and optimised grid operation as other areas that can benefit from promising AI applications. Increasing the AI potential, however, requires additional pilot projects to also determine the net economic and sustainability benefits of this technology, the agency stressed. "For an AI application to succeed, it is always necessary to check whether its benefits actually outweigh the effort required," dena said. 

Germany's economy ministry will build on the findings of the analysis in its newly established "Future Energy Lab", which will test innovative digital technologies in the energy industry as part of the government's blockchain strategy, according to Christoph Scholten, who heads the ministry's "Digitalisation of the Energy Transition" unit. Experts are in agreement that digitalisation is crucial for the next phase of Germany's energy transition, in which an energy system based on millions of wind and solar installations will need to power cars and heating. Utilities have said the transformation will be "the largest ever national IT project".

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