Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Crucial Role of Sustainable Infrastructure in Energy

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Sustainable infrastructure, at its core, is not a complex subject. The likes of roads, bridges, telephone pylons and hydroelectric power stations are all deemed as equipment and systems that are designed to meet essential service needs. 

These are all also considered integral players in paving the way to a more sustainable, energy-conscious future.

And as sustainability goals — like the pursuit of net zero — are continuously worked toward, businesses, governments and supranational bodies are all leaning on sustainable infrastructure and leveraging its benefits to ensure energy access and security for all.

IFS’ Global CTO for Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) Jon Mortensen and Martin Harris, Director for EAM Product Management, as well as Hitachi Energy’s Anthony Allard, Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Hitachi Energy’s business in North America, are engaging sustainable infrastructure within sustainability initiatives ensure a more sustainable and energy-efficient future. 

IFS: Empowering sustainable asset management

At AI-driven enterprise software specialists IFS, both Jon and Martin help empower the energy industry and those reliant on it with its IFS Cloud platform, which brings together the likes of enterprise resource planning (ERP), EAM, field service management (FSM) and enterprise service management (ESM) capabilities under one unified cloud-based system. 

The offerings are engineered to optimise operations and enhance productivity by ensuring companies can deliver exceptional service at every critical moment.

“EAM systems play a pivotal role in enhancing the uptime and reliability of infrastructure assets while ensuring they align with organisational objectives, particularly in increasing efficiency and optimising economic returns,” Jon begins. “A significant focus is on integrating ESG goals, making sustainability a core aspect of asset management strategies.”

Martin echoes: “EAM systems enable organisations to develop asset plans that not only meet these sustainability objectives but also ensure operational goals are met efficiently.

It is always best practice to track asset data throughout its entire lifecycle, from design to operation and maintenance.”

The two are steadfast in their belief that EAM systems play a critical role in enhancing sustainability as it monitors and optimises energy use of assets like motors. By measuring key indicators such as electrical current draw and phase balance, organisations can identify inefficiencies — such as unnecessary energy consumption or imbalances that could shorten an asset’s lifespan.

“This data-driven approach supports condition-based maintenance, allowing businesses to address issues proactively, reducing energy waste and extending asset longevity,” Jon continues.

Hitachi Energy: Pioneering sustainable solutions

Over at Hitachi, Anthony has no doubt in his mind that technology is integral to a more sustainable and energy-efficient future thanks to the analytics and data insights it can provide. With Hitachi Energy at the forefront of advancing sustainable infrastructure in the energy sector, he emphasises that it is of critical importance in supporting sustainable infrastructure to promote energy efficiency, grid resiliency and environmental sustainability. 

“There’s no doubt that AI, ML, analytics and data insights present unique opportunities for the energy sector,” he says. “These data-driven technologies can provide our customers with a more holistic view of the energy landscape, and enable them to make faster, better-informed decisions in the moment.

“Some of these technologies, such as Gen AI, are really just beginning to be explored by utilities and others in the energy ecosystem. It certainly seems to have the potential to help optimise grid operations, support things like predictive maintenance and help drive energy efficiency in a variety of sectors.

“Making this all work, however, will require companies like Hitachi to combine wide knowledge of energy sector technologies across the whole power system value chain and the ability to offer data-driven insights to help transform the industry.”

This is underpinned by Hitachi Energy’s position as a global technology leader dedicated to advancing a sustainable energy future for all. This recognition of the significance of sustainable infrastructure in driving the transition to a more sustainable energy system highlights Hitachi Energy’s commitment to providing solutions and services that contribute to this transition.

What sustainable infrastructure is shaping the energy future?

From digital substations to renewable energy integration, Hitachi Energy’s initiatives are shaping the future of sustainable energy infrastructure. By leveraging technology and collaboration, Hitachi Energy is driving progress towards a cleaner, more resilient energy future with digital innovation, renewable energy integration and a commitment to energy efficiency at its core.

Hitachi Energy’s digital substations, for example, improve grid resiliency and ensure the safe distribution of consistent, reliable power supplies to billions of people around the world. 

“Hitachi Energy is focusing on automating the grid through data-driven insights that will help utilities optimise the flow of energy, smooth out generation due to the integration of new renewable energy sources and optimise the performance of grid assets,” Anthony adds.

“Digital substations help support the transition to a low-carbon future by seamlessly integrating renewable energy and contributing to the decarbonisation of the electricity network.”

Further acknowledging the pivotal role of sustainable infrastructure in shaping the energy future, IFS emphasises the importance of technologies like AI-driven analytics, digital twins, and advanced asset management systems in optimising energy efficiency, reducing environmental impact and ensuring the reliability and resilience of energy infrastructure. This loops back around to Jon and Martin’s core focus, EAM systems. 

“IFS integrates AI, ML and analytics into its EAM processes to enhance the monitoring and maintenance of assets in the utilities and energy sector,” Jon says. “By employing ML models for anomaly detection, IFS enables operators to identify potential failures and inefficiencies early, facilitating proactive maintenance and reducing downtime. This application of AI extends to optimising maintenance schedules and tasks, using failure modes, effects and criticality analysis (FMEACA) to prioritise actions based on the risk and impact of potential failures.”

One notable implementation of this was with an oil and gas client in Australia, where IFS’ technology analysed data from more than a million feeds across 26,000 assets to detect anomalies and initiate maintenance workflows.

Martin continues: “Additionally, IFS’s AI-driven optimisation engine significantly improves field service operations, exemplified by a customer who increased end-consumer visits by 24%, demonstrating the system’s ability to enhance productivity and operational efficiency. These advancements underscore our commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technologies to deliver tangible benefits in asset management and operational optimisation.”

The future of sustainable infrastructure

For Hitachi Energy the future is bright, with its solutions continually evolving to keep up with increasing demand and up-and-coming complexities the energy space has thrown at it, increasingly so as sustainability becomes an ever-demanding focus. From Anthony’s perspective at least, sustainable infrastructure will continue to be propelled by a combination of digital transformation, renewable energy integration, energy efficiency and grid resiliency. By leveraging technology, innovation and collaboration, the company is driving progress towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future for all.

He concludes: “About a year ago, we announced a collaboration with Google that combines Hitachi’s Energy Portfolio Management (EPM) solutions with the company’s cloud-based data analytics, AI/ML services and public cloud infrastructure to develop and deploy new innovative solutions for utilities and renewable energy producers. We’ve already launched a service that gives global developers, operators of renewable generation and battery energy storage systems (BESS), as well as traditional generators, traders and energy market participants easy, real-time access to North American energy market intelligence.

“This service informs, guides and accelerates planning and revenue analyses for transformative grid and renewable energy projects, helping these organisations make better, faster decisions about energy projects and investments in North America.”

And for Jon and Martin at IFS, advanced analytics and AI are at the epicentre of the future of sustainable infrastructure. By harnessing the power of advanced analytics and ML, IFS says organisations can derive actionable insights from vast amounts of asset data, enabling predictive maintenance, optimisation of energy consumption, and identification of opportunities for efficiency improvements. 

They also predict that EAM systems will continue to evolve.

“The evolution of EAM systems is increasingly influenced by the integration of Asset Performance Management (APM) and the principles of ISO55000, emphasising a holistic view of asset lifecycle management,” Jon concludes. “The future of EAM lies in its ability to manage the entire asset lifecycle, from inception through to decommissioning, supported by digital technologies like digital twins for enhanced decision-making.”

Martin adds: “In the energy sector, where capital investments are significant, understanding and optimising the allocation of resources based on comprehensive asset data becomes crucial. The next decade will likely see EAM systems transitioning from being maintenance-centric to embracing a lifecycle-centric approach, incorporating digital innovations to facilitate this shift.

“The adoption of advanced analytics, AI and digital twins will enable businesses to make informed decisions, ensuring economic efficiency, sustainability and alignment with long-term objectives. This comprehensive asset intelligence will revolutionise how organisations manage, maintain, and invest in their assets, ensuring resilience in the face of increasing demand and complexity.”

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