Innovation is the single one option to move the energy sector forward in Latin America and the Caribbean. We recently published a report to reflect on the latest trends and innovations in technology usage (ICT) in the energy industry, more specifically on how information and communication technologies are changing the way energy services are delivered.
Technology has had a profound impact in every sector and industry in the past decades. The energy sector and the utilities in particular are undergoing an important shift that will determine the way in which they provide services in the era in which the customer has gained access to resources that will democratize the grid.
Benefits of ICTs to reduce costs
The utility business was historically hardware driven, where utilities generated power and hoped it reached the customer. They meter the consumption at the home, and replace resources when failure is reported by the customer. Over the last decade a lot has changed, how measurements are made, what types of generation are widespread, and the price of monitoring equipment. Through digitization it is now possible to repair equipment before it breaks, utilize more renewable sources, and maintain large grid networks with fewer people.
In many low and middle income settings the challenges of electricity provision are not technical alone, but also include ensuring reliable bottom up revenue flow from customers whose monthly payments are low.
ICTs contribute to Energy Access
Increasing electricity access for the last few percent of population can become rapidly more expensive. Such customers are amenable to “grid-like” mini-grid systems which in spite of their somewhat higher cost are able to provide reliable and robust 24-7 pay as you go service, that is both more affordable and permits seamless growth of consumption. Digitization is a natural starting point for such systems.
Technology that will contribute to a greener planet
Growth of renewables has become an imperative both to meet INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) goals and increasingly for economic reasons. Prices have drop so dramatically for these technologies that countries are in a better position to adopt them with no need for subsidies or feed in-tariffs. Renewables such as solar and wind are essentially upfront cost propositions and hence financing is critical. To de-risk financial flows, one needs to prove through data the electricity generation. Given the decentralized nature of such systems it becomes increasingly important that developers have the means to monitor generation, detect anomalies and use analytics to automate such functions.
Heating/cooling systems for thermal comfort become adopted with economic growth and can be directed to aid grid stabilization. While countries are at early stage of adoption it is important to ensure that their role in flexibility is tied to early programs that can ensure that these systems are compatible with common communication protocols.
These are some of the most important uses of ICT in technology and we will continue contributing to the constructive and nurturing dialogue to bring more innovations to the energy sector whilst contributing the goals of universal access and energy efficiency.