Senior decision-makers come together to connect around strategies and business trends affecting utilities.

WARNING: SIGN-IN

You need to be a member of Energy Central to access some features and content. Please or register to continue.

Post

Tracking Emerging Technologies from the Crow's Nest - What Should be Considered in 2020

image credit: ID 159784400 © Daniil Peshkov | Dreamstime

This item is part of the Predictions & Trends - Special Issue - 01/2020, click here for more

My responsibility is tracking emerging technologies. With an IT telescope in NYPA’s crow’s nest I scan the horizon for dawning technologies that have potential to produce shining affects in our organization. My scanner looks at trending, innovative, and developing, technologies that will be available in the near term and far term. I then examine each to see if it matters to us and if successful outcomes could be beneficial to improve or positively change our business model.

I have targeted the following emerging technologies for our organization to seriously consider for 2020.

Overall almost 200 technologies have been identified that are emerging, whether in the near term, midterm or much further out. These technical advances have some relationship or potential relation to our business.  No organization can take on all technologies. In fact a Forrester analyst advised me that more than 10 to 20 technologies are unreasonable for any organization to consider implementing in any reasonable amount of time to expect successful outcomes.

For that reason, I have applied internally developed scoring and intuition to whittle down the 200 technologies to 10 – 15 for 2020. 

First some important caveats.

  1. These are my personal observations having spent a wealth of time researching the information technology resources available to me, including Gartner, Forrester, BloombergNEF, Energy Central, Utility Analytics Institute, EPRI, LinkedIn connections, and other industry specific sites and publications. The opinions expressed are mine and not my employer’s.

  2.  NYPA is a generation and transmission company. In general, local distribution is not a significant concern on our IT and OT sides of the house.

  3. My range is for the most part IT but our purview includes a significant OT presence where the two at some point converge whether it be architecture, software, hardware, data or network.

  4. The technology choices are also influenced by our big rocks projects, strategic initiatives which include Governor Cuomo’s proposed a multi-pronged electric vehicle initiative, Increasing Solar, Onshore Wind and Storage Capacity by More Than 1,000 Megawatts and Preparing the Electric Grid for New, Renewable Generation

First and foremost is that IT must be more than just prepared. We have to be at the starting gate, if not already off and running to support the explosion of renewables that are being installed. Especially wind. This manifests itself in not just on the OT side. IT organizations must be ready to deal with the grid stability and market stability issues that could result.

As reported by BloombergNEF here is an example of what can occur;

U.K. wind generation is forecast to be as high as 15,403 megawatts by 11 am in London on Saturday, according to a Bloomberg model.

 “High wind output will lower spot power prices, displacing more expensive fossil generation out of the mix, even giving the potential for negative day-ahead prices.”: said Tim Dixon, analyst at Cornwall Insight.

“Such incidents mean generators would have a strong incentive not to sell further power or instead buy their power back from the market”, said Dixon.

U.K. day-ahead power prices fell 9.2% to settle at 32.78 pounds ($43) per MWh at N2EX auction Friday.

Britain’s current installed wind power capacity is about 22 gigawatts, according to the industry group Renewable U.K.

“Transmission and distribution grid operators require advanced-analytics capabilities to make effective strategic decisions in a fast-changing energy world.”

“McKinsey & Company recently reported “Transmission and distribution grid operators require advanced-analytics capabilities to make effective strategic decisions in a fast-changing energy world... “ “In a recent benchmarking exercise with global grid operators, 70 percent of respondents report that they expect an increase in issues, such as the frequent cancellation of outages on short notice and the curtailment of renewable generation. The degree of difficulty that these operators perceive is closely linked to renewable penetration in their markets and the capacity of their grids (Exhibit 1). Highly meshed grids typically have a higher tolerance for accommodating unpredictable renewable feed ins, while in areas with limited grid redundancy, the operators experience challenges at lower adoption levels. Some of the transmission and distribution grid operators at the forefront of the energy transition need to cancel 10 to 20 percent of outages on a short notice, or they run the risk of curtailing renewables and incurring higher operations and maintenance costs than budgeted. The rapid increase in renewable generation is not the only driver that can affect these results. Other contributing factors include aging assets, decentralized production, increase in electric-vehicle penetration, and the trend of electrification, such as power to heat (especially for distribution operators). In a recent benchmarking exercise with global grid operators, 70 percent of respondents report that they expect an increase in issues, such as the frequent cancellation of outages on short notice and the curtailment of renewable generation. The degree of difficulty that these operators perceive is closely linked to renewable penetration in their markets and the capacity of their grids (Exhibit 1). Highly meshed grids typically have a higher tolerance for accommodating unpredictable renewable feed ins, while in areas with limited grid redundancy, the operators experience challenges at lower adoption levels. Some of the transmission and distribution grid operators at the forefront of the energy transition need to cancel 10 to 20 percent of outages on a short notice, or they run the risk of curtailing renewables and incurring higher operations and maintenance costs than budgeted. The rapid increase in renewable generation is not the only driver that can affect these results. Other contributing factors include aging assets, decentralized production, increase in electric-vehicle penetration, and the trend of electrification, such as power to heat (especially for distribution operators).”

Second, utilities must be prepared to deal with the proliferation of EVs. Aside from the hard issues like charging station connectivity to the grid, inability of the installed distribution lines support EV chargers, there are soft issues that must be dealt with. EV charger billing, collection of charging data for analytics, adjustments to load and generation forecasting tools etc. It is my experience that EV charging station startups are totally unprepared to provide for utilities thirst for data to do analytics.   To wit numbers 4 and 5 below.

Grid stability is also a concern with the EV proliferation. A recent Energy Central report emphasized that electric cars will challenge power grids. A U.S. Department of Energy study found that increased electrification across all sectors of the economy could boost national consumption by as much as 38% by 2050. Utilities must prepare with the predictive analytics required to properly meet these new demands.

Third, is the high-flying technologies for utilities, drones. This technology is no longer emerging. Drones have emerged and are becoming ubiquitous in many work environments. IT must be prepared to support these efforts with hardware, networking and storage requirements. 

Aside from these preeminent issues, based on the above I believe the following are the top  emerging technologies to seriously plan for or adopt in 2020.

  1. 5G (Business Wide Network Fabric)

    • 5G will dramatically change the playing field. Communication capabilities will grow by leaps and bounds. The ability to send massive amounts of data will reverberate in all aspects of IT. Beyond field of sight drone capabilities will explode utility drone programs.

  2. Chatbot Intelligent Agents

    • Intelligent agents will expand automation capacities not just for CDEX but internal back office operations as well. Our intent is to include here all voice related

  3. Robots

    • This includes the potential of robotic processing but even more so the expansion of using robots combined with other emerging technologies to perform surveys, inspections etc. on the ground in the air and under water.

  4. Machine Learning & AI

    • If any organization is not on the machine learning band wagon already, they will be playing Tchaikovsky’s Funeral Drudge soon. Every aspect of every business will have to employ ML to remain competitive and relevant.

  5. Deep Learning/Deep Neural Nets

    • This one is really part of ML and AI. Deep learning and neural nets are the engine that runs artificial intelligence (AI). All the data coming our way will have to be processed. The volume and complexity of data like video, images include infrared images, speech will require the engine to handle the volume and complexity of data and the complication of the solutions sought.

  6. Edge Computing

    • The proliferation of sensors and the complexity of the required outcomes will in some cases processing of data at the edge, rather than transferring it a central point.

  7. Endpoint Computing

    •  Security

      • The above referenced sensor proliferation brings with it the broader potential of malicious infiltration into sensor networks. This brings the need for exploit prevention, detection, and remediation. Integrated capabilities often include anti-malware, application integrity protection, application control, native OS security tool management, and behavioral detection. “Sensorization” of everything and deployment of IoT devices just about anywhere opens a vast picking filed for hackers, cyber criminals and rogue states. Simple devices such as programmable coffee makers now have become targets for malicious digital malfeasance.

    • Edge Computing

      • Sensors sitting on "the edge" or source of the information chain that compute the collected data at the point of collection to make quick tactical decisions. Included in this category is edge AI — Edge AI refers to the use of AI techniques embedded in IoT endpoints, gateways and edge devices. Adoption of edge AI is increasing for applications that are latency-sensitive (e.g., autonomous navigation), subject to network interruptions (e.g., remote monitoring, NLP, facial recognition) and/or are data-intensive (e.g., video analytics). Edge computing carries covers a large area of emerging technologies. Each organization should see where edge computing offers the greatest benefit.  

  8. Privileged Identity Management

    • Digital workplace security should be on top of the consciousness of anyone in the work force today. Vigilance alone is not enough, New methods of security management are required. Privileged Identity Management is one of them that should be seriously considered. it to access sensitive digital workspace systems with high-privilege credentials. These solutions also include session management features that monitor, index, and analyze administrator-level threats to digital workspace security.

  9. Artificial Reality

    • Sounds like an oxymoron. But artificial reality today is neither oxy (acute) or moronic. I have used this term to include all type of technology advances that are being employed to create fabricate the real to better engineer in the future. Included here are augmented reality, immersive experience, AR, VR, SR etc. These technologies can provide huge benefits for training, advancing the concept of the digital worker and provide operational efficiencies. 

  10. 3D Printing

    • Albeit still emerging, 3D printing has considerably advanced and is being used in some industries. 3D printing is an industrial process that creates physical products that are digitally designed with software and fabricated by 3D-printing machines. This technology is also known as additive manufacturing, it provides methods to create tooling, castings, and end-use parts from various materials, such as polymers, metals and composites. Combined with Internet technology, 3D printing would allow for digital blueprints of virtually any material product to be sent instantly to another person to be produced on the spot, making purchasing a product online almost instantaneous. Aside from other benefits 3D printing has the potential of giving longevity to the obsolete. One reason for obsolescence is the unavailability of parts no longer made. 3D printing can eliminate that issue. I remember in the case of one utility, turbine refurbishing was considerably delayed as critical parts were no longer made and infrastructure had to be sent out of state for custom retooling.

  11. Lidar & 3D Lidar

    • Lidar (light detection and ranging) is an optical remote-sensing technique for precisely scanning surfaces from a distance with laser light. Lidar systems use an active optical sensor that transmits laser beams and calculates ranges and the precise position of the target. Measurements are combined into a point cloud dataset, which is registered to a 3D- coordinate system. Lidar is not limited to one specific technology employed to perform the scanning (e.g. sonar, laser, mechanical spinning Lidar, Solid-State MEMS Scanning Lidar etc.)  Solid-state 3D flash Lidars contain arrays of laser emitters and optical receivers. In principle, solid-state 3D flash Lidar operates similar to cameras — laser lights emit from the Lidar, spread into objects and surroundings, are captured by photo diode arrays or image sensors and are finally processed to form a 3D mapping point cloud using time-of-flight algorithm. In a project already begun in late 2019 we are experimenting with this technology to do ice predictions to prevent hindering winter operations of one of our large hydro generation plants.

  12. Low Code

    • A low-code development platform (LCDP) is creates and environment for citizen developers to create application software through graphical user interfaces and configuration rather than writing code as in the more traditional computer languages. The platform may focus on design and development of a particular kind of application: such as databases, business processes, or user interfaces such as web applications. Although touted by vendors as eliminating the need for any traditional programming or programmers, it appears that low code is frequently not so low. According to Gartner “the no-code tools targeted at minimally skilled citizen developers often end up requiring trained IT staff for certain use cases. Therefore, we consider no-code tooling as a subset of the larger low-code tool market, especially as enterprise-class low-code platforms increasingly strive to address both citizen and professional developers”. It has been our experience that even the most popular low code visualization tool requires us to have a full time expert on staff to assist our citizen developers. None the less no code is rapidly emerging to empower citizen programmers.

Finally prepare for automation that will radically change work itself, for everyone. The major IT advisories, Gartner and Forrester are raising the alert that. Increasingly, organizations are applying automation technologies not only to digital problems but also to physical processes. Forrester calls this "convergence’. “Use new scale factors that will change the labor equation. Human employees must now learn how to work side by side with robots by developing a high robotics quotient.”

Gartner recommends organizations boost digital dexterity through an engaging and intuitive work environment. “Evolve from a technical approach to an employee-centric approach. Success at the implementation phase is crucial to promote adoption. Deliver the digital workplace that focuses on employee experience and business outcomes, rather than just technology.”

Organizations must scan the technology horizon and choose those technologies that will provide the greatest gain to provide the platform for not just continued growth, but to stay relevant.

Just down the road from our corporate headquarters is a town that re-engineered its name because the location and events that took place there were the inspiration for one of the most famous legends born in America. Calling yourself the Town of Sleepy Hollow is a great way to attract tourists. Don’t call your organization sleepy technology and allow it to be like Ichabod Crane and be “spirited away by” not so supernatural means. 

Ben Ettlinger's picture

Thank Ben for the Post!

Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.

Discussions

No discussions yet. Start a discussion below.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »