Artificial Intelligence and the future of energy
Artificial Intelligence will change the future of energy. I am often asked how Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to help interpret the past, optimise the present and predict the future. Having helped build data science and machine learning solutions in both private and public sectors I’m always pleasantly surprised by the multitude of applications and opportunities that AI technology can offer.
There are only three limitations to building successful AI systems — computing power, availability of data and imagination. More than often the latter is the hardest to realise.
Even though the successes are just starting to emerge AI has proven that it can revolutionise energy as well. The sector already depends on optimisation and predictions: energy production, energy grid balancing and consumption habits.
AI offers a unique solution to these challenges and due to its capacity to evolve and learn it will undoubtedly become a critical component of the energy industry.
AI plays a critical role in the WePower platform as well. The WePower platform is the next generation utility company and has in-built capabilities to use AI technology for renewable energy forecasting, grid balancing and in-depth consumer understanding.
Early Traction. Emerging technology team lead Dan Walker at the British Petroleum’s (BP) Technology Group says :
“AI is enabling the fourth industrial revolution, and it has the potential to help deliver the next level of performance.”
AI provides an inspiring area for talented individuals as a career path. Solving energy problems directly relates to improving living conditions for generations to come. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, wrote an online essayto college students graduating worldwide in 2017 where he stated :
“If I were starting out today… I would consider three fields. One is artificial intelligence. We have only begun to tap into all the ways it will make people’s lives more productive and creative. The second is energy, because making it clean, affordable, and reliable will be essential for fighting poverty and climate change.”
The last one that he mentioned was biological sciences.
It has prompted students across the world to enrol in these subjects and study as well as discuss challenges. Harvard University’s Franklin Wolfe, a graduate student in the Earth and Planetary Science programme writes a great overview of the challenges of the grid and how a new and different ‘smart grid’ could be enabled by AI .
However, has there already been a success story where AI helped the energy industry? The answer to this question requires a bit of research. A lot of pilot programmes are not publicised and are still in their early stages. However, a mounting body of evidence indicates a bright future for AI in the energy sector.
A great example of early traction is Google’s DeepMind technology which became famous for teaching itself to play the ancient game GO through technology called reinforcement learning and becoming the World’s number one player . The team behind the technology announced that its machine learning algorithms could cut electricity usage at Google’s data centres by 15% . The predictions centred around anticipating a higher load on the data centres’ cooling systems and controlling equipment more efficiently. This decreased the energy usage by 40% percent and translated into saving hundreds of millions of dollars for Google over several years .
This announcement prompted discussions on how such an approach could be used elsewhere. One of such applications is with the National Grid in the United Kingdom.