This is how AI will accelerate the energy transition

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Espen Mehlum, Head of Energy,Materials & Infrastructure Program-Benchmarking & Regional Action, World Economic Forum & Dominique Hischier, Program Analyst – Energy, Materials Infrastructure Platform, World Economic Forum & Mark Caine, Project Lead, Artificial Intelligence and Machine LearningProject Lead, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, World Economic Forum


The new IPCC report is unequivocal: more action is urgently needed to avert catastrophic long-term climate impacts. With fossil fuels still supplying more than 80% of global energy, the energy sector needs to be at the heart of this action.

Fortunately, the energy system is already in transition: renewable energy generation is growing rapidly, driven by falling costs and growing investor interest. But the scale and cost of decarbonizing the global energy system remain gigantic, and time is running out.

To-date, most of the energy sector’s transition efforts have focused on hardware: new low-carbon infrastructure that will replace legacy carbon-intensive systems. Relatively little effort and investment has focused on another critical tool for the transition: next-generation digital technologies, in particular artificial intelligence (AI). These powerful technologies can be adopted more quickly at larger scales than new hardware solutions, and can become an essential enabler for the energy transition.

Three key trends are driving AI’s potential to accelerate energy transition:

1. Energy-intensive sectors including power, transport, heavy industry and buildings are at the beginning of historic decarbonization processes, driven by growing government and consumer demand for rapid reductions in CO2 emissions. The scale of these transitions is huge: BloombergNEF estimates that in the energy sector alone, achieving net-zero emissions will require between $92 trillion and $173 trillion of infrastructure investments by 2050. Even small gains in flexibility, efficiency or capacity in clean energy and low-carbon industry can therefore lead to trillions in value and savings.

2. As electricity supplies more sectors and applications, the power sector is becoming the core pillar of the global energy supply. Ramping up renewable energy deployment to decarbonize the globally expanding power sector will mean more power is supplied by intermittent sources (such as solar and wind), creating new demand for forecasting, coordination, and flexible consumption to ensure that power grids can be operated safely and reliably.

3. The transition to low-carbon energy systems is driving the rapid growth of distributed power generation, distributed storage and advanced demand-response capabilities, which need to be orchestrated and integrated through more networked, transactional power grids.

Navigating these trends presents huge strategic and operational challenges to the energy system and to energy-intensive industries. This is where AI comes in: by creating an intelligent coordination layer across the generation, transmission and use of energy, AI can help energy-system stakeholders identify patterns and insights in data, learn from experience and improve system performance over time, and predict and model possible outcomes of complex, multivariate situations.

AI is already proving its value to the energy transition in multiple domains, driving measurable improvements in renewable energy forecasting, grid operations and optimization, coordination of distributed energy assets and demand-side management, and materials innovation and discovery. But while AI’s application in the energy sector has proven promising so far, innovation and adoption remain limited. That presents a tremendous opportunity to accelerate transition towards the zero-emission, highly efficient and interconnected energy system we need tomorrow.

AI holds far greater potential to accelerate the global energy transition, but it will only be realized if there is greater AI innovation, adoption and collaboration across the industry.That is why the World Economic Forum has today released Harnessing AI to Accelerate the Energy Transition, a new report aimed at defining and catalysing the actions that are needed.

The report, written in collaboration with BloombergNEF and Dena, establishes nine ‘AI for the energy transition principles’ aimed at the energy industry, technology developers and policy-makers. If adopted, these principles would accelerate the uptake of AI solutions that serve the energy transition by creating a common understanding of what is needed to unlock AI’s potential and how to safely and responsibly adopt AI in the energy sector.

Image: World Economic Forum

The principles define the actions that are needed to unlock AI’s potential in the energy sector across three critical domains:

1. Governing the use of AI:

  • Standards – implement compatible software standards and interoperable interfaces.
  • Risk management – agree upon a common technology and education approach to managing the risks presented by AI.
  • Responsibility – ensure that AI ethics and responsible use are at the core of AI development and deployment.

2. Designing AI that’s fit for purpose:

  • Automation – design generation equipment and grid operations for automation and increased autonomy of AI.
  • Sustainability – adopt the most energy-efficient infrastructure as well as best practices around sustainable computing to limit the carbon footprint of AI.
  • Design – focus AI development on usability and interpretability.

3. Enabling the deployment of AI at scale:

  • Data – establish data standards, data-sharing mechanisms and platforms to increase the availability and quality of data.
  • Education – empower consumers and the energy workforce with a human-centred AI approach and invest in education to match technology and skill development.
  • Incentives – create market designs and regulatory frameworks that allow AI use cases to capture the value that they create.

AI is not a silver bullet, and no technology can replace aggressive political and corporate commitments to reducing emissions. But given the urgency, scale, and complexity of the global energy transition, we can’t afford to leave any tools in the toolbox. Used well, AI will accelerate the energy transition while expanding access to energy services, encouraging innovation, and ensuring a safe, resilient, and affordable clean energy system. It is time for industry players and policy makers to lay the foundations for this AI-enabled energy future, and to build a trusted and collaborative ecosystem around AI for the energy transition.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

4 innovative renewable energy projects powering Europe’s green future

Financing economic recovery, written by United Nations Under-Secretary-General

Is your smart home as safe as you think?

45th Anniversary of the French Confederation (Confédération Nationale des Junior Entreprises)

A Europe that delivers: EU citizens expect more EU level action in future

Islamophobia is driving more US Muslims to become politically engaged, suggests report

MEPs condemn attacks on civilians, including children, in Yemen

The banks first to benefit from the new euro trillion ECB plans to print

8 fascinating and fearsome frontiers of science you should know about

Making the move to more sustainable mobility – three steps for companies

Colombia: Rights experts condemn killing of reintegrated former rebel fighter, call for respect of peace process

EU-Russia summit in the shadows of Kiev’s fumes

The Parliament sets the way for the European Banking Union

6.1 billion EUR for sustainable fisheries and safeguarding fishing communities

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Safeguarding civilians, strengthening Ebola response in DR Congo, marking Fistula Day, updates on CAR and Syria

This is how India can become the next Silicon Valley

Turkey: Commission continues humanitarian support for refugees

19th EU-China Summit: A historical advance in the Chino-European rapprochement

The woman who wanted to be treated the same as the man

These countries are the most peaceful – in 3 charts

Alternative proteins will transform food, mitigate climate change and drive profits. Here’s how

Estonia: use robust growth to improve income equality and well-being

The use of mobile technologies in Radiation Oncology: helping medical care

These countries are leading the way in green finance

Shenzhen just made all its buses electric, and taxis are next

4 eco-friendly products put sustainable spins on classic practices, from teacups to hankies

Why the future is bright for drone technology

‘Jerusalem is not for sale’ Palestinian President Abbas tells world leaders at UN Assembly

US-China trade war: Washington now wants control of the renminbi-yuan

Look Mom, even the House of Lords says the #righttobeforgotten is not right

Portuguese Presidency outlines priorities to EP committees

An economist explains how to value the internet

Investing in rural women and girls, ‘essential’ for everyone’s future: UN chief

Cum-ex tax fraud scandal: MEPs call for inquiry, justice, and stronger tax authorities

Libyan authorities must shoulder the burden to support country’s ‘vulnerable’ south

COVID 19 Vaccine: A new terror or a savior for mankind?

State aid: Commission approves €150 million Austrian subordinated loan to compensate Austrian Airlines for damages suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

The status of the Code of Medical Ethics: loading

UN Security Council offers Yemen Special Envoy ‘their full support’

Over 1 million health consultations provided in Yemen in 2019: UN migration agency

Why the ECB prepares to flood the markets with more and free of charge euro; everybody needs that now

“I believe that startups are for grown-up men, those, who have already achieved something “

Do not jeopardise future-oriented EU programmes, say EP’s budget negotiators

‘Global sisterhood’ tells perpetrators ‘time is up’ for pandemic of violence

One Hundred Years of Qipao History: from Shanghai to EU

Finland is a world leader in clean energy. Here’s what’s driving its success

Nearly four million North Koreans in urgent need, as food production slumps by almost 10 per cent

Will the Greek economy ever come back to growth?

3 important lessons from 20 years of working with social entrepreneurs

At this ‘critical moment’, UN chief urges anti-corruption conference to adopt united front

We are stronger than this pandemic (COVID-19)

EU lawmakers vote to reintroduce visas for Americans over “reciprocity principle”

‘Endemic’ sexual violence surging in South Sudan: UN human rights office

Public Policies for LGBT in Brazil

A faster, fairer way to retire carbon-emitting assets

Amid pandemic detours, mental health matters

Coronavirus: Commission concludes talks to secure future coronavirus vaccine for Europeans

Why hourly workers should have the same benefits as salaried ones

How do we design an inclusive energy transition?

State aid: Commission approves €300 million Austrian scheme to support organisers of events affected by coronavirus outbreak

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s