Modern society is dependent on power grids like never before. From cars and buses to buildings, the shift from fossil fuels to electric energy carries enormous promise for a greener future. And utilities will play an essential role in this delicate balancing act, ensuring that increased demand is met with reliable supply, while enabling customers to be active participants and accelerators of the energy transition.
Utility companies are hardly alone in this pursuit. According to the IBM 2022 CEO study, Own your impact: Practical pathways to transformational sustainability, which surveyed more than 3,000 CEOs worldwide, nearly half (48%) of respondents ranked sustainability as a top priority for their organization—an increase of 37% from 2021. Yet, despite mounting pressure from boards and investors, many CEOs have cited the lack of reliable data-driven insights as the chief impediment to their ability to act.
New demands for utilities, new approach to distribution
For utility companies, the task of data management is even more crucial as they expand operations to keep abreast of skyrocketing demand. Further, this demand is projected to keep accelerating. IBM’s Institute for Business Value recently conducted a global study that found that 50% of surveyed consumers are considering purchasing an electric vehicle (EV) in the next three years, and that 63% of these consumers expect to use a home charging station to power them. This growth alone (without considering trends like the electrification of public transit systems and the construction of fully electric buildings) will require a significant expansion of energy and utility companies’ services, necessitating a more resilient and efficient approach to power generation and distribution.
To improve the reliability, robustness and efficiency of the power grid and other utility infrastructure, including power lines, service trucks, turbines, people lifters and earth movers, utility companies need to adopt more sustainable asset management practices and technology. This emerging area balances asset reliability and use optimization (including the best use of an asset within a company) with sustainability, such as improvements in the areas of energy and water efficiency, waste management, and environment monitoring and management.
To manage these changes, utility companies need tools that minimize their environmental impact and expand their operations efficiently. Fortunately for utility companies, innovators like IBM have been developing tools to help businesses minimize their environmental impact and expand operations with efficiency.
Take for example, the Downer Group, an integrated services company in Australia and New Zealand. Downer uses the IBM Maximo® Application Suite to power its TrainDNA platform, which provides a holistic view into its more than 200 trains across Australia. This view includes train location, timetable and status information, predictive maintenance insights, as well as remote capabilities such as the ability to remotely disconnect a carriage from the electrical grid to allow for safe maintenance work. The TrainDNA platform supports the company’s commitment to provide more timely service to passengers, getting them where they need to go when they need to get there. Downer also relies on IBM Envizi ESG Suite to capture and manage data that help them more effectively meet their sustainability goals, including data on energy consumption, waste generation and GHG emissions.
Exponential advancements in technology are helping utilities to become better prepared to accelerate the clean energy transition needed for a low carbon economy. IBM’s unified platforms harness the power of data and AI to derive real-time, predictive insights, reducing the complexities of acting on interrelated or dependent activities that support sustainability initiatives. With Maximo and Envizi, utilities can gain greater visibility of their operations as they scale up to meet the rising strain and demands on power grids.