Harnessing the power of digitalisation of the energy sector

09.03.2020

Rapid innovation and constant evolution of digital technologies have transformed all aspects of our daily lives. Digitalisation is transforming global energy systems too – improving the safety, reliability and sustainability of electricity grids around the globe. AES is committed to utilising digital technology to accelerate the future of energy. Our teams are applying novel technologies – drones, robotics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, amongst others – to create new solutions that address our industry’s biggest challenges. Digitalisation and smart infrastructures are already helping us to deliver reliable, efficient and affordable energy to our consumers.

Our focus on building upon the opportunities that digitalisation presents, coupled with our longstanding experience in the global energy market has paved the way for strategic partnerships, enabling AES to cooperate with other pioneering companies.

In 2019 AES entered a strategic partnership and formed Uplight, the leading cloud service in the utilities sector in the United States. AES is now working on delivering energy customer solutions via advanced cloud computing, data analytics and machine learning. With Uplight we help consumers understand their energy consumption, and what they need to do to make their consumption more efficient, reduce energy wastage, and so reduce their energy bills. Our projects with Uplight are also creating smarter, more efficient energy infrastructures which will benefit everyone from energy operators to end-consumers.

Digitalisation holds great potential in helping us make existing energy infrastructures more efficient, cutting energy wastage and reducing environmental impact. A great example of this is the application of artificial intelligence (AI) in energy management. At AES we are exploring how AI can improve efficiency and maintenance of our grid systems. Our energy assets produce a vast amount of data, and AI helps us to process this data with enhanced speed and reliability. Integrating AI technology into energy infrastructures enables us to anticipate problems in the system and correct them in advance, predict variable generation levels, and optimise generation.

In Bulgaria, AES is investing in cutting-edge technologies to modernize its operations and better serve its customers. AES operates the largest wind farm in the country, Saint Nikola. We use drones to perform blade inspections on our wind turbines, which is both faster and safer than the traditional way of inspecting blades by having operators climb into the nacelle of each wind turbine. We also use machine learning at Saint Nikola to optimise the wind farm’s operations to predict with greater accuracy how much energy we will generate based on a mass of historical data.

At Saint Nikola we also use digital tools to protect local wildlife – pioneering the use of state-of-the-art radar technology to protect birds in the Kaliakra region. The system processes data from a high-tech radar system and meteorological data while local ornithologists also provide regular physical monitoring on-site. Flocks of birds in the area are monitored on a daily basis, and in case of possible collisions, certain turbines are shut down. This has helped protect endangered bird species native to the area like red-breasted geese.

Our thermal plant AES Galabovo, the most modern plant in Bulgaria, combines our pioneering technological capability with local expertise. We use digital performance management in Galabovo – advanced smart sensors that pool mass amounts of data on all aspects of the plant’s operations like temperature and pressure. The result is a data-driven model that helps our personnel on the ground to optimize the operational efficiency of the plant. Additionally, the smart sensors we use in Galabovo enable us to identify trends of operating parameters and generate early warning signals to prevent power outages.

Using the power of digital tools to integrate and control electricity generation and usage will be vital as the energy transition proceeds, and digitalisation holds the potential to transform our business at all ends of the value chain. Going forward, AES will continue to develop and roll out technological and digital solutions to accelerate the future of energy.