Technology Record - Issue 33: Summer 2024

74 VIEWPOINT Powering the future MAUREEN MASCARO: MICROSOFT How energy producers can drive efficiency, safety and profitability with AI and cloud technology The energy industry is experiencing massive, rapid changes. Interest in renewables is growing alongside pressure to reduce carbon emissions, and energy businesses that are trying to remain competitive must navigate the complexities of those shifts while overcoming numerous other challenges. These businesses need to ensure workplace safety and meet regulatory obligations. The energy sector must also contend with fluctuations in markets, labour and skill shortages, as well as unpredictable international events. Of course, they must overcome all these challenges while driving profitability today and ensuring sustainable growth for tomorrow. Energy producers must embrace the latest cloud and artificial intelligence technologies to operate for the future. Going green Demand for energy is likely to increase over the coming years, particularly for renewable energy sources. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Short-term Energy Outlook predicts that “overall USA electricity generation will grow by three per cent in 2024”, with the total energy generated by solar power set to increase from four per cent in 2023 to six per cent in 2024 and seven per cent in 2025. Integrating renewables such as solar energy into existing power grids is no small task, however. To do it effectively, energy producers need to be able to intelligently forecast demand and market fluctuations to manage and scale the introduction of renewables. Energy companies can use cloud technology to provide operators with unified platforms that can easily integrate new renewable sources and scale them as their business expands. Energy producers can also leverage the power of AI and machine learning (ML) solutions in Microsoft Cloud for Sustainability and Microsoft Fabric to process vast amounts of data and more accurately model resource consumption and changes to demand. This means businesses can better manage their carbon emissions and reach their goals. Maximising the value of existing assets While adding new forms of energy is the way to a greener future, it’s also important that energy businesses, such as those in the oil and gas sectors, effectively manage their existing assets so they can drive more profit without needing to expand. With cloud technologies, organisations can collect data on all their assets and easily create intuitive visualisations and perform analyses. This allows them to better understand generation needs and allocate resources appropriately. For example, Microsoft partner Schneider Electric helped Pacific Gas and Electric to deploy a distributed energy resource management system to maintain grid reliability and accelerate customer adoption of distributed energy resources. Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Derms runs on Microsoft Azure to integrate, analyse and optimise data from distributed energy resources to help energy providers deliver reliable and affordable energy for their customers. “ Energy companies can use cloud technology to provide operators with unified platforms”