Digital technology is helping power distributors to realise their decarbonisation goals while making them more resilient to energy supply disruption, according to equipment and solutions providers.
“The transformation to a no-carbon world by 2050 requires a massive move towards electrification of energy consumption and a massive use of digital technology to drive greater efficiency,” said Philippe Delorme, the Hong Kong-based executive vice president of energy management at Schneider Electric, a French energy management and automation technology company.
“The recent power crisis in Texas is a great reminder that having a flexible power grid to maintain demand-supply balance is very important, while the Covid-19 pandemic saw many of our hospital customers realise how critical reliable power supply is – without it you have no emergency service, no ventilator.”
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Winter storms that struck the southern US state last month left 4.5 million homes and businesses without electricity for days, causing water, food and heat shortages.
Digital technology is playing a growing role in making the power distribution system more flexible. It helps it better cope with supply fluctuations brought about by the rising contribution of wind and solar power.
Technology such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence can help isolate faulty sections of the grid and enable “self-healing” so that power can be restored in as little as 30 seconds, said Melton Chang, head of Schneider’s China digital energy business.
Predictive algorithms also allow customers to forecast and manage their buildings’ energy usage, which could cut their electricity bills by some 20 per cent, he added. Hong Kong’s Swire Properties is one of Schneider’s customers.
Demand for energy management hardware and software by the fast-growing data centre and semiconductor manufacturing sectors have been particularly strong, because they are energy-hungry, require extremely reliable supply and are under pressure to become more environmentally responsible, Delorme said.
The amount of electricity required to keep a typical data centre running at the right temperature is sufficient to meet the needs of 50,000 to 100,000 households, while the entire information technology industry accounts for 5-10 per cent of global electricity usage, he added.
“Heat is the mortal enemy of sensitive circuitry and causes shutdowns, slower performance, and data loss if allowed to accumulate,” said Sumir Bhatia, the Asia-Pacific president of Lenovo Data Center Group, which provides servers and storage systems to businesses and cloud service providers.
Using liquid and air cooling to extract heat, its solutions allow data centres to run up to 50 per cent more efficiently without compromising performance, he added.
By “transforming” and simplifying the power distribution infrastructure linking the power grid to data centres, higher energy usage efficiency and reliability can be achieved, said Jesse Chou, chief sustainability officer of Taiwan’s Delta Electronics, a major manufacturer and supplier of energy management equipment and solutions.
This has allowed a reduction in equipment installation work by 40 per cent and land use by half, slashing the power distribution infrastructure investment by 20 per cent, he added.
The company’s customers include Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing unit of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group which owns the South China Morning Post.
Lenovo is aiming to cut carbon emissions arising directly from its operations by half in the next decade.
Schneider Electric aims for its entire value chain to become carbon neutral by 2040, while Delta wants its global operations to be carbon neutral and use only renewable power by 2030.
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