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5G, cloud, and AI are cornerstones of the power industry

Digital tech drives an energy transition towards a net-zero future

Dr. Anthony Hu is the Chief Expert of the Electric Power Digitalization business unit at Huawei’s Enterprise business group. Here, he explains how these trends are reshaping the grid and preparing society for a greener future.

How is digital technology transforming the power grid and the generation of electricity? 
Today, the world's energy industry is moving towards a high level of low carbonization and energy transition. As the core of energy transition, the power grid is facing big challenges from unstable and unpredictable renewables like wind and solar. With the acceleration of a new round of global technical revolution, emerging digital technologies such as 5G, cloud computing, AI, and big data have become important cornerstones for the electric power industry. They play crucial roles in scenarios such as wind and sunlight forecasting, load and demand response, and generation-grid-load-storage integration.

In terms of power transmission and substations, our power grid is a huge network, covering tens of thousands of kilometers of area. Sometimes the towers and overhead lines are located on mountains or in forests. That's neither easy nor safe for our people to operate, maintain, and inspect. So we use AI cameras, robots, and drones, together with IoT capability for detection monitoring and control for automatic operation and maintenance. 

For distribution, in the past, we’d have to do procedural maintenance changes district by district. However, now we can use the synergy between terminals, edge computing, cloud, and AI technology to update all maintenance, metering, and billing programs and procedures across tens of thousands of transformer districts within seconds. It's a huge improvement in maintenance and energy efficiency, but even more importantly, it ensures the safety of our people and the reliability of the power grid. We can now identify failures before they occur, and even in unfortunate events, we can provide quick responses automatically, and obviously improve the customer experience. Our solution will be adapted to the bidirectional technical and business models that have been totally changed via distributed energy resources. This greatly improved energy efficiency means we can all benefit from ICT infrastructure and new digital technologies. 

Are you excited about what this can do for sustainability in the long term?
Our world is experiencing three mega-trends: net-zero carbon transformation, energy transformation, and digital transformation. To address these three different dimensions, we’ve built a strategy model called the T-cube. All our solutions and technologies will create value and provide the capability for our clients and partners to utilize advanced digital technologies for improved energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions. For energy transformation, our solution drives the full value chain of energy production, transmission, consumption, distribution, and transaction. For zero-carbon transformation, we support the full lifecycle management and optimization of carbon emissions for the campus. The digital transformation facilitates the transition to clean energy and enhances efficient resource operations. 

We already have a specific solution called the Intelligent Net Zero Carbon Campus, which was piloted with the State Grid Corporation of China in Jiangsu Province and won a UN/ITU global champion award in Switzerland last year. Based on the T3 development model, this project achieved energy savings and efficiency improvements through distributed new energy and strengthened proactive carbon emission management. This resulted in the gradual establishment of a smart energy campus with near-zero carbon emissions. In addition, the project supported multi-energy complementation, energy efficiency improvements, lifecycle carbon management, and carbon trade, carbon energy big data and business model optimization, achieving a smart zero-carbon campus. Through our methodologies, models, and solutions, we helped our clients reduce carbon emissions by 5,600 tons each year, saving about 3 million GWh per year in electricity consumption. We will continue to help society and industries achieve efficient, green, and innovative transformations and upgrades.

How else will you use AI within an industry which values reliability and security so highly?
AI is a group of capabilities, just like the human brain: predicting, sensing, recognizing, and judging. 
Artificial intelligence enables new energy power generation, power transformation, dispatching, distribution networks, safety supervision, marketing, infrastructure construction, and enterprise operation and management under new power systems, which will effectively promote the intelligent development of new power systems. Based on the cloud platform, deep learning frameworks, and AI technologies such as image recognition, speech recognition, and natural language processing, electric power enterprises can provide professional model training, intelligent analysis, and diagnosis services. These services include accurate energy demand forecasting, helping enterprises formulate more scientific and reasonable energy scheduling solutions. This helps avoid waste and loss due to energy shortages or surpluses. AI also enables real-time monitoring and optimization of power systems, improving their stability and safety while reducing the risk of accidents. Additionally, AI improves the efficiency and accuracy of power equipment, reducing the failure rates, and thereby reducing maintenance costs and prolonging the service life of equipment.

To balance generation and demand and to reduce energy usage, we need AI to calculate and predict energy consumption. But distribution is perhaps the most challenging area because millions of electric vehicles (EVs) are now connecting to our power grid, especially in China. As with renewable energy, they create a very unpredictable load. So we use AI, with big data and our ICT infrastructure, to enhance capabilities: monitoring all terminals, devices and EVs, thereby improving the management of electricity use and demand.  This ensures responsive, reliable, and secure energy systems that also reduces carbon emissions. In short, AI technology is necessary not only now but also for the future of all parts of the power grid.

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