Data is reshaping the energy sector

The impact of digitalisation and data on various sectors has been over-praised for years. The energy sector is no exception, although the industry has not progressed quite at the forefront. We have advanced from painting of visions to the pioneer stage where development is accelerating and becoming a reality.

Tuomas Teuri

The impact of digitalisation on the energy sector is part of a shift in the entire industry: one of the characteristics of this shift is the blurring of the line between energy producers and users. Energy production is partly moving from large production units towards a more diversified model where energy is produced closer, in smaller units and in an increasingly eco-friendly way.

One example of the diversification of energy production is the recovery of waste heat. Excess heat is recovered, for example, in data centres and industrial processes when the energy produced returns back into circulation. When production is diversified into smaller flows, the data used in the control is also diversified. The control of this kind of energy network is considerably more demanding, and therefore its optimisation needs the help of artificial intelligence solutions.

Data is important for consumers, businesses and housing companies

Consumers can see digitalisation as a handy way of online transactions as well as totally new kinds of services. Energy is important for us all, but we want different things from it. One person may want to reduce their carbon footprint, another to optimise the price of energy, third one wishes to control the charging of their electric vehicle, and so forth. Data and digitalisation enable the use of new, personalised services for all of these.

Businesses and housing companies are also increasingly interested in the environmental impacts of their own energy choices. The forms of energy production, as well as the methods of using energy, play an increasingly important role in the consideration of these impacts. The use of energy can be directed with data and digital services, thus making it more transparent and predictable. For example, heating outputs can be optimised for periods when energy is most in demand. As a result of digitalisation, future properties will probably change from constant to variable temperature.

More open data

At Helen, we utilise a lot of data in the development and optimisation of our activities, but we are still seeking further impetus from partnerships. In order to work, these partnerships need data as fuel: We will open a development environment where our partners can develop new digital innovations with synthetic data that is equal to real data.

We will also be offering more open data: for example, we have published the hourly data for heating power in Helsinki for 2016. This will open an opportunity to study, e.g. achievement of carbon neutrality from the viewpoint of data. We believe that the new energy era will be, above all, digital, and the greatest benefits of the new opportunities are gained when we join our forces.

The author Tuomas Teuri is the Chief Digital Officer of Helen.