Energy has been a constant topic of discussion over the last few months, accelerated by the war in Ukraine and the demand for countries to move away from Russian oil and gas. The energy crisis we are facing now – with prices skyrocketing – is another (albeit alarming) flare-up of the energy crisis born in the 20th century driven in part by poorly thought-out government energy policies. Energy savings are vital to get to a net zero carbon position by 2050.
As well as changing suppliers, we know countries like the UK need to cut energy usage, and it’s become a political imperative to help consumers cut their bills. The current generation of smart electricity and gas meters being rolled out can potentially help consumers save money and make energy consumption more efficient. However, let’s be honest, these are not really smart meters. They tell suppliers how much actual energy you are using on a daily basis, removing the need for estimated bills. Faced with their actual energy usage, or more correctly, wastage, customers will need to take steps such as turning off lights.
Fixing the energy crisis long-term will require a lot more innovation, and will need actual smart meters which incorporate tools like AI to help better manage the demand and supply of energy to reduce wastage, and costs.
The far-reaching implications of energy waste and reliance on unsustainable resources have spurred increasing calls for change. The development of deep tech tools, such as smart energy grids, might be the key to finding a lasting solution to the persistent problem of energy security and cost. This technology that is already out there. For example, French tech company, METRON helps manufacturers create digital energy strategies. Cutting costs is vital for the manufacturing industry with energy bills often a huge part of the cost base. METRON monitors energy use in real time in factories and optimises demand to reduce costs.
The future will need smart energy grids created on a greater scale. The grids are created by meters that can talk to each other and energy suppliers and are equipped with sensors that collect data on all aspects of energy consumption across the grid. Incorporating intelligent tools like AI and Machine Learning means these grids offer immediate responses to conditions in real-time. Thus, making them capable of managing the flow of energy to a building, understanding and exploiting patterns in energy usage, and containing any problems (such as blackouts) to the local area in which they occur.
We have already witnessed numerous consumers switching to smart meters to monitor energy usage in their homes. But soon, with the advancement in technology, these smart meters could be the beginning of what might become low carbon intelligent energy networks in our homes. AI tools could help monitor prices, decide when to buy power for a home, activate an appliance, and how much power to divert to battery storage or an EV parked in the driveway. Smarter domestic ‘grids’ could allow users to save so much energy that they can offset their carbon footprint.
Gradually, technological development might mean that we can be capable of running national power grids using data shared by millions of smart meters.
It can be challenging to visualise how transitioning to a new, actually smart meter will contribute to a more efficient, cleaner future. But every little contribution to help digitise the energy grid and make it more intelligent will benefit the environment and help put an end to the ‘eat or heat’ debate.