Better Data Will Shape the Way We Understand Energy Markets During and After COVIDMedium Thursday, July 30th 2020
Everyone wants to know what the future holds following this global pandemic. For those in the clean energy and sustainability space, the possibilities are exciting and are somewhat in the spotlight due to the increased focus on large crises. What is crucial to move the clean energy transition forward in light of disruption and change? Access to energy data.
The COVID-caused disruption highlighted a serious need to better forecast energy trends in order to improve how we consume energy, where it is sourced, how it’s delivered, and ultimately, how to improve energy efficiency and curb CO2 emissions.
Deirdre Lord of the Megawatt Hour, Adam James of Energy Impact Partners, and Sean Kelly of Amperon recently joined Dynamo Energy Hub panel, moderated by Dynamo Co-Founder Kristin Barbato, to discuss how the pandemic has changed the way utilities, customers, and investors think about energy data.
While COVID-19 has certainly decreased overall energy demand in many places in the world, it has also shifted where that demand comes from. Working from home orders have shifted commercial load to residential, as people are no longer using power in collective work environments. Per Sean Kelly from Amperon, commercial loads will decrease permanently as many big companies are allowing their employees to work from home beyond the pandemic.
This also means energy forecasting will have to adapt. Kelly said, “Every single house is different, even if the metadata is identical, and they live next to each other,” so more granular data will become necessary in order for utilities to meet customer’s individual needs. Adam James of Energy Impact Partners noted that forecasting is very difficult in the current system when energy markets are so volatile. But the need for increased access to data is just an acceleration of the changes that were already underway, like the digitization of utilities. See an example of Amperon’s load prediction abilities in the graph below.
Increased data collection comes with the added benefit of better demand response, a necessary piece of the decarbonization puzzle. For Deirdre Lord of The Megawatt Hour, energy consumption forecasting and data access are key for enabling investment in clean technologies. Through increased access to energy cost and usage data, The Megawatt Hour’s clients can “save time, save money, and better evaluate the outcomes of their business decisions.” With more and more cities and states revealing energy efficiency plans, increased access to energy data can enable customers to improve energy efficiency, help drive emissions reductions, and lead to meaningful investments in energy.
Energy forecasting, especially with the additional pressure of COVID-19, has created an imperative for energy infrastructure investment.
For Sean Kelly and Deirdre Lord, the major need is investment in smart meters and demand response. Widespread adoption of such technologies will also benefit energy consumers. Now, more than ever, customers have to be flexible and plan for a number of contingencies. Lord said “the requirements on customers have really ratcheted up, it’s extreme now.”
Adam James said energy data can be used in innovative ways that can make the existing infrastructure more resilient. For example, data can help predict which distribution poles need maintenance first, thus preventing blackouts, accidents, and improving the reliability of energy supply.
James also noted that the pandemic has not created a fundamental shift in EIP’s investment strategy. Energy Impact Partners prides itself on investing in companies whose narrative is centered on the energy transition, many of whom are capitalizing on the current moment to create positive change.
How we leverage this moment to accelerate change in the energy system still remains to be seen in many ways, but access to energy data and forecasting is a clear necessity.
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