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Social Innovation

There’s no ‘I’ in ‘Energy’: how collaboration is integral to our digital energy systems

Digital x Energy: perfect partners

With the increasing population, emergence of electric cars, and ubiquity of electronic devices, it’s no surprise that our electricity use is expected to grow by 2% every year for the next 7 years!

This gobbling of energy raises lots of issues, even without accounting for the 1.2 billion people who still lack access to electricity across the world.

To make a global impact, we need to step up and work together.

The good news is that the development of smart technology like the Internet of Things and AI has gathered pace, as has the appreciation of the need for collaboration to solve the big questions facing society. Collaboration holds the key to our energy future.

Here we look at how partnerships and the sharing of information is transforming different stages of the energy cycle: the generation and the management of energy.

Powering our energy future

As the energy transition picks up speed, it has become clearer that the electricity we need to power our daily lives must become cleaner. Renewable energy will rise to 44% of the global energy mix by 2025, but we’re going to have to work together – on a small and large scale – to implement a holistic change to our energy systems and to achieve a fully stable, renewable future. Luckily, communities have already started. The not-for-profit organisation Brixton Energy creates cooperatively-owned projects which generate renewable energy for use across Brixton, a neighbourhood in London. One of its projects, Brixton Energy Solar 1, consists of a 37.24 kilowatt ‘peak’ solar power station installed at the top of a housing estate in the community. This station means that the estate’s Management Board can sell the solar energy at 20% below commercial prices and in turn reduce their costs for running the building’s communal lifts. It also reduces the estate’s production of carbon emissions by 14 tonnes.

Managing energy demands

Effective partnerships extend beyond generation and can also support the storage and distribution of energy. It is here that collaboration and digitalisation will really come into their own.

Smart grids can effectively monitor and manage how many households are consuming electricity, how much power they need, and at what time. The Smart Islands partnership is an example of how companies are collaborating to help solve our energy problems. As part of this, Hitachi has partnered with the EU and the main stakeholders on the Isles of Scilly - including the Council, local businesses, the Duchy of Cornwall and Tresco Island - to create a smart energy system using the IoT. Working together, with the local communities, the companies are providing the island with a more efficient energy system. A system which could easily be scaled up to support larger cities and areas.

Open conversations and collaborations have never been so important, especially in making our energy systems smarter! Partnerships allow for skills and information to be shared with greater ease in order to solve problems and with a hefty issue such as the world’s energy future at stake, we should celebrate the companies that are buddying up.