The energy systems of the world are evolving. Entities all over the world are setting ambitious objectives to decrease emissions from fossil fuels which have propelled economic expansion for over a century, fueled by strong demand for green energy and rising impacts from climate-related extreme weather.
Electricity transportation, generation, and buildings account for the majority of emissions. Increases in renewable energy will lower electric sector emissions while also powering additional transportation and construction loads. However, for this to happen, the grid needs to undergo significant adjustments.
What methods will be used to decarbonize the grid?
Electricity will be the driving force behind worldwide decarbonization. The next grid must start with a clean slate. There is no realistic, cost-effective way to substitute gasoline with the carbon-free liquid fuel for automobiles, nor natural gas with a carbon-free cooking and heating alternative. Apart from electrifying automobiles and buildings, there is no known path to decarbonization that is both low-cost and low-risk.
Emissions will be reduced across the economy as a result of clean electricity. Some renewable energy is going to still come from the power plants, but due to the extensive transmission lines that transport power to users, these can be challenging to develop. On the other hand, local renewables can deliver clean, affordable power to clients more efficiently, making it decentralized.
How artificial intelligence (AI) will reshape and ‘clean up’ the infrastructure
The amount of decisions on an increasingly complex future grid will significantly outnumber human and traditional digital automation capabilities. On today’s grid, there is already some automation, but automation can just go so far. AI will be required to enable a future grid and maximize its benefits fully. In the end, AI will change the grid from an old commodity electricity supplier to an intelligent “system of systems” that achieves optimal results.
The three key industries where AI will have the most impact on decarbonization are electricity, buildings, and transportation.
To power a decarbonized system, not only will fossil-fuelled facilities be replaced by clean renewables, but the amount of electricity delivered will be roughly tripled. Since the future grid is going to be decentralized, the number of sources of energy will grow by order of magnitude, from thousands of plants now to a network of millions. Because the majority of these resources are going to be renewable, the weather will have a significant impact on electricity delivery. The operation and structure of the grid will be transformed as a result of these modifications.
AI will provide projections for critical aspects such as weather, renewable energy generation, consumer demand, and market prices based on years or decades of data. AI will be able to optimize every resource on the grid for every instant of the day using these projections and learning from expected vs. actual outcomes. And the real-time control features will carry out forecasts and detect anomalies down to the sub-second level.
Electrifying buildings implies using electricity instead of fossil fuels to power energy services like space heating, cooking, and industrial processes. As decarbonization efforts continue, the quantity of clean electricity consumed by buildings, as well as the amount produced on-site, will skyrocket.
More crucially, buildings’ position on a decarbonized grid will shift: rather than being a passive, predictable power consumer, buildings will be an integrated, flexible resource and active trading player. System services will be just as vital as selling clean, locally produced electricity into markets, with buildings’ “flexible loads” helping achieve a steady, stable grid. Users will be able to match usage with off-site and on-site renewable power in AI-enabled buildings to fulfill “24/7 sustainable energy” goals.
Electrifying automobiles will have a considerably greater impact on the energy landscape than anything else we’ve studied thus far. EV charging stations will replace current gasoline supply infrastructure – and there will be a lot more of them: from old filling stations to business buildings and homes.
AI will be critical to power EVs with zero-emission electricity and maximize their value to consumers and society. Its benefits will be recognized when the number of electric vehicles (EVs) and their influence on the grid grow more significant and optimized.