Shaping a sustainable future with AI

Representation of an AI in human form
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Digitization is spreading at speed, with the demand for AI has been steadily increasing over the last five years. Today, it is estimated that the AI market is growing at circa 20%, year-on-year. To be future-ready, companies must start combining AI, human skills, and trusted partnerships now.

About the author

Peter Weckesser is Chief Digital Officer at Schneider Electric.

After all, climate change is happening now and is a result of how we all make decisions. Rising sea levels, and intensifying wildfires, storms, droughts and floods hammer home that message every day. The damage is undeniable, and the clock is ticking.

AI can be utilized to improve efficiency in manufacturing environments, buildings, and cities, enabling greater performance and faster decarbonization. Increased efficiency, quality, and personalized manufacturing are some of the key areas in which businesses could benefit from adopting an AI-based approach.

But how? It all starts with having access to the right data.

Human and artificial, the energy challenge requires intelligence

Let’s be clear: clean energy and efficient energy management are key to attacking the climate crisis. And the true value of Artificial Intelligence in energy management springs to life when the technology meets human expertise. When you equip energy market experts with data-based insights and digital technologies, you get better-informed corporate strategies, quicker decision making, and greater operational efficiency.

AI is still a relatively new kid on the block – and many people may still believe that it’s a theoretical discipline that’s not yet able to deliver practical solutions.

The reality, however, is that we already apply AI to analyze, simulate, test, use logic, learn, predict, and adjust over time. And those capabilities can help companies and societies advance toward greater energy efficiency and decarbonization.

Key enablers to shaping energy management:

1. Forecasting for more efficient use of energy

Companies collect large amounts of data that they can use to maximize efficiency. Turning that data into insights can be a challenge – but one that AI can help with.

AI can accurately track and anticipate consumption trends, notice where changes need to be made, and automatically fine-tune systems to ensure optimum efficiency. And it can help companies react instantly to the increasingly frequent disruptions that effect energy demand.

Through access to energy consumption data in real-time, artificial intelligence monitors, collects information, controls, evaluates and manages energy consumption in buildings and factories. It has the potential to control and manage energy usage and reduce it during peak hours, as well as identify any issues, and detecting equipment failures before they occur. Ultimately, AI has huge potential to entirely reshape the renewable energy industry as we know it.

2. Diversification of energy sources

AI can support companies in introducing renewable energy sources and controlling their carbon footprint – giving clean energy a better chance in the market.

Companies producing their own renewable energy can apply AI and predictive analytics to weather data to help determine peak times for generation and optimize the use of distributed-energy storage systems or batteries. Companies are already reaping the rewards in the form or increased efficiency and reliability. Soon, consumers will too. For them, the impact will be in the form of cheaper and more widespread access to green energy.

3. Smarter energy buying

AI can examine complex market trends and dissect data to devise plans to better manage energy spend and reduce risk in a volatile market.

This technology can also observe how and when companies consume energy and support their trading decisions. For example, companies who both consume and produce energy – known as prosumers – can receive guidance to make optimal decisions on when to sell excess energy from their renewable sources.

The energy industry needs to be focused on AI technologies if they want to remain ahead of the game or they run the risk of being left behind.

It’s time to tackle climate change

AI is not a “silver-bullet” that can single-handedly green a business overnight. But it’s already opening up far-reaching possibilities for companies. When implemented in tandem with – and in support of – a company’s overall sustainability goals, it can help accelerate the journey to a more climate-friendly future. And that means it can help address the greatest challenge facing humanity today.

It all starts with making the conscious decision to consume less energy and use it more efficiently, then focusing on the technology that can make it happen.

According to the World Economic Forum, “Businesses that integrate digital and sustainable transformation into their operations and value chains are 2.5 more likely to be successful in the future.” AI must be a fundamental part of that digitalization journey if we are meet our ambitious global sustainability targets.

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Peter Weckesser is Chief Digital Officer at Schneider Electric.