Trends in the energy sector: Energy transformation is information transformation

Thanks to increasing attention for climate change and the energy transition, the energy sector is at the forefront of everyone’s attention. At SIG, we see the many challenges this sector is facing, but also how energy providers are adapting and finding new opportunities.

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Author
Werner Heijstek

Principal Consultant, Commercial Enterprises

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Software, and hence software quality, play an important role in all of them, but most prominently in the following three trends.

Energy providers also become software providers

Driven by the transformation towards renewable energy, all over the world the supply side of energy is rapidly changing and more and more consumers are now also energy producers. This not only changes the flows of energy itself, but also of information between different stakeholders. For example, private citizens who generate their own electricity will want to know how much energy they are providing to the net, and they will generally also want deeper insight in their own consumption. Consequently, a Dutch energy provider found itself in a position where it no longer only distributed electricity on a massive scale, but also software on an equally massive scale in the form of firmware (and updates thereof!) of its sophisticated energy monitoring device installed in tens of thousands of private homes. SIG helped this provider in managing quality of this firmware to enable efficient, cost-effective and above all predictive delivery.

Supply chain integrations

All kinds of sensors are becoming cheaper, more reliable, easier to deploy and easier to use remotely. Consequently, more data becomes available, which in turns creates ever more opportunities to balance supply and demand. To fully benefit from this, such information needs to be distributed across the supply chain. One instrument used for this are digital trading platforms that allow energy providers to monetize excess capacity, but are essentially information distribution platforms. SIG has recently helped a provider of such a platform ensuring that this platform allowed easy extension, which in turn enables this provider to convince interested parties to join.

IT security and privacy are getting extra attention

Across every industry, attention for IT security and privacy is rising, and the energy sector is no exception. Large-scale energy production facilities are primary targets for cyber terrorism or warfare, which is not a new insight. However, it is rapidly becoming clear that just depending on perimeter defences is insufficient. For instance, any web interface of any system, even deep within the security perimeter, can serve as an attack vector if users are allowed to access web email on the same computer. On the other side of the supply chain, smart metering rises privacy issues because a lot can be learned from patterns in energy consumption over time. SIG focuses on security and privacy by design, assessing the extent to which security and privacy are built-in, rather than relying only on perimeter defence or adherence to security management processes.

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