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Five Ways AI is Powering Energy-Sector Innovation

Athena @ ST 12 November 2023

In an era where energy demands are as dynamic as the weather patterns that increasingly influence them, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a linchpin for innovative solutions.

Graham Norris

AI is not just reshaping the energy sector; it's redefining its future. Based on analysis generated by Shaping Tomorrow’s AI-driven horizon-scanning platform, this article explores the multifaceted impact of AI on energy, from smart grids to sustainable energy and nuclear safety, offering a glimpse into a future powered by intelligent technology.

AI Trends & Technologies

1. The AI-Driven Smart Grid Revolution

Imagine a power grid that self-heals, predicts demand surges, and integrates renewable energy with unprecedented efficiency. AI-enabled grid management is turning this vision into reality. For instance, Google's DeepMind technology has been used to predict the energy output of wind farms, improving the value of wind energy by 20%. By harnessing the power of predictive analytics, AI is enhancing the monitoring, control, and distribution of energy. It ensures that the flow of electricity meets demand without wastage, minimizing the carbon footprint and stabilizing energy costs.

2. Energy Trading and Optimization

The decentralization of energy trading is perhaps one of the most revolutionary trends in this sector. Blockchain and AI form a formidable duo, as exemplified by companies like WePower, which enables green energy producers to raise capital by issuing their own energy tokens. AI excels in making energy trading efficient and intelligent, with algorithms adept at analyzing patterns to maximize the use of renewable energy. By automating the trading process, AI enables real-time energy exchanges, paving the way for a grid that's not only smart but also fair and accessible.

3. AI as a Catalyst for Sustainable Energy

Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) and algae biofuel are on the frontline of the battle against climate change, and AI is their commander. For example, the Drax Power Station in the UK is piloting BECCS technology and AI plays a key role in optimizing the capture process and calculating the most efficient ways to use the captured carbon. It enables the strategic planning of BECCS facility locations, optimizes the mix of energy sources, and enhances the efficiency of carbon capture processes.

4. Intelligent Energy Consumption and Storage

Co-located energy storage, where storage systems are sited alongside energy generation sources, is gaining traction, thanks to AI. Tesla's Autobidder is one such AI platform that allows for real-time trading and management of energy storage assets, optimizing their performance and monetization. Algorithms analyze energy usage patterns to optimize storage and discharge cycles, ensuring a continuous and reliable energy supply.

5. AI in Advancing Nuclear Energy

The nuclear energy industry is witnessing a technological renaissance, with AI being a pivotal contributor. At Argonne National Laboratory, scientists are using AI to reduce operational and maintenance costs in nuclear reactors, which could save the industry more than $500 million a year1. AI systems in nuclear plants optimize operational efficiency and reinforce safety protocols. They provide a critical layer of predictive maintenance, detecting issues before they escalate into serious problems.

Microreactors, a newer class of nuclear reactors, benefit greatly from AI. Take the collaboration between X-energy and Southern Company, using AI to enhance the operation of advanced nuclear reactors. AI assists in their design and operation, enabling these reactors to run more efficiently and with greater safety margins. In emergency scenarios, AI algorithms swiftly assess risks and propose the best course of action, significantly reducing the potential impact of nuclear incidents.

AI's application extends to the management of nuclear waste, where it enhances the safety and efficiency of decommissioning processes. By employing AI-driven robotics for hazardous tasks, the industry takes a step forward in protecting human workers and the environment.

Continuous Advancements

AI is more than just a technological upgrade for the energy sector; it's a transformative force that's redefining how we produce, manage, and consume energy. The real-life examples provided demonstrate AI's potential to unlock efficiencies and pioneer new methods of energy generation and consumption. Even so, AI brings to the energy sector the same risks it does to other industries in terms of cybersecurity, data privacy and reliability concerns. It will also be challenging for regulators to keep up with developments that can be hard to understand.

Looking ahead, the continuous advancement in AI promises even more integration into the industry, contributing to a transition that will create an energy sector that we can scarcely imagine today.

If you’d like to explore more about the risks and opportunities of AI in the energy sector, contact us today.