Ram Ramachander, Chief Commercial Officer and Chief Digital Officer, Hitachi Europe
Ram Ramachander explains how digital energy uses the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data to create sustainable energy platforms that reduce environmental impact and lower costs for consumers.
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Read the transcript of Ram Ramchander’s interview on how digital technology will change the way we use and store energy.Show transcript
Anna Delaney (Business Reporter)
A lot of people talk about digital energy. What does that mean?
Ram Ramachander (Hitachi)
It’s a number of different things, right? It’s deploying the concepts of IoT, AI, big data together into optimising the energy system. Our energy system is still working from the same structure from Edison’s time, by which we create energy in one power plant, and we ship it down a line one way to your home or to your business.
That entire energy system is now wholly disrupted, because we have a completely distributed and complicated energy system which consists of the ability to generate energy from renewable sources or local sources of energy. So we no longer have this very simplistic model for energy. We have a very complex, interconnected model around energy.
That creates two sort of different kinds of problems. One is: how do you make this complex energy system fit within the traditional infrastructure. And the other is: how do you optimise based on the opportunities that it gives?
Digitization enables us to optimise this new energy system without fundamentally changing our infrastructure around energy. But it also enables things like renewable energy in a far more optimal way, because we don’t really use our renewable sources as well as we can. Digitization helps do that. So there’s a number of different ways of looking at digital energy.
In addition to that, it’s enabling new, disruptive things coming into the system– for instance, Electric Vehicles (EV). So the proliferation of EVs is almost inevitable globally. But how does the energy system that is there today deal with the electrification of transportation?
If you talk to national grid, they talk about doubling the grid capacity to be able to feed the demand that’s going to be created. But if you use digitization, we can balance the grid in a much more careful way so that we’re not increasing the amount of investment. It’s billions of dollars of investment you need to make. We can reduce that. There are a range of different things where digital technologies can enable the optimization of energy.
And one of the challenges is storing this energy.
Can you talk about some of the smart ways of storing it?
Storage of energy is obviously changing because of research and development projects that are being done. For instance what Elon Musk is doing around battery technology is enabling both home storage and electric vehicle storage. Storage is a fantastic asset that will enable us to optimise energy.
There’s different ways we can use storage. One is around the EV itself. How can we take the storage capacity of a vehicle and use that a mechanism to provide energy back into the grid? Imagine a car being parked in a train car park for 8 to 10 hours, and imagine that’s an EV that’s connected into the grid. What you can do is put energy back into the car when it’s cheap, when you’re creating cheaper energy – like renewable sources of energy on a sunny day. You can put that energy back into the car, store it there, and then put it back into the grid when you need it at a more expensive, high-demand time. Storage that is used in that way can balance the grid mbetween supply and demand.
But you need smart technologies, digital technologies, to be able to make that work in the right way. We need to be able to tell when is the right time to discharge energy back into the grid from the vehicle. When is the right time to put the energy back into the car or a storage device?
But also, we need to understand how much energy is needed by the person that owns that storage device. If I’ve got a car and I’ve got to drive two miles back into my house, I just need enough energy to be able to do that. Will I plug my car into the house to use the spare energy in the car then?
Understanding all of that behaviour using digital technologies enables us to use storage properly. So that’s one way of using storage.
The second is actually battery technology itself, whether it’s in the home, or whether it’s in grid storage level.
Imagine a future where we have cars with batteries in them, homes with batteries on them, solar panels. When we generate energy from our home, we can store it and utilise that energy at a time when getting energy from the grid would be expensive. So we can reduce our energy costs, or even share energy with our neighbours or sell it back into the grid.
So storage is going to become an important asset that is going to proliferate around the grid and help us balance supply and demand of energy.
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