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March 9, 2023

For utilities, resilience starts with AI

Ensuring power delivery amid climate catastrophe requires the speed and precision of AI.

In the news

When it comes to climate catastrophe, the numbers are daunting. New data from the US Census Bureau says natural disasters forced 3.4 million out of their homes in 2022. And in China, a recent study shows that half of China’s GDP is at risk of climate-driven disaster by 2050.

Everyone has a role to play in mitigating the impact of climate change, but, as this piece points out, utilities are doubly responsible: They not only need to “keep the lights on” during a natural disaster, but they are also a key player in helping to keep the climate crisis from getting any worse.

Utilities’ goals, the article says, include cutting energy consumption, replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources and improving grid reliability and performance.

The scope and urgency of the challenge calls for a new and more intelligence-driven approach to ensuring energy resilience. For instance, the traditional strategy of maintaining extra capacity to keep the grid up was sufficient when the primary risk was equipment failure. But when extreme weather events cause widespread outages all at once, energy providers need to act with more precision, such as identifying the most important services and focusing on those. This requires data and visibility into consumer needs, usage patterns, grid status and more, the article points out.

Similarly, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will also be key to proactively ensuring fast power restoral, and identifying energy theft and waste. All in all, digital tech, in the form of sensors, Internet of Things devices and especially AI hold the key to both better preparedness and a reduced carbon footprint.

The Cognizant take

According to David Cox, who heads up Cognizant’s North American Energy & Utility Practice, business leaders are pushing ahead with transformation programs to support grid hardening initiatives, create more flexible service delivery and optimize cost models.

“In recent years, utilities have been pushing capital-intensive transformation programs to create smarter, more agile and resilient infrastructure,” he says. “They’ve been building in sensors, supported by cloud and 5G, to flow data back to central systems which, in turn, deploy AI to comb through data and initiate necessary actions.”

According to Cox, the companies that are furthest along on this journey can predict fall-over rates accurately, using precision repair techniques and extending the lifecycle of power assets approaching their end-of-life.

“Hardening the grid is as much about deploying the right digital tools to turn data into valuable intelligence as it is about modernizing physical infrastructure,” he says. “In a highly complex environment, leaders can turn the vast quantity of data available to them—using analytics and AI tools—into smart decisions that help them optimize the grid, and make their network more resilient.”

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