Mar 30 2022

How 5G Technology Is Accelerating the Move to Cleaner Energy

5G offers benefits for energy companies looking to speed transitions and improve current operations.

5G has arrived for the energy industry. As noted by a recent Deloitte report, 5G networks could play a critical role in expediting the move to clean energy. Survey data backs up this claim: 56 percent of energy and utility companies are defining use cases for 5G in their operations, and 20 percent have already made the move to defining service portfolios.

But what does this mean in practice? Where are companies making the move, what benefits does 5G offer and how is this framework positioned to change the future of power generation?

The Energy Sector Is Adopting 5G

According to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy growth is accelerating worldwide. By 2026, renewable energy capacity is set to rise 60 percent to more than 4,800 gigawatts, which exceeds the current capacity totals of fossil fuel and nuclear sources combined.

But making this shift requires more than power production infrastructure; it also requires technology backbones capable of handling more data sources more quickly. This stems from both the rapid adoption of Industrial Internet of Things technologies that help relay data from disparate grid sensors and from the geographically diverse nature of renewable energy sources. From solar panels to wind turbines and geothermal sources, installations happen where power is best generated, not where it’s most convenient for companies.

A recent study from Ericsson notes that 5G solutions will be essential in managing grid topology and reducing the risk of failure. More effective data and network management could help reduce grid interruption times by 50 to 70 percent.

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Benefits of 5G Technology for Energy Companies

According to ScienceLogic Chief Marketing Officer Murali Nemani, 5G solutions offer an “infinitely larger capacity for data and services that supports the decentralization of infrastructure and the containerization of workloads.”

He notes that 5G can help companies make better use of emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles and edge computing, both necessary as the scale and scope of power grids expands but the need for latency-free connections remains.

Nemani also highlights the importance of 5G networks in reducing the risk of cyberattacks. With attacks on power generation and distribution facilities on the rise, the adoption of more disparate and physically distant renewable infrastructure introduces even greater risk of compromise.

“To address the concerns, you need observability,” says Nemani. “How do you monitor and observe with real-time response rates as you push telemetry and reporting mechanisms to the edge of the network? And if something does degrade as the result of a potential attack, can you resolve or remediate the problem quickly?”

With 5G capable of handling 25 times the number of devices simultaneously at speeds 10 times faster than 4G, it offers a massive upgrade in power grid network observability, and, in turn, security.

READ MORE: Discover how energy and utility companies are using edge computing.

How 5G Is Changing the Future of Power Provisioning

So, what comes next for power provision in a 5G world?

Nemani points to the development of “private” 5G clouds offered by providers in ready-to-deploy packages that let utilities tap the power of 5G without building their network from the ground up. This is especially critical as companies face a growing talent gap thanks to both the unique skills required to operate a 5G network — Nemani notes it’s not the same as running a Google or Amazon cloud — along with staffing issues tied to the ongoing impact of the “Great Resignation.”

5G also comes with the promise of more predictive and proactive response for energy producers. Consider an issue at the edge: a solar panel experiencing critical issues that could lead to large-scale grid failure if not addressed immediately. By leveraging the higher device capacity and bandwidth of 5G, power producers could instead equip panels with IoT edge sensors capable of proactively pinpointing events that suggest the need for equipment maintenance — before problems occur. The result? Fewer interruptions in power production and reduced costs for producers.

Nemani neatly sums up the potential advantage of 5G for energy: “It promises to help you instrument deeper into your network, to collect better and more accurate telemetry, to handle transport and back-call data — all while being less cost-prohibitive than current networks.”

Getty Images/ metamorworks

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