Nov 29 2022

AWS re:Invent 2022: The Future of Energy Depends On Innovative Technology

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things tools and cloud migration are driving digital transformation for utilities, with support from partners such as AWS.

In recent years, utilities have increasingly looked to automation and Internet of Things devices to drive innovation, deliver reliable service and provide a competitive edge. But the industry now must contend with heightened security concerns and the additional demands of transitioning to sustainable forms of energy.

Howard Gefen, general manager of the energy and utilities industry business unit at Amazon Web Services, spoke Nov. 28 in a leadership session at AWS re:Invent. “The energy industry is going through massive transformation, and the energy transition is really the challenge of our generation,” he said.

Gefen said a steadily increasing demand for energy, coupled with regulatory requirements mandating the use of renewable energy sources, will require a reimagining of the current energy business. “The design of the energy system of the future will enable organizations to organize their businesses and accelerate innovation,” he said, which he predicted will be enabled by data-driven solutions based on analytics, high-performance computing, and the use of IoT tools and edge computing, all along with connected autonomous machines.

“The energy system of the future and its associated solutions will enable organizations across the value chain to achieve increased production, lower their operating costs, achieve greater speed and innovation, and produce more energy with fewer emissions,” Gefen said.   

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Undertaking the Energy Transition in the Cloud

Gefen convened a panel discussion titled “Innovation and Reinvention Across the Energy Value Chain,” which included Bonnie Titone, senior vice president and CIO of Duke Energy.

Titone offered her thoughts on the transition to clean energy and how the cloud can play a part in that shift. “We have to continue to optimize. We have to continue to look for ways to deliver the service on the back end from an operations perspective more efficiently and effectively as we’re going through the clean energy journey.”

Titone said renewable sources of energy, such as solar and battery-stored energy, are more costly than energy derived from traditional sources such as coal, natural gas and nuclear. “At the end of the day, you have to look for how to do the work more efficiently and effectively. I think that’s the piece that the cloud brings to the table that we don’t have in a traditional sense in a brick-and-mortar data center.”

DIVE DEEPER: Find out how IoT adoption is changing the future of energy management.

Migrating to the Cloud Improves Efficiency for Utilities

Rick Snell, manager of digital foundations and enterprise architecture at Phillips 66, joined the conversation to share some of the benefits his company has reaped through cloud adoption. “We were able to erase the technical debt we had since the split in 2012,” he said. “Moving into the cloud, we were able to really erase that technical debt, especially in the telecom space with our call centers and the compute platform.”

Rudy Pawul, vice president of information and cybersecurity services at ISO New England, agreed that the cloud allows an organization to eliminate technical debt, referring to it as the “little gerbil wheel” of any organization’s IT environment. “Every three to five years, you’re rebuying compute, you’re rebuying storage, going through a huge upgrade project, and then it restarts the timeline to happen again.”

Pawul said one of the goals for ISO New England in moving to a cloud-first environment was to break that cycle. “If you are doing infrastructure as code, you can secure it once, you can verify it once, configure it once, and then profit again and again,” he said.

Howard Gefen
The energy industry is going through massive transformation, and the energy transition is really the challenge of our generation.”

Howard Gefen General Manager, Energy and Utilities Industry Business Unit, Amazon Web Services

The Future of Energy Will Include More Data Analytics

Snell cited another benefit of increased cloud adoption: the speed and agility of data processing. “It helped us get to be more data-centric,” he said. “We’d always been data-centric. But now, the expectation is that we have real-time data to make every kind of decision for the company.”

Gefen said that AWS understands the value of real-time data for utilities, and the company has developed an industry-specific platform to support those companies. “We’ve built an industry business unit around customers within AWS, specifically dedicated to focusing on our energy customers across the entire value chain. AWS Energy is one of eight strategic industries focused on delivering products and solutions globally.”

Much like similar energy-focused platforms from Cisco (Cisco for Utilities) and Microsoft (Microsoft Energy Data Services), “We provide solutions across the entire energy value chain, and this is really important, because the entire energy value chain, from upstream to midstream and downstream, renewables to power and utilities, is all more interconnected than ever. And so, interoperability of data sets and these solutions is critical.”

Titone said she’s eagerly anticipating the ways data analytics will enable innovation for the industry. “I’m excited to see where the next generation of AI goes,” she said. “We’re so used to having our hands on things from a technology standpoint. That’s what makes us great, but the reality of it is that you’re going to need that resource and that time and that effort on the next generation of tools, not on maintaining what you already have. And I think the AI piece, the next generation of that, is going to help solve that.”

Keep this page bookmarked for articles and videos from the event and follow us on Twitter @BizTechMagazine and the official conference twitter feed, @AWSreInvent.

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