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LF Energy Foundation 2023 Predictions: Digitalization and End Users Will Drive New Technologies for the Energy Transition in the Coming Year


Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2023.  Read them in this 15th annual series exclusive.

Digitalization and End Users Will Drive New Technologies for the Energy Transition in the Coming Year

By Dr. Shuli Goodman, Executive Director, LF Energy Foundation

The challenge of addressing climate change has become greater in the face of major global events in 2022. It is becoming unlikely that we will be able to keep warming below 1.5℃ to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, yet we still must complete a full transformation of energy systems to avoid the worst outcomes of climate change. 2023 will be the year that the energy sector fully realizes that proprietary technologies with vendor lock-in and closed off data warehouses will never enable us to avoid the worst outcomes of climate change.

Let's start by discussing some of the challenges we are facing to build the technology needed to complete the energy transition. Legacy power systems are almost completely proprietary with insufficient interoperability creating a tremendous amount of technical debt. The industry is only beginning to understand that the status quo is not sustainable, and implementation of a new technology stack is needed if we will ever achieve decarbonization targets. This is especially true as the industry grapples with additional challenges that will arise from the growth in adoption of renewables and distributed energy resources (DER). 2023 will be the year when the industry finally comes to understand this and that the only way to fix it is to develop solutions collaboratively through an open source model.

The most efficient way to address these challenges and drive the energy transition forward is through a cloud and microservices approach using a base layer of VMs and a real time Linux distribution built for power systems that can enable microservices to scale quickly and efficiently. The shift to renewable energy is creating an immense challenge in how to keep loads balanced throughout the day and night in light of varying weather patterns and changes in usage due to higher demand that will come from the electrification of mobility like more electric vehicles.

DERs are small-scale power generation systems that are housed with consumers or business end users in addition to electrical utilities leveraging scalable renewable sources. Think solar panels on a house or a battery backup system. Rather than the traditional solutions of a utility spinning up a fossil fuel plant to fill the gap and balance the loads, moving forward utilities will be able to pull from DERs - whether owned by them or a business or individual household - to manage this in a less carbon-intensive manner. This means utilities will have to treat some of their current end users also as suppliers, which is a major change for folks on both sides of the equation. Building technology that enables bidirectional energy transmission and works with whatever equipment the utility and the end user are using will be essential, and is something LF Energy is working on with our various members and wider open source community.

While traditional energy infrastructure has not focused on end users beyond ensuring they have access to power, achieving optimal load balancing and substantially reducing carbon emissions will require their involvement. Another challenge of this new type of energy grid is metering and measurement. The current generation of smart meters deployed in the US have not met their initial promise, which was to give individuals more insight and control into their power usage. All they have really accomplished is eliminating the need for a utility worker to come and manually read the meter as that data is now transmitted wirelessly. So why can't end users access the same data? Allowing them to do so would enable the creation of new automation technologies that would optimize power use, such as automatically charging an EV when costs are lowest, which could be when the sun is shining brightly creating more supply from solar panels, or overnight when demand on the grid is low. It would also help individuals decide when is the best time to run their dishwasher or do laundry. The goal is to balance supply and demand while accurately forecasting consumption and generation so power can be supplied in a carbon neutral fashion.

New standards, specifications, and reference frameworks will be built in the coming year for the next generation of smart meters. This will enable end users to have more control over their power usage and generation data, and for utilities to scale their integration and use of DERs which will further reduce the need for fossil fuel plants. Combined with other technology initiatives including microgrids, EV charging infrastructure, digital substation automation systems, grid modeling and simulation, trading platform coordination, monitoring, and control systems, these open source efforts will in the next year and beyond build the technology stack necessary to complete the energy transition and achieve decarbonization.

A wholesale shift is going to occur in the way power systems operate, and at its core will be energy end users being more involved, giving back to the grid, and using data and new technologies to take control of their own power use, thereby transforming the entire world's relationship to energy.




Shuli Goodman is the founder and Executive Director of LF Energy, a new Linux Foundation project that supports open source innovation in the energy and electricity sectors. LF Energy's ambition is to accelerate the energy transition and the decarbonization of the world's economies. Having spent the early part of her career enabling some of the world's largest companies in the world to become Internet-ready, she has brought her digital-first, cross-industry background to the electricity sector. With a doctorate in Organizational Systems focused on innovation and the energy transition, Shuli has a uniquely multi-disciplinary approach to solving complex, interdependent problems. She has nearly three decades experience in the startup and ongoing support of governance and multi-stakeholder engagement bodies that have been convened to enable decision-making and provide steering capacity for high-visibility and/or high-risk initiatives. Her goal is to inspire, train, and enable 10,000 developers, in the next 10 years, to digitally transform the world's power systems.

Published Monday, December 05, 2022 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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