24 Exabytes of Data Link This Energy Value Chain
By Lana El Chaar
General Manager for Software Professional Services, Power Services Digital in the Middle East and Africa, GE Power
For decades in the utility business, the only thing that “flowed” was water and electricity – through pipes and across transmission wires. Today, however, there’s something else flowing across our infrastructure, and it’s transforming how we operate: data.
Already, more than 4.5 exabytes (one billion gigabytes) of data are being generated across the global energy value chain, a number that will more than quintuple to 24 exabytes by 2020, according to Harbor Research and GE. This data will be generated by more than 7 billion devices that will be operational across the energy value chain by 2020.
Just as the water and electricity we produce and distribute is valuable, so too is this data. It helps us not only to understand the increasingly complex and multidimensional energy value chain, but also to manage these systems and drive efficiency and optimization. This, in turn, will help expand the reach of power and water services to more people.
As digital industrial solutions are incorporated into industrial equipment and systems along this value chain, they open up an entirely new dimension for efficiency improvements. Digitally enabled interconnected devices can perform a much wider range of functions, benefit from faster performance improvements, and deliver disproportionately greater value to their users than previously, when systems were more isolated.
By integrating data and information flows across the energy value chain we gain efficiencies twice. First, we can drive performance improvements for individual ‘links’ in the chain, that is power plants, distributed generation sources, transformers and transmission lines – even consumption among customers. Second, with greater visibility and understanding about what’s happening — from generation to transmission, distribution and consumption across the integrated energy value chain – we can achieve additional efficiencies on a system-wide level.
As well, this data is crucial as the energy value chain becomes increasingly complex, with a multiplicity of moving parts with different priorities and incentives. Ensuring that power can be delivered reliably, without outages or unforeseen changes in quality, will require a commensurately sophisticated effort of monitoring and control. Operators will need to be able to monitor—in real time—the state and performance of all assets linked to the network.
GE is already providing digital industrial solutions to utility customers across the energy value chain, examples of which include Digital Power Plant, Digital Power Plant for Steam, and Asset Performance Management. Built on Predix, GE’s cloud-based operating system for industrial assets, these and other digital industrial solutions, help operators and users enhance efficiency, increase operational flexibility and improve sustainability.
These gains from digital industrial solutions are not just theoretical. GE has already seen Predix-powered software help achieve up to 20% performance gains across a range of diverse systems and machines in power generation, building infrastructure, aircraft engines, healthcare devices, and even government systems.
As the volume of data flowing across our assets continues to grow, it will help us continue to move toward our shared goal of expanding electricity access to all.