Dave Turk is currently the Acting Director for the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) Directorate of Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks, overseeing the Energy and Environment, Energy Technology Policy, and Energy Supply and Demand Outlook Divisions. The Directorate manages the production of the World Energy Outlook and the Energy Technology Perspectives, as well as a variety of other energy/climate/technology-related efforts. In November 2016, he was appointed Head of the Energy Environment Division for the IEA, where he continues to coordinate the teams focused on sustainability and partnerships. He formerly served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Climate and Technology at the U.S. Department of Energy, where he coordinated the Department's international clean energy efforts. He also previously served as Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change at the U.S. Department of State, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Congressional Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, and in various capacities in the U.S. Congress.
Luis Munuera leads power grid technology work at the Sustainability, Technology and Outlooks directorate of the IEA. He was a lead author of Digitalization & Energy, and leads the IEA Smart Energy Systems roadmap and its work on large-scale power grid interconnection. Luis holds a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Imperial College London, and has authored 15 peer-reviewed publications on various issues around energy technology analysis and innovation. He also holds an M.Sc. in Energy Policy and Environmental Technology from the same university, and an M.Sc. in Chemistry from Universidad Autonoma de Madrid.
Laura Cozzi co-leads the World Energy Outlook the IEA flagship publication. She is in charge of energy demand, efficiency, power generation, renewables and environmental analysis. She also oversees the quantitative analysis and modelling underpinning the publication. She has been leading several editions of the Outlook, and has been co-author of seventeen editions of the report. Prior to joining the IEA in 1999, Ms. Cozzi worked for the Italian oil company ENI S.p.A. She has a Master Degree in Environmental Engineering (from Polytechnic Milan) and a Master’s Degree in Energy and Environmental Economics (from Eni Corporate University).
George Kamiya coordinates the IEA’s work on digitalisation and co-leads on automated and shared mobility. He was a lead author of Digitalization & Energy and has contributed to the agency’s work on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Prior to the IEA, he worked for municipal and federal government agencies in Canada on environmental management and policy. George has a Masters in Resource Management from Simon Fraser University and a BSc in Marine Biology from the University of British Columbia.
The cost, performance and deployment of many clean energy technologies have dramatically improved in recent years, accelerating transitions towards cleaner energy systems around the world. Digital technologies already play a vital role in accelerating decarbonisation efforts, but for digitalisation to reach its full decarbonisation potential, we need good policies informed by rigorous analysis. Our new IEA report, Digitalization and Energy, shows that driven by advancing technology, falling costs and ubiquitous connectivity, the energy sector is on the cusp of a new digital era, with wide-ranging impacts for all energy sector stakeholders, from manufacturers and utilities to producers and consumers.
The trend towards greater digitalisation of energy has been enabled by advances in data, analytics and connectivity. These include: increasing volumes of data, due to the declining cost of sensors and data storage; rapid progress in advanced analytics such as machine learning; greater connectivity of people and devices; and faster and cheaper data transmission. The combined application of these elements can greatly increase the lifetime, efficiency and utilisation of energy infrastructure and can reduce costs. More fundamentally, connectivity can help to break down the traditional silos separating energy sectors, so that consumers and producers in any sector can actively participate across energy system operations, greatly increasing the flexibility with which the system can cope with changes in supply and demand, and reduce the cost of integrating new technologies like distributed generation, energy storage or electric vehicles.
The electricity sector is at the heart of this digital transformation. Traditionally, electricity is generated in large power plants, transferred through transmission and distribution networks and flowing one-way to end users in the residential, commercial, industrial and transport sectors. Digitalisation is accelerating a shift towards a multi-directional, distributed energy system – one where demand sources participate actively in balancing supply at all scales. Connectivity permits the linking, monitoring, aggregation and control of large numbers of individual energy-producing units and pieces of consuming equipment – ranging from electric vehicles (EVs) to wind farms and rooftop solar systems As digitalisation advances, a highly interconnected system can emerge, blurring the distinction between traditional suppliers and consumers, with increasing opportunities for trade at the local level in energy and grid services.
Digitalisation is also transforming road transport, where connectivity and automation (alongside further electrification of mobility) could dramatically reshape the sector. High utilisation rates of automated and shared vehicles, spurring faster vehicle (and fleet) turnover, could favour and accelerate the uptake of highly efficient technologies including EVs, reducing the emissions intensity of travel. The successful integration of shared and automated mobility services with mass public transit, walking and cycling could also help to reduce energy use. However, the overall net energy and emissions impacts of automation and connectivity are highly uncertain, depending on the combined effect of changes in consumer behaviour, policy intervention, technological progress and vehicle technology.
Many companies in the industrial sector have a long history of using digital technologies to improve safety and increase production. Connectivity is also opening up a wide range of opportunities to link industrial facilities to their surroundings. For example, producers connected along value chains can facilitate the reuse and recycling of materials. Connecting industrial equipment to the network can also help to identify and provide real-time information on the availability of local waste streams (e.g. excess heat, off-gases or organic waste), which can be captured and used to displace other forms of energy.
In buildings, digitalisation is bringing new energy services to consumers, such as smart thermostats, occupancy sensors, remote control and enhanced safety features. These technologies could cut energy use by about 10% by using real-time data to improve operational efficiency. For example, smart thermostats can anticipate the behaviour of occupants (based on past experience) and use real-time weather forecasts to better predict heating and cooling needs. Smart lighting can provide more than just light when and where it is needed; light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can also include sensors linked to other systems, helping to tailor heating and cooling services for example.
Digitally interconnected energy systems also introduce risks, from the threat of cyber-attacks to concerns around data privacy and ownership. All energy sector stakeholders have a role to play in enhancing the digital resilience of an increasingly connected energy system. With solutions and processes producing and using vast volumes of data, questions remain around which data will be critical and prioritised, who should own it, and how best to balance the risks and opportunities of data-driven solutions. Digitalising traditional energy infrastructure will require careful management, given the inherent limits to interoperability found in digital business models. Finally, there is the cultural and institutional challenge generated by increased interaction of digital and energy system stakeholders, all with their own particular norms, practices and institutional frameworks.
Government policies will play a vital role in helping to steer developments towards a more secure, more sustainable, and smarter energy future. To help the energy community to navigate a rapidly changing digital landscape, the IEA has outlined 10 no-regrets recommendations for policy makers. We will also continue our analysis in this important area, delving deeper in two key areas: digitalisation of the electricity sector and automated and shared mobility.