Putting the Smart into Energy
a Siemens Energy perspective of the challenges and solutions in the energy transformation
From 3 June to 24 June 2021, ITEA organised its 7th international customer workshop, and this year the focus was on Smart Energy, a new challenge for ITEA 4. With energy all around us and at the heart of every economic activity, this industrial sector is expected to take a prominent role in combating climate change and moving to a greener economy. Software is a key technology in the transformation of the energy sector and essential to manage the complexities involved in the transformation. With this as a backdrop, ITEA Vice-chairman Jean-François Lavignon invited Chief Technology & Strategy Officer at Siemens Energy, Vinod Philip, and Technology Field Lead for Data Analytics & AI at Siemens Energy, Georg Rollmann, to share their views on a subject that is relatively new to the ITEA landscape but one which will certainly be an important feature in ITEA 4.
Three strategic pillars
"Perhaps you'd like to begin by considering the trends in this sector," Jean-François suggests. "Of course," Vinod replies, "let me put the energy sector in its context from a Siemens Energy perspective. It's a domain that crosses many different verticals. We believe that to achieve our energy ambitions, significant advances in technology and business models are vital in order to reduce emissions, increase resilience, and find ways to improve the existing energy infrastructure to make it more sustainable, future-proof and efficient. So, in response to these needs, we have developed our strategy around three pillars. The first concerns the field of ‘low- or zero-emissions Power Generation'. The second pillar revolves around the ‘transport and storage of energy'. This is an essential focus because with the share of renewables – wind, solar and the like – increasing in the energy systems around the world, there is a resultant cyclicality in energy production. Alongside this is the fact that the locations of energy supply are becoming increasingly distant from the locations of energy demand. So, this presents a great challenge: how can we efficiently and effectively transport this energy from the supply centres to the demand centres? And since we must cope with the volatility issues of renewable energy – how can we store it? And then we come to the third issue, ‘decarbonisation of industrial processes'. More than half of all global emissions are produced from sectors outside power generation, like industry, buildings, and transport. We need to help these sectors reduce their emissions. So, these are the major trends in terms of the macro-level view. Everything we are doing in our technology space and portfolio of products when it comes to digital data and analytics aims at addressing the opportunities related to one or more of these three pillars."
IT enables a step change
From an ITEA perspective, Jean-François wonders how Vinod sees the role of software and IT technology in enabling this transformation. "In our company, we have identified nine technologies fields that we expect to support this goal," Vinod replies. These are Additive Manufacturing, Materials, Manufacturing & Repair, Cyber Security, Digital Twin, Power Electronics, Data Analytics & AI, Engineering Methods and Plant Automation. These fields have a very clear connection to digitalisation or data. Whether that's robotics, digital simulation or using data for better product design or service, use or operation, the IT element is fundamental to being able to achieve this. Faster design, better manufacturing, optimised operation along with more effective service and maintenance. So, digitalisation and becoming a data-driven company, using machine leaning, AI, automation, robotics – this will all be a step change in what we are able to offer our customers going forward."
Best in class
"Clearly," Jean-François implies, "data analytics is a key technology. Can you give us any examples of how you use this at Siemens Energy?" "We have thousands of assets connected around the world with our remote monitoring and operating centres. The amount of data collected from these assets each day is tremendous. By analysing the data, we are able to make pro-active recommendations to customers so that they can optimise the operation, maintenance and service of their assets, and get the best-in-class performance level in turn."
Georg Rollmann adds, "We combine the operational data from the assets with data from manufacturing and materials testing to gain an understanding of the variations that influence the behaviour of each individual part. With the help of machine learning and AI methods we improve the prediction of the exact behaviour of the parts in the engines, which in turn allows our customers to improve the reliability and sustainability of their assets."
Siemens Energy invests around a billion euros in R&D each year. How this is spent depends on which areas have been prioritised. Vinod explains. "We have provided strategic guidelines for this. Everything we invest in R&D must have a sustainability component. It has to improve the efficiency or the emissions of an operating asset. It also has to be retrofittable as far as possible. In other words, it must be possible to fit something new based on customer needs in an existing asset. This has a direct impact on sustainability. And we want to ensure that we focus on the nine technology fields I mentioned earlier. Finally, I would like to mention the five areas that we call our fields of action where we believe the future of energy is going to be played out. One is Energy Storage, so we are going to look at a lot more investment and partnership around energy storage. Two is Power-to-X, where we use hydrogen as a molecule to convert renewable power into valuable products such as sustainable fuels or green steel production. Three: Resilient Grids and Reliability. With the energy landscape taking on an increasingly renewable makeup, we need grids that are resilient enough to handle the volatile supply and the grid infrastructure needs updating to cater for transmission and distribution in this new landscape. The fourth aspect is related to Condition-based Service Interventions which is about more effective asset operation through digital products and business models for condition-based service interventions and performance optimisation. And last, but not least, Decarbonised Heat and Industrial Processes, which deals with anything that can help decarbonise the process industry. Like finding ways to recover waste heat to enable more optimal and effective use of heat in industrial processes. In all of these, it is vital to have the digital tools for simulation and modelling. Digitalisation, therefore, cannot be understated."
Added value of collaboration...
The challenges and tasks are significant and the ambitions bold, so to what extent could collaboration, for instance in an ITEA framework, add value to the ambitions of Siemens Energy? Georg provides a clear answer to this question. "Working together with partners from industry and academia is something we strongly rely on. For example, in developing new methodologies in data analytics and artificial intelligence, it is important for us to work in project frameworks such as ITEA provides. These give us an excellent opportunity to benefit from different perspectives, experiences and talent. We are also setting up local innovation centres to cooperate in a global network with our partners.
...and cross-industry pollination
"To build upon this," says Vinod, "we have five drivers in our partnership strategy. As Georg mentioned, we want to partner up to have access to innovative talent. Second, we want to be able to access certain products or capabilities of other companies to be able to leverage capabilities in the field of digitalisation. Another key driver is partnering with strategic or pilot customers who put our applications into practice. Four, we partner with companies to gain access to certain markets. Finally, partners like ITEA are very important for us, as they create ecosystems where players from different areas come together to collaborate. These five drivers shape our broad partner landscape: We partner with more than 100 universities, we are in many different associations and, ITEA is a very good example of this, we work in organisations that are transnational and cross-industry. Because many innovations derive from bringing an idea from one industry to another, this sort of cross-industry pollination is also important for us from a partnership perspective."