February 10, 2020
Lighting Up Our Energy Sector With Software
July 01, 2019
For most people, discussions of innovation in the energy sector focus on new methods of capitalizing on long-existing sources. Solar, wind, oil, and gas – they’ve all existed for generations. What’s really new in the energy sector is how software increasingly helps power our world. Software now enables our electric grids, wind farms, and factories, and innovations are radically improving our ability to solve energy challenges in previously impossible ways. In a new report, Software.org explores how software expands our opportunities to generate cleaner and greener renewable energy and how to overcome the barriers that could stifle these advances.
We are at the beginning of an energy transformation that data and software can deliver to fuel a cleaner, greener energy sector that is more distributed, resilient, and affordable. The energy sector is deploying software to process underused data, unlock previously scarce resources, rethink the ways we do things, and make our energy use more efficient.
For example, data bits are helping drill bits see through rocks to reach vast reserves of untapped energy resources. Drones are taking powerline, pipeline, and wind turbine inspections to new heights. Better weather analytics are taking the renewable energy industry by storm. Design software enables buildings capable of making more energy than they consume. And smarter software in connected devices helps save energy in our homes, cars, and factories by helping almost everything to perform better.
Software also has the potential to solve some of the US energy sector’s greatest challenges – including reducing dependence on foreign energy and making the outdated electric grid more resilient. Experts predict that software can help us reduce overall net electricity demand by more than 25 percent, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 19 percent, and save billions on our energy bills.
But our energy sector needs a larger software upgrade if we want to achieve ambitious goals and continue to take advantage of the software innovations behind this energy transformation. Leaders still need to address key issues, including:
- Ensuring robust cybersecurity measures. With the energy grid becoming more connected, experts now warn that a sophisticated cyberattack on the US power grid could cause more than $250 billion in economic losses. It is more important than ever that industry leaders and policymakers commit to making sure we have appropriate cybersecurity efforts in place to defend the integrity, privacy, and utility of the entire Internet ecosystem.
- Accelerate cloud adoption through the energy sector. The cloud provides an inherent security advantage over traditional models, which can improve the resiliency of data and strengthen an organization’s security. Moving data from a local data center to the cloud also enables companies to shrink their computing energy footprints by 87 percent, saving 23 billion kilowatt-hours annually.
- Upgrade our outdated electric grid with smarter technologies. Our current grid wastes too much energy, costs too much money to maintain, and is too susceptible to outages and failures. Investing in smart grid technologies will help reduce energy use, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and put money back into consumer pockets.
- Close the software pipeline gap. As the energy sector becomes more digital, we face a looming shortage of people with skills to help us take full advantage of these opportunities. To address this, we need more workers trained to design and run the transformative software-enabled tools that power our energy grid.
Today’s digital energy transformation can save us billions and drive new jobs, industries, and opportunities. With the help of software, our energy future is bright.
Learn more about Software.org reports on Every Sector is a Software Sector at https://software.org/everysector
Executive Director, Software.org
As the founding executive director of Software.org, Chris Hopfensperger leads the foundation’s efforts to help policymakers and the general public better understand the impact that software has on our lives, our economy, and our society. He also helps translate the foundation’s philanthropic and forward-looking agenda into efforts to address key issues facing the software industry.