The need to prove environmental accountability

We are currently in the midst of one of the most consequential energy transitions since records began. The increasing availability of clean electrons has motivated businesses in the UK and beyond to think green. And for good reason. Being environmentally conscious attracts customers, appeases regulators, retains staff, and can even gain handouts from government. 

The world’s move towards a greener future will only continue to gather pace. Renewables’ share of the power generation mix is set to rise to over a third by 2025 alone. With solar and wind driving most of the growth, the renewable energy market is expected to grow from its current $1.21 trillion at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.2% between now and 2030.

Capturing even a sliver of this market represents a massive opportunity for energy suppliers. However, some need to work hard to win back customers. In their drive to appeal, certain energy suppliers have been guilty in the past of ‘greenwashing’ to exaggerate their environmental credentials. Those suppliers – and those that have played fair – have recognised the need for greater accountability. They are looking to produce a certificate of authenticity – such as a Renewable Energy Certificate (RECs) – to prove that the energy they generate is indeed from the renewable sources they say they are.

Why energy genealogy is so hard

The problem with producing a REC or similar is that ensuring complete energy genealogy throughout the supply chain remains remarkably difficult. One of the reasons is a lack of consistent data from top to bottom. Partly, this is because the majority of energy production globally still runs on clunky, often bespoke, software. This makes data siloed and difficult to assess. 

Also, there is the fact that the systems themselves have been designed for predictable assets like coal or oil, not dynamic assets like solar and wind. This dynamism makes the problem of extracting intelligence more difficult as it increases the amount of data being produced. In fact, the energy industry is now thought to generate up to 200 exabytes of data per year. 

Thankfully, there is now technology available – underpinned by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – that can sift through this mountain of data in a timely manner. By doing so, it helps facilitate accountability by collecting the requisite data to produce the aforementioned REC.

The need to collect the right data

On its path to net-zero, innovative software is facilitating everything in the energy industry from providing an end-to-end connected journey, to managing risk at a time of unprecedented price volatility. However, it is in the areas of solar, electric vehicles (EVs) and heat pumps that it is perhaps being seen the most.

For some time, technology has been used to facilitate everything from providing an end-to-end connected journey for energy sales, to managing risk at a time of unprecedented price volatility. Yet, recent advancements in technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, robotics, and AI have helped create novel approaches to help meet climate and sustainability goals. However, accessing these devices – and the data held within – can still involve manual and time-consuming processes. Even when technology such as AI can help, it must be remembered that it is only as good as the data the flows into it. 

In 2024 and beyond, it is not going to be about collecting more data from such devices, but the right data. So much so, that the market for such big data analytics use within the energy sector is expected to grow from $8.37 billion in 2023 to $14.28 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 11.28% during the forecast period (2023-2028).

Accountability will be key

As well as legacy energy suppliers looking to clean up their act, there are also countless new entrants wanting to set themselves apart by being seen as an environmentally conscious alternative. And for good reason. Any suppliers that can help the world access cheaper and cleaner sources of energy will only grow into an enduring brand for years to come. 

Accountability will be key. Ensuring energy genealogy throughout the supply chain has been difficult with the production of energy becoming increasingly decentralised as it has become decarbonised. However, technology such as IoT sensors can facilitate this accountability by collecting energy data from a myriad of distributed devices to help prove that the energy generated is from the renewable sources it claims. 

As data becomes more prevalent and accessible in 2024, energy management solutions will become more precise and amplify the benefits customers can derive from renewable energy. They will be able to save on energy costs, whether by procuring energy from the cheapest supplier or facilitating energy use when rates are cheapest. 

Completing the circle

For some time, data has been imperative in the sector to help predict weather patterns, production demand, and optimise operation process efficiency. But as regulators, stakeholders and customers look to hold energy companies accountable for the claims they are making, proving the energy they are producing is from renewable sources has never been more important. Or more difficult. Yet, using the latest in AI empowered technology can help complete the circle.

The benefits are twofold. As data becomes more prevalent and accessible, energy management solutions will also become more precise, amplifying the benefits businesses can derive from renewable energy. At the same time, it will enable businesses to save on energy costs, whether by procuring energy from the cheapest supplier or facilitating energy use when rates are cheapest. 

Matt Tormollen

Matt brings over 20 years of executive leadership in global, venture-backed businesses. His experience in building high-performing teams that deliver demonstrable customer value in downstream energy through scalable cloud solutions drives POWWR’s strategic focus. He has a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Management from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.