The Digital World of Energy: A New Era

According to a 2019 Canadian Internet Registration Authority report, only 15 per cent of Canadians reported being off the grid for a week or more – completely unplugging from the technology around them.

Believe it or not, this is a fairly impressive statistic considering that 20 per cent of Canadians say they can’t go more than eight hours without using the internet and nearly half the population admits to using their phone while using the washroom (#guilty, #washyourhands). Especially now, as we face a time of social distancing, the need to connect using technology is only growing. And, with the ability to perform a growing number of activities at our fingertips paired with so many benefits, it’s no wonder that our use of digital devices is on the rise.

Digitalization is helping us attain convenience and efficiency like never before. Each year, it’s getting easier to immerse ourselves into the digital world – so much so, that it doesn’t even “feel” digital. It’s simply our new normal. When we need to turn the lights on, we can simply say “Hey Google, turn the lights on!”, or when we have an appointment on the other side of the city, we can open up our navigation app to lead us on the quickest route. For some things – especially our smartphones – it’s hard to imagine what life was like without them.

Looking back at some digital historical milestones, it was only ten years ago that online advertising surpassed newspaper advertising for the first time, the production of digital cameras peaked as they were replaced with integrated smartphone cameras, and began selling more Kindle books than print. In the past five years, e-commerce has skyrocketed, streaming services like Spotify have overtaken CD sales, and smart devices have become commonplace in people’s homes. No longer do we need to store hard copies of everything, we can now keep our photos, music, notes, e-books, communication and more stored in the cloud to access from anywhere, any time. Technology is evolving quickly and is truly changing the way we live and consume energy.

Extending far beyond our household, the digital movement is also dramatically changing the way businesses operate. Using everything from chat bots to smart technology, many simple and repetitive tasks are being automated in such a way that greatly improves productivity, efficiency, and energy consumption. Not only that, many employees are able to work from home - and during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a game-changer. In the midst of this, businesses are able to track historical trends and predict future demands or needs. Where time and resources are saved through digital automation, it can be displaced for workers to focus on analysis, strategic improvements, and innovation to add value to the customer experience. With these changes, the business-customer relationship is evolving in many positive ways.

Within the energy sector, digitalization is helping industry experts to not only develop more sophisticated technologies for energy production and distribution, but also improving how current systems are monitored. Using the latest technology, system operators can acquire greater visibility and can use that information to proactively make repairs and adjustments before customers are impacted. In turn, this builds upon system reliability and safety, helping energy companies scale their efforts to meet growing energy demands.

More than ever, we are becoming a digitally-centric world where energy needs will only continue to rise. At Hydro Ottawa, whether monitoring the grid, restoring power, or communicating with customers, our teams are constantly looking for ways to leverage technology to meet those needs and to consistently deliver on quality service. From using drones for aerial views of electrical assets to leveraging a super computer known as the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA) to constantly monitor and remotely control all of the city’s transformer stations and substations, it’s only the beginning of an exciting future where technology is evolving the energy sector.