By Naveed Siraj

Ive recently made the effort to be more environmentally friendly. I turn the TV off at the mains when Ive finished watching it, and Ive stopped letting the tap run when I brush my teeth. Did you know that you can save up to eight gallons of water a day doing that?

Were constantly asked by governments and utility companies to be more energy efficient in our day-to-day lives, so I wanted to do my bit. I hope you are too.

Theres no hiding from the fact that we all need to be more energy efficient to reduce harmful carbon emissions and to satisfy growing demand for energy from the ever-increasing global population. Take Asia Pacific for instance. Between 2010 and 2035 energy demand is set to increase by 67 per cent, which will account for more than half the worlds energy consumption.

This wouldnt be such a problem if all the resources needed to generate power were renewable. Unfortunately however, coal, oil and gas – the main resources used for energy production – are running out, and when theyre gone, theyre gone.

Its an unsustainable situation, which is why change is needed. The small changes we can make to the way we consume energy is easing the pressure, and is something we should continue doing, but theres a game changer coming which is going to revolutionize the way we use and generate energy.

Big Data, delivering big insights.

Across the globe, power grids are being modernized and made smarter by a host of new technologies, such as sensors, metering solutions, and home energy management systems – some of which are powered by Intel chips – creating a variety of data sets delivering a deeper insight into the infrastructures performance. These “smart grids” will be generating unprecedented amounts of data – relating to energy production all the way to consumption – and connecting with various devices and systems empowering all involved to enhance their energy efficiency.

If youre scratching your head wondering how all this data created by the smart grid is going to deliver improved energy efficiency while enhancing the service you receive from your provider, let me explain.

First and foremost, Big Data insights on energy consumption and generation allow utilities to effectively and efficiently manage the power grid in near-real time. What this means is that utilities have a detailed overview of the volume of energy flowing through the entire power grid and can scale it up or down accordingly at any time to meet demand; allowing us to better manage and use our precious resources. It also allows utilities to identify faulty parts of the network so that they can isolate them and mitigate the impact such faults have on the rest of the power grid.

Let me give you an example. Through analyzing data about ad breaks for popular TV shows or national sporting events, utility companies can anticipate windows where huge power surges will occur when viewers rush to switch the kettle on or grab a glass of water placing significant pressure on the network. As such, the volume of power in the grid or water in the network can be managed accordingly to satisfy demand while ensuring the processes deployed are efficient.

The use of renewable energy in the power grid is also a great piece of evidence of how data analysis is enabling us to be greener. For instance, being able to predict how much power is generated by solar power and comparing this with usage data, utilities can identify how much energy needs to be generated from non-renewable sources, therefore reducing wastage and better managing the network.

Better understanding how we use energy will also empower utilities to offer us consumers tailored tariffs suited to our individual needs, deliver more accurate bills, and incentivize us to be more energy efficient. For instance, to ease the pressure placed on the power grid during peak hours, energy providers can offer reduced rates during off-peak hours to encourage usage then. This not only increases energy efficiency, but improves customer service.

To investigate the hugely positive impact Big Data can have on energy efficiency, Intel set up Pecan Street Inc., a nonprofit consortium of universities, technology companies, and utility providers collaborating on testing, piloting, and commercializing smart grid technologies – since launching two years ago weve gathered over 80GB of data from sensor systems in just over 200 households in the Mueller community of Austin, Texas.

Through the insight gleaned we aim to drive new products, services, and economic opportunities helping you to easily and efficiently manage energy consumption, while making your homes more comfortable to live in.

Its critical we all still make the little changes – like turning the tap off when brushing your teeth – but its encouraging to know that in Big Data we have a tool that will help us enhance energy efficiency further to ensure the environmental wellbeing of our children and future generations.

The author Naveed Siraj is Country Manager, Intel Pakistan

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