Global electricity demand is projected to grow between 62% and 185 percent by 2050. As our world becomes more electrified, new challenges threaten the reliability and stability of our power infrastructure.
From increased demand to aging equipment, extreme weather events to cyberthreats, there’s an urgent need to bolster electric infrastructure resilience.
While utilities grapple with these concerns – many using outdated methods and technology – AI technologies are poised to redefine infrastructure management. AI promises transformative solutions to these challenges, leveraging data to re-align electrical utility operations and fortify the grid.
Join us as we explore the current challenges facing utilities and highlight how AI can safeguard against disruptions and heighten resilience in challenging times.
The rising challenges in electric infrastructure
Rising demand for electricity is placing immense pressure on an aging infrastructure. Over 70 percent of transmission lines are over 25 years into their 50-year lifespan. And the average age of large power transformers, which manage 90 percent of U.S. electricity, is over 40 years old.
As grids become digitized, they also face an increasing threat from cyberattacks. In North America, the energy sector suffered 20 percent of all cyberattacks, making it the most targeted industry. Cyberattacks resulting in data breaches can lead to regulatory fines and erosion of consumer trust, both huge potential financial losses.
Equally troubling, a large-scale attack poses serious threats to national security, public safety, and economic stability.
The advent of artificial intelligence
While it’s been around for decades, AI’s full transformative power has only recently impacted utilities. Initially used for basic data analysis in areas like load forecasting, AI offered only marginal improvements in decision-making processes. However, technological innovation has greatly expanded AI’s power to monitor, predict, and optimize grid performance.
Traditional methods of bolstering grid resilience typically relied on static, rule-based frameworks and manual interventions. In contrast, AI introduces a dynamic approach that ensures the grid is more than just reactive but also anticipatory.
Integrating neural networks, deep learning, and sophisticated algorithms transforms AI from a mostly analytical tool to a comprehensive system that simulates and analyzes thousands of potential scenarios so that the grid can respond effectively and efficiently to real-world challenges.
Shifting grid management from a static, reactive model to a dynamic, proactive model transforms how utilities respond to challenges. And it is this response that builds a more adaptive and future-ready infrastructure.
Proactive measures through AI
Much of AI’s power rests on predictive maintenance. Instead of fixing things when they break, utilities can use AI to predict when things will go wrong. For one, Duke Energy uses AI to anticipate equipment failures, saving them millions in unscheduled maintenance.
For example, advanced fault-detection sensors powered by AI can provide real-time monitoring. By leveraging leading data collection platforms like Fulcrum that integrate with IoT devices like sensors, utilities can quickly detect emerging issues, from overheating transformers to potential line failures, and prevent significant disruptions.
By processing vast datasets, AI can make lightning-fast decisions, optimize transmission and distribution, and reduce human error. At the same time, AI also empowers humans. Access to analyzed data allows for more responsive, informed decisions and better prioritization of tasks like inspections and maintenance.
Reliability isn’t just ensuring the lights stay on; it’s about identifying and mitigating the problems that lead to potential disruptions.
Sifting through troves of data in seconds, AI can better and more quickly identify patterns than humans ever could. In this way, AI’s predictive analytics can reduce downtime and service interruptions, contributing to a more reliable grid.
For example, major utilities using AI can better detect wildfires, which increases response time and helps prevent disruptions.
Through continuous monitoring, analyzing, and adjusting, digital AI tools ensure that power distribution remains consistent and reliable, even in the face of unpredictable variables such as sudden weather changes or unexpected surges in demand.
The role of data collection software in AI
The power of AI entirely rests on data. Without precise, timely, and relevant data, AI’s predictions and actions would be misguided or even counterproductive.
This positions data collection platforms as critical for utilities looking to build infrastructure resilience. Drones, sensors, and field observations by trained personnel ensure AI systems always have the clearest picture of grid health by gathering, cleansing, and channeling data. Platforms like Fulcrum also seamlessly integrate and aggregate operational data from various sources and devices to offer an accurate and holistic view of utility operations and infrastructure.
As algorithms become more complex, data collection platforms stand as gatekeepers, ensuring the data fueling AI is accurate and reliable.
Embracing the future: AI at the helm
The utility sector is at a critical juncture. With rising demands, aging infrastructure, extreme weather events, and cybersecurity threats, traditional approaches are no longer sufficient for meeting today’s challenges. AI offers a substantial shift in how utilities can manage and secure their grids. It takes us from a model of reactive measures and fixes to one of proactive, data-driven decision-making. The convergence of AI technologies and advanced data collection platforms creates an unparalleled opportunity for improving grid resilience, operational efficiency, and overall reliability.
In this transformative age, the adoption of AI isn’t just a nice-to-have but a necessity for any forward-thinking utility company. Those who act swiftly in adopting these advanced technologies stand to gain the most in terms of operational benefits, cost savings, and heightened resilience against an array of challenges.
Don’t get left behind in this digital transformation. Contact us today to schedule a demo and see firsthand how AI can make a decisive difference in your utility operations.