DigitalEnergyIndustryResearch & Innovation

Digitalisation and artificial intelligence in the electricity system

To implement the Paris Agreement and lead the global fight against climate change, the EU needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions drastically, meaning that the energy sector will require a profound transformation.

Indeed two thirds of CO2 emissions in the EU are related to the use and production of energy.

Europe is in a good position to decarbonise its economy and efforts should be accelerated. Emissions and economic growth have now been decoupled for a number of years.

Greenhouse gas emissions in the EU were reduced by 23% between 1990 and 2016, while the economy grew by 53% over the same period.

The EU energy system is already going through rapid transformation, characterised by greater decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitalisation.

It is becoming more energy efficient and more renewables-based. Many of the technologies we need for a clean energy transition are already available, and their costs are coming down quickly.

This transformation is underpinned by the Clean Energy for All Europeans package which puts forward the most advanced regulatory framework to modernise the energy system, support clean energy technologies and innovation.

Together with the European Parliament and Member States, we have made great progress on the Clean Energy package with the conclusion of the interinstitutional trilogues on the large majority of the proposals.

Just recently the EU has agreed to achieve a binding share at EU-level of at least 32% of renewable energy and an EU-level target of at least 32.5% in energy efficiency in 2030. Both targets include the possibility for a further upward revision in 2023.

If we want to successfully decarbonise the economy, electricity will play a key role. Indeed, we know that the largest share of emissions reduction will be achieved through electricity of energy services and other sectors such as transport, heating and cooling and the industry as well as more energy efficiency.

Today, over 30% of the electricity consumed in Europe is generated by renewable energies. By 2030, this share will be over 50%. With greater electrification and the growing share of variable renewables energy, the energy sytem is becoming more decentralised.

This also calls for more flexibility in the energy system and changes in the way we build and operate our electricity networks.

The new electricity market design proposed by the Commission as part of the Clean Energy package will ensure that the electricity system is adapted to this new reality and can support the energy transition in a cost-competitive way.

It is therefore important that the negotiations are concluded as swiftly as possible by the end of this year.

But beyond the regulatory framework digital technologies will have a central role to play to increase the intelligence of the energy system, making it more flexible, secure and sustainable.

Inevitably, there will be a multiplication of data to optimise all these distributed sources of generation, such as PV panels, but also the many points of consumption, such as electric appliances at homes or electric cars.

In such context, artificial intelligence could indeed play a key role in helping to compress and analyse this massive amount of data as well as in sending the right signals to all these distributed assets, thus helping to optimise the energy system.

Digital technologies also provide new opportunities for consumers to take control of their energy consumption as well as to invest in energy production, and for businesses to turn this into new consumer services.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data enable the integration of home appliances with related home comfort and building automation services, matching user needs with the management of distributed energy across the grid, while exploiting the benefits of demand response.

Transmission and Distribution System Operators (TSOs and DSOs), electricity suppliers and aggregators need to cooperate to set up platforms where flexibility can be traded, in a coordinated way.

Digital technologies and in particular artificial intelligence are the cornerstones for these markets: small volumes of energy or flexibility from many different con- sumers can only be aggregated and controlled profitably when they are automated.

Finally, in the context of greater digitalisation of the energy sector and the increasing use of data, the need for a strong cyber-security is even more acute.

The Commission adopted a cybersecurity package last year proposing a wide-ranging set of measures to further improve EU cyber resilience and response.

The transition to a smart, secure and sustainable energy system is no longer a choice for Europe; it is a responsibility towards all citizens, our future generations and the planet.

The EU’s energy transition and the EU’s digital single market reinforce each other and the European Commission supports research and innovation in all these areas.

Ahead of COP 24 in Katowice next December, the Commission will present a Long Term Decarbonisation Strategy in order to implement the Paris Agreement.

In this context participation of all stakeholders including from the digital economy will be key for the successful long-term decarbonisation and modernisation of the economy.