Deploying IT to Manage Burgeoning Energy Crisis
By Randee Jennings, SVP/CIO, GNS LLC
The current challenges faced by the energy industry of the 21st century are some of the greatest ever observed in the history of mankind. At a time when the thirst for viable power sources has never been greater, we are simultaneously experiencing the constraint of traditional fossil fuel availability, both due to resource depletion as well as geopolitical control. Concurrently, there is increasing evidence promulgated across numerous media outlets suggesting life-impacting climate change resulting from carbon emissions causing irreparable harm to the planet, and must be controlled. This also exerts significant downward pressure on demand.
Add to that equation the economic pressures stemming from the continuing high cost of crude oil extraction and refining worldwide, as well as the associated transportation and supply chain costs, multiplied by the risk factors related to both a widely fluctuating barrel prices and a very narrow market base with the ability to buy in quantity. It is easy to recognize the industry wide need to seek creative new solutions for these increasingly urgent issues.
We believe the effective deployment of IT services can help facilitate the development and implementation of many of the necessary alternatives to this burgeoning energy crisis for your clients in this space.
In a nutshell, there are three major issues that must be addressed for major energy companies to achieve improved outcomes, and accordingly meet global energy requirements with less reliance on fossil fuels, namely:
(1) A roadmap must be crafted to transition away from the ‘high-cost, high-carbon barrel’ to a low-carbon energy future;
(2) Meaningful progress must be made towards planetary sustainability challenges, and;
(3) Current energy needs must be more efficiently met through traditional sources.
The development of a plan to low-carbon fuel sources will not be achieved in a vacuum. As the impacts of fuel sourcing and uses are interconnected worldwide, thought leaders and stakeholders the world over must necessarily be engaged in solutions postulation and development.
“As the impact of fuel sourcing and uses are interconnected worldwide, thought leaders and stakeholders theworld over must necessarily be engaged in solutions postulation and development”
Vast physical and geographic disparity, typically not conducive to the frequent collaboration and mindsharing needed to develop breakthrough solutions, is easily overcome through the use of virtual workspaces commonly available across multiple platforms today. Video conferencing and whiteboarding, once only available through the expensive deployment of a network of codecs and big bandwidth point to point circuits is now achieved very affordably through VoIP based solutions offered by many of the major carriers. Skype for Business, Webex, JoinMe and Go To Meeting, just to name a few, all offer carrier-grade, enterprise wide conferencing and collaboration solutions to meet the needs of a global workforce. A platform of this type is an essential element to the voice component of any network, and should be a key part of the conversations you are having with your vendors.
Similarly, sustainability challenges will require the consideration of some of the most brilliant scientific minds around the world. Climate data, including air temperature and quality, and ocean tem¬perature measurements among numerous other indicators of planet health will be essential in assessing baseline perfor¬mance and change that will be fundamen¬tal to initiatives designed to enhance and prolong environmental health. The kind of “big data” that must be collected, man¬aged, and accessed by numerous users suggests energy industry partners should be building or outsourcing data centers and data storage capabilities, inclusive of backups for protection and security, to ensure controlled access to sensitive and critical data elements. Small to mid-sized companies can look to local and regional providers of data center facilities for the effective and affordable management of their warehousing and replication needs, much of which can now be achieved virtu¬ally in the cloud without the need to invest in depreciable hard¬ware and expensive software seats. Larger companies can look to major providers, such as Google and Amazon for big computing power needs. Regardless, data storage and security are essential top¬ics in the energy space, and should be a major consideration in your assessment of your technology needs that are on point to your strategic initiatives.
Finally, major energy providers will, in the near and intermediate terms, continue to provide energy solutions from the classic sources, while the tectonic shift in sourcing and delivery continues. The efficient and profitable delivery of these services will be essential to the profits needed for reinvestment into the strategic initiatives designed to move the global power needs into the sustainable alternative sources for the 21st century and beyond. The advent of the SIM card in mobile telephony has led to the creation of the “Internet of Things”, or IoT, which is revolutionizing the act of inventory management and control across numerous industries. In the energy industry, where data must continuously be gathered (tank levels, load volumes, gas levels) and monitored, and where expensive equipment must also be monitored and controlled, the IoT allows clients to manage resources with very little human touch, driving down significantly the costs of controlling and allocating necessary resources across one or more facilities. There are a few major carriers, AT&T most notably leading the way, who are offering IoT as a service, and who offer substantial consultative design and pricing resources as you work to develop solutions to control and manage your costs through technology.
Any company, regardless of size, experiencing the kind of rapid change in their core business model as is being experienced in the energy industry today can certainly benefit tremendously from the selective and thoughtful application of state of the art technologies. Learning to think, work and innovate together differently is fundamental to change, and technology is foundational to those new ways of collaborating. These are the kinds of conversations you should be having with your providers as you navigate the rough waters of change.
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