Technological Advancements and Innovations within the Energy Sector

With the continued developments in technology, the energy sector has seen advances in their operations due to the influence of data, analytics and connectivity; enabling a variety of innovations that improve safety, productivity, accessibility and sustainability. With the UK’s goal to reach net zero by 2050, organisations are looking to increase their use of renewable and low carbon energy sources. Here, Consultant, Tom Watson shares insights into technology within the energy sector and discusses potential security and privacy risks.


Impact of Technology on the Energy Sector

The energy industry has been one of the early adopters of digital technologies, using emerging innovations and cutting-edge applications to streamline grid management and operations; as well as enhancing decision making, asset assessment and land evaluations. Process controls and automation have been utilised by the industrial sector for decades, especially in heavy industries, to improve quality and yields while reducing energy use.

To increase safety, dependability, and efficiency, intelligent systems are utilising digital technologies in all forms of site and grid management. The rate of digitalisation within the energy space is accelerating, with energy businesses significantly increasing their investment in digital technologies during the past few years and investing globally in software, infrastructure and data & analytics for digital usage.

Technologies such as the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and AI have significant potential to contribute to energy suppliers by making their systems more connected, sustainable and reliable. For example, AI has made solar and wind energy more sustainable by using predictive maintenance to monitor their sites. Furthermore, IoT and AI have contributed significantly to the corporate energy market, allowing businesses to manage a dynamic network of energy sources; lowering energy use and even emissions. This has not only helped with cost management, but has reduced the carbon footprint of various energy sources.


Potential Security and Privacy Risks

Whilst technology is contributing to the enhancement and development of the energy sector, the cyber and privacy risks associated with it have also increased. In recent years, cyberattacks have become more common; for example, the Colonial Pipeline attack was launched by someone on the ‘dark web’ which saw the American oil pipeline distributor come under a full ransomware attack that become one of the largest in the world. As technology continues to advance, industries like energy continue to rely more on digital systems to run their operations. While there are many advantages to this, it has also increased the sector’s susceptibility to cyberattacks, and additional incidents like the Colonial Pipeline may be closer than we think.

The energy sector is an attractive target for attackers for a number of reasons, fundamentally, energy systems are the hearts of a country’s economic activity. Because the energy sector has a distributed and complex infrastructure, there is more ‘opportunity’ for attackers to target. With the end goal of net zero by 2050, there must be minimal delay in the digital transformation and decentralisation of energy systems. In order to avert severe, far-reaching repercussions, Leaders around the world are working to defend their ecosystems and improve cyber resilience, particularly while the energy industry develops and cyberattacks increase in frequency.

Whilst governments are already actively acquiring the security of energy systems through legal and compliance measures, the diversification of energy technologies, and collaboration with other industries, is necessary to maximise industrial security and resilience.

Hamilton Forth has recently partnered with energy businesses to build out their IT and cyber security functions. If you’re a client looking for technology recruitment support, or a technology professional considering your options or seeking career advice, please get in touch with Tom for a confidential discussion: [email protected].

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