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The energy industry faces an enormous challenge as the world wakes up to the urgency of global climate change. Indeed, the switch to renewables is accelerating fast, with an increasing proportion of power being generated by clean energy. Taking China as an example, the government’s bold plan is to generate approximately 50% of all energy from renewable sources — wind, solar, hydropower, and the like — by 2030. In addition, under China’s 14th Five Year Plan (covering 2021-2025), the rate of clean energy consumption has been set at 95% or higher. Indeed, clean energy is already present at the consumption phase: household distributed Photovoltaics (PV) power generation is used to supply electricity for specific household users, with any excess transmitted back to the power grid for profit. Yet, despite so many advantages, clean energy still poses issues for the security and stability of power grids since it is, by its very nature, likely to generate a volatile and intermittent supply of power.
Energy prices have significant impact on society at large, especially on the operating costs of industrial and commercial users. Power companies must therefore work to gradually reduce energy prices while ensuring supply stability and improving overall quality and related services.
In addition, energy supply is vulnerable to natural disasters, from typhoons and floods to wars, network attacks, and pandemics, as we have all recently experienced. All pose further challenges to energy security.
Put simply, if it sticks to traditional operational modes and technical means, the electric power industry will not be able to cope with the challenges it faces, in terms of energy supply, transmission, consumption, and security. Through new ICT technologies however — including 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and cloud computing — Huawei is building new connections, new computing, new platforms, and finally a new ecosystem to help address all of these problems.
How? By empowering power grids with IoT, sensing devices become the ‘eyes’ of said grids, enabling customers to comprehensively sense all of the data on a power system. This data is transmitted through 5G and optical networks — which are the ‘neural network’ of the power system — to the ‘brain’ of a power grid, its intelligent dispatch and operation center. Here, analytics and simulations based on Huawei’s cloud computing and big data technologies are performed, to provide insights and inform decision making. This is how AI-powered management and control of the entire power grid are implemented.
In the future, watts and bits will be more closely integrated on power grids, to form a complementary, highly elastic energy Internet through digital transformation. This energy Internet will work as both the energy consumer and the energy supplier, to enable bidirectional energy flow exchange, making power grids more secure, reliable, efficient, and energy-saving. This is the direction that energy systems are developing toward.
Since early 2020, the world has been feeling the effects of COVID-19. During efforts to contain the pandemic, power systems in many countries and regions, including China, managed to provide uninterrupted power supply. Crucially, that meant that anti-pandemic measures were not affected by power outages. But these power systems would not have survived without the support of powerful and intelligent Information Communication Technology (ICT) systems.
During the digital transformation of the electric power industry, Huawei, as a leading ICT company, has carried out a large number of projects centering on the generation, network, load, and storage of power grids, and explored how to use 5G, power cloud applications, and big data mining to maximize value for the electric power industry.
For instance, in cooperation with China Southern Power Grid (CSG), Huawei used industry-leading 5G slicing technology to help CSG optimize its power distribution and consumption networks. CSG required wide connectivity, high bandwidth, low latency, high reliability, and fast deployment, in order to support intelligent power distribution, smart metering, smart home, and Internet of Vehicle (IoV) services in the future. Traditional communications modes were simply unable to meet these demands. Instead, Huawei presented its 5G slicing technology to CSG and implemented End-to-End (E2E) communications throughout the customer’s smart grid, ensuring power distribution security and reliability to greatly improve efficiency.
Huawei has also introduced HUAWEI CLOUD and the data mid-end into the electric power industry, to provide massive data storage and computing capabilities. These capabilities can be used to integrate the data assets of multiple systems in a power company into one platform, to efficiently process and share power data. Based on the platform, electric power companies can accomplish many tasks that seemed impossible in the past. Qinghai province, in China’s landlocked northwest, has set a powerful example. The province has a long-term goal of achieving 100% green energy supply and consumption and, in 2019, achieved a 100% renewable energy power supply for 15 consecutive days. This level of sustainability is not merely an issue in the electric power sector, of course. But to achieve it, CSG constructed an advanced green energy data center by partnering with Huawei and using Huawei’s big data and cloud computing technologies.
To help power companies reduce energy prices, Huawei also provides an E2E intelligent inspection solution. The solution uses AI to improve power grid inspection efficiency by hundreds of times, dramatically improving power grid O&M efficiency and reducing operating costs.
In the future, digital transformation will help traditional power companies evolve into energy service companies that integrate electricity, finance, and Internet services to provide more secure, cost-effective, and high-quality energy services for the public.