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The conversation on clean energy is serious, but we can still have jokes about it. A meme on the internet has the image of a squirrel lifting its front limbs as if in celebration, and the message on it reads: ‘That feeling you get when your power bill arrives but you have solar panels’. That is the power of affordable and clean energy! 4IR emerging technologies have the capacity to accelerate the provision of clean energy in developing countries.
In today’s article, we look at SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy. The goal is to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Our focus will be on how 4IR can enable clean energy in developing countries.
What is Clean Energy?
TWI Global says that clean energy comes from renewable, zero-emission sources that do not pollute the atmosphere when used. It also includes energy saved by energy efficiency measures.
Clean energy includes solar energy, wind energy, hydropower, geothermal energy, tidal energy, and biomass. These energy sources are also renewable because they are constantly being replenished. “Dirty energy” includes fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal and has high carbon emissions that pollute the atmosphere.
Why is it Important to Have Clean Energy in Developing Countries?
Clean and affordable energy will foster the economic development of populations in developing countries. A well-established energy system will support all sectors of society. These include businesses, healthcare, agriculture, education, infrastructure, etc.
Developing countries can cut down their reliance on oil and gas by turning to renewable energy. This will eliminate the air-polluting energy sources that many people use. These include kerosene lamps, charcoal, diesel generators, etc.
The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2021 by the UN shows that 759 million people lack access to electricity, and 3 out of 4 of them live in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report goes to say that accelerated action on modern renewable energy is needed. This acceleration will come from 4IR technologies.
The Role of 4IR in the Provision of Clean Energy
StartUs Insights notes that energy trends fall under three concepts. These include decarbonization, decentralization, and digitization. 4IR helps the energy industry to implement intelligent energy and power management solutions.
4IR makes it possible to have virtual power plants. A Virtual Power Plant (VPP) is a cloud-based system that integrates several types of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) such as wind farms, solar parks, and combined heat and power units, as well as flexible power consumers and storage systems. VPPs are decentralized and enhance power generation and trading of power on the electricity market.
3 Ways 4IR Will Enable Clean Energy in Developing Countries
1. Smart Microgrids
Sinovoltaics refers to microgrids as smaller and independent grids that are meeting the energy needs of small communities locally and don’t depend on the central grid. They can also operate in tandem with central grids. Smart microgrids are a newer technology and are an extension of the regular microgrids. They use software and intelligent controls to manage electricity flow in networks.
Smart microgrids run on renewable energy, such as solar or wind, with solar being the most common. They connect homes, businesses and other buildings to a central power network.
PowerGen was founded in Kenya with the vision of making clean, renewable energy accessible to more people in Africa. Its solar generators produce clean energy, which they store in batteries and dispatch to a grid network. This network connects homes, businesses, and other facilities. Customers pre-pay for power using mobile money wallets on their phones. Usage data is analyzed and monitored through the cloud. Smart metering manages payment processing and usage data tracking.
2. Internet of Energy (IoE)
Investopedia defines the Internet of Energy (IoE) as the upgrading and automating of electricity infrastructures for energy producers and manufacturers. It allows energy production to move forward more efficiently and cleanly with the least amount of waste. The term comes from the Internet of Things (IoT), which is an emerging technology of 4IR.
Resync is a company in Singapore that provides an intelligent energy management platform for smart cities and systems with multiple energy sources. It combines machine learning models and deep technological energy systems to ensure system efficiency, optimized performance and continuous savings for all its clients. Resync provides solutions such as solar and wind analytics, intelligent business management, smart microgrids, IoT and smart metering, among others.
3. Artificial Intelligence for Energy Transition
The World Economic Forum (WEF) notes that the transition to renewable energy sources has focused on hardware and little effort and investment has focused on a critical tool for transition – digital technologies, in particular, artificial intelligence (AI). WEF also says that we can adopt these technologies more quickly on larger scales and become essential enablers for the energy transition.
FSIGHT is a company in Israel that uses AI and machine learning technology to create the Energy AI platform. It learns and profiles the behavior of each prosumer and chooses the most cost-effective strategies for using, storing, and trading energy. With thousands of emerging energy communities, billions of prosumers can efficiently manage their energy flow and transition to an energy-sustainable society. Imagine being able to sell your excess renewable energy to the grid!
The affordable nature of clean and renewable energy will give those in off-grid locations access to power, which will lead to their economic empowerment. 4IR will help developing countries accelerate the use of clean and affordable energy, leading to greater development and economic growth.
If you would like to know about the emerging technologies of 4IR, please get a copy of Understanding the 4th Industrial Revolution.
To learn Strategic 4IR Skills, please sign up for the 4IR foundation course at the 4IR Academy.