Meeting the ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions set by governments and the Paris Agreement will require more energy from sustainable sources like wind and solar power. This shift is creating problems for utilities due to the unpredictable nature of these renewable energy sources. The energy sector is turning to open source software to meet these technological challenges.
- The energy sector lacks a culture of information-sharing and collaboration. What changes will be needed to take full advantage of open source software and build supportive communities?
- How could open source software be a game-changer for the energy sector enabling rapid deployment, efficiency, and lower costs?
- How can business leaders in traditional industries become change agents and create a culture of innovation to propel opportunities for sustainability?
- The energy industry is not known for innovation, and utilities typically don’t cooperate and share information. However, that is changing due to necessity.
- The energy industry is following the example of the tech industry in using open source foundations as a type of standards body and a platform for product integration.
- The challenges presented by renewables are forcing players in the “traditional” energy sector to collaborate on software they can modify to address their changing needs.
The energy produced by wind farms varies from day to day, forcing utilities to store excess supplies and make up for shortages. The residential, rooftop solar panels feeding into electric grids pose challenges because grids were not designed to facilitate two-way flows of energy.
Open source software allows anyone to view the code at heart of technology such as Google’s Android phone, the world’s most popular operating system. Programmers can modify it and share it with others, and this openness enables collaboration.Many companies, ranging from Microsoft to Walmart to JP Morgan Chase, use and make open source software.
The energy industry has lagged behind others in using and creating open source software. That’s changing as Dutch energy distribution company TenneT recently built its data collection and analysis platform atop open source components. TenneT’s platform compiles all the data the company produces, such as energy usage data, along with weather data that can be used to predict both energy production and demand.
The sort of data crunching TenneT is doing highlights the need for open standards that enable communication among the various tools that energy producers and utility companies use. It takes a long time to bring a new power station online due to the need to integrate the various technologies in a station with the existing infrastructure.
Frustrations over a lack of compatibility between products led Alliander, another Dutch company, to create the Open Smart Grid Platform, an open source software system for integrating and controlling a variety of energy and industrial products. It’s currently in use in Amsterdam to control streetlights.
Alliander is now in the process of transferring control of the Open Smart Grid Platform to LF Energy, a Linux Foundation umbrella organization that includes Alliander, TenneT, and other energy companies working with open source software and standards.