By Jamie Dinsmore, General Manager, Energy & Resources, Microsoft Canada
The global Energy Transition is underway and it’s important that we keep our foot on the proverbial gas pedal. Catalyzed by the world’s changing climate, finite fossil fuel resources and the rapid pace of technological innovation, the ways that we generate and consume energy are evolving.
Canadian organizations invest in technologies and embrace this change will have the opportunity to reimagine current energy infrastructure, overcome complex challenges, be better equipped to achieve their goals and transform business in previously unimaginable ways.
In the coming year, we expect Canada’s energy industry to be shaped by three key trends: decarbonization, decentralization and digitization.
The pace of the energy transition has accelerated and there is an emerging consensus that decarbonization is not only the right thing to do, but it also presents an unprecedented opportunity to modernize aging energy infrastructure, invest in new energy technologies, enable workers to operate effectively, and develop entirely new business models and growth drivers.
In 2023, the demand for clean and renewable energy sources in Canada, including solar, wind, geothermal and nuclear power, will continue to grow and play an important part of the clean energy conversation as more companies move towards net-zero commitments. Increased adoption of renewable sources helps to drive decarbonization and reduce the overall carbon footprint of the electricity sector and to help mitigate climate change.
At Microsoft, we have solutions to support the entire energy complex in its efforts to drive deep decarbonization. We are continuing to partner with energy operators to future-proof their existing businesses, while accelerating decarbonization and energy transition growth opportunities.
- Last September Microsoft announced a historic partnership with Ontario Power Generation to leverage OPG’s carbon-free hydro and nuclear power to supply our Ontario operations with carbon-free energy, 24/7, helping both organizations meet ambitious net-zero carbon goals. We are also co-innovating together on a series of projects to help our mutual customers gain greater transparency and accuracy on their emissions impact. This was a first for Microsoft globally and has sparked many other companies to consider nuclear in their carbon-free energy strategies.
- We continue to make significant investments in the renewable energy space, and have recently announced a series of renewable power purchase agreements (REPAs) with companies like ATCO, Potentia and Greengate, and others, to help further our goal of being powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025.
- We are also seeing the rise of carbon capture efforts. Carbon capture and storage is among the most promising technologies paving the way towards net-zero and has grown in popularity in recent years. Globally, we are working with organizations like the Government of Norway on projects like Northern Lights to standardize and scale carbon capture and storage. We expect to see similar initiatives arise in Canada too.
Decentralized Energy in Focus
Increased adoption of renewable energy can also contribute to the decentralization of energy systems. A decentralized energy system is defined by energy that is generated close to where it will be used, rather than at an industrial plant and sent through the national grid. It allows for more optimal use of renewable energy as well as reduces fossil fuel use and increases eco-efficiency. This can increase the resilience of the energy system and reduce the impact of outages or failures. It can also give communities and businesses more control over their energy production and make the energy system more responsive to local needs.
As decentralization continues to evolve and as renewable energy adoption increases, there will also be new opportunities and innovations that emerge, including the greater need for effective energy storage solutions.
Energy storage offers flexibility and efficiencies, allowing companies to use energy precisely when and where it is needed most. Right now, Ireland is leveraging backup lithium-ion batteries from a Microsoft datacentre to balance supply and demand on the power grid and help deliver uninterrupted services to citizens. We expect this trend to continue with more technologies like advanced batteries and pumped hydro power being used to facilitate energy storage.
Digitizing Canada’s Energy Sector
Companies locally and globally are turning to digital solutions to future-proof their business, transform their workforce, help with the transition to clean and reimagine the future of energy. In 2023, security, resiliency, and sustainability will continue to be at the top of the agenda as energy companies advance digital transformation to improve safety, performance, reduce costs, and manage risk.
Microsoft has a legacy of working alongside our energy customers and partners to support their digital transformation journeys. In recent years, we’ve placed a big emphasis on helping energy customers navigate their complex data needs with solutions like Microsoft’s Intelligent Data Platform to unlock the value of their data. Customers have also been increasing operational profitability, efficiency, and resiliency with solutions like Azure IoT which have enabled them to optimize grid performance, manage distributed energy resources, and implement proactive and predictive maintenance.
In Switzerland, Axpo, the largest producer of renewable energy, is leveraging the Microsoft Intelligent Data Platform to improve intelligent power grid operation. Since moving to the cloud, Axpo has been able to streamline operations and speed up processes, resulting in better quality of power and lower costs.
In the UK, bp turned to Microsoft’s Intelligent Data Platform to remove data silos, improve efficiencies, increase access to critical information, and strengthen data governance across the company. These capabilities are also helping bp track and manage carbon emissions and support its ambition to become a net zero company by 2050 or sooner and help the world achieve a net zero status.
Locally, Ontario Power Generation is using Microsoft Azure and AI for data strategy, analytics, and modelling to help them analyze data and improve forecasting accuracy for electricity pricing.
These are just some of the many ways the Microsoft technology is helping the customers overcome complex challenges and achieve their goals.
Overall, Canada’s energy sector is entering a period of transformation driven by the digital capabilities of technologies like cloud, AI, IoT and quantum computing. These technologies will not only make the energy industry more sustainable, but also create new opportunities for organizations to innovate and grow. We’re proud to support many Canadian organizations through the digital energy transformation with Microsoft cloud.
To learn more about how Microsoft is empowering a sustainable future, visit the resources below.
- Learn more about three recurring themes critical for energy transition.
- Read more about how Microsoft partners with energy companies to accelerate digital transformation.
- To learn more about Microsoft for Energy, visit our future of energy industry solutions website.