September 2, 2020 — Industry Trends
Fishing for insights in a different pond
Renewables needs to learn data lessons from more established sectors.
Director of Product Management, Greenbyte
“Bad companies are destroyed by crises. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them."
This quote from former Intel CEO Andy Grove has been gathering momentum on LinkedIn since current CEO Bob Swan shared it in April. And with good reason. In 2020, companies in all sectors have been forced to change their business models. There’s nothing like a once-in-a-generation crisis to focus people’s minds.
And yet, when it comes to data and optimisation in renewables, I think companies focus too hard on themselves – and too little on learning lessons from elsewhere. This is a shame because there are so many good lessons if we choose to look.
Take two industries I worked in before Greenbyte: food production and news.
First, food production. Now you might think this is completely different to renewables, but it’s really not. When you’re counting how many salmon are coming off the boat, and how close each package is to the target weight, you get a lot of calculations and graphs that are very similar to what people are looking for in the renewables space.
We want to get as close as we can to projections and, when things aren’t working right, we want to know exactly why and was there something we could have done to prevent it. The problems are the same whether you’re talking about fish or power.
Second, news production. I worked in news for ten years, and one of the things that was happening in that industry was a lot of consolidation. The huge conglomerates started swallowing up small local ‘papers so they could sell advert space nationally. They could sell to Nike or Starbucks because their audience was much huger.
It also meant they could centralize content. Instead of having journalists locally, they could have a central location where they produce news. You can say that this led to the degradation of local news. It did. But it still made good business sense.
These are both trends that we’re seeing in renewables now.
Like those fish producers, more operators are using data to get an in-depth view of how their assets are performing. And like those news giants, more firms are seeing the benefits of consolidating all of their renewable energy assets onto one platform. This shows how energy firms can learn from established practises in other sectors.
And yet, all too often these lessons are missed. Everyone is looking at how to make existing processes better. More streamlined, more environmentally friendly, cheaper. But what about new processes we could adopt from elsewhere?
We can get caught up in the idea that the renewable energy is so unique and special – which it is – but we can also learn from these very old industries. It’s productive.
It’s true that 2020 has been a year of upheaval, but there’s no better time to learn lessons from other sectors.