Powering energy innovation with Microsoft: Technology solutions for the digital utility

Field engineer inspects solar panels on a wind farm using remote assist with Hololens2.

Power and utilities companies are navigating the largest changes in the industry since the development of the grid—infrastructure modernization, clean energy integration at scale, managing a proliferation of security threats, and building a digital-first workforce. Companies embracing these challenges and prioritizing digital, data, and automation are leading the market and laying the foundation for a more resilient, sustainable future. Digital transformation will be critical for the industry as it accelerates grid modernization, works to meet decarbonization commitments, and builds resilience at scale.

Microsoft has a legacy of working alongside our energy customers and partners to support their digital transformation journeys and we are excited to support the industry as it tackles these challenges and capitalizes on growth opportunities. To accelerate these changes, companies are prioritizing technology innovation, strong partnerships, and collaboration across the energy ecosystem. Read more, below, to learn about how power and utility leaders are integrating technology and cloud solutions into their businesses to operate for the future, transform their workforce, transition to clean, and reimagine energy.

Operate for the future: Improving worker safety

When Canadian utility FortisAlberta shifted from a paper-based to digital system to document and manage workforce safety plans, it addressed several operational pain points by eliminating paper forms, improving meeting reporting accuracy, and supporting uninterrupted workflows. To prove the technology could meet these requirements, FortisAlberta teamed up with digital partner Fidelity Factory, a Microsoft Gold Partner with deep experience using the Microsoft Power Platform to empower business transformation for its clients. The solution—which leverages Microsoft Power Apps, Microsoft Power BI, Microsoft 365 Graph, and Microsoft Azure—jumpstarted FortisAlberta’s digital workforce transition. In 2021, the company was recognized as one of Canada’s Safest Utilities and Electrical Employer at the 2021 Canada’s Safest Employers Awards.

Transform your workforce: Supporting remote teams

Cloud-based solutions provide the innovation, flexibility, and reliability that renewable energy company, Clean Energy, needs to support a remote workforce. Newly hired Clean Energy technicians who previously traveled to onsite training centers now log in to Microsoft Dynamics 365 to complete training and get ready for the field, which reduced Clean Energy’s training costs by 85 percent. Mixed reality apps like Microsoft HoloLens and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Remote Assist are enabling Clean Energy technicians to stay continuously engaged and receive support without having to put tools down to read a diagram or bring additional teammates to the site. As the company continues to expand, it is adding more apps and related technologies like Microsoft Azure IoT Central to help support business growth, improve operations, boost productivity, and reduce costs. Azure IoT Central is used to ingest and analyze data from Azure connected devices and equipment sensors at Clean Energy CNG stations, helping technicians arrive informed and prepared to complete repairs quickly and efficiently.

Transition to clean: Boosting grid efficiency

Before its digital transformation, Axpo’s document and data storage was decentralized across multiple systems, making it time-consuming to find relevant information and to make decisions on timely data. With powerful analytics and visualization tools like Power BI, Axpo grid engineers and maintenance teams can now easily find comprehensive data about the condition of each grid asset, including a geographical view. This significantly cuts search time and makes it easier to quickly identify problem areas as well as see the condition of these assets on a map. With Azure-based operations, Axpo can also seamlessly integrate additional technologies like Grid Vision from eSmart Systems to conduct drone-based inspections across their entire grid to improve power reliability, enhance employee safety, and lower costs. Data collected by Grid Vision is embedded with the drone images and notes about issues that might need attention which eliminates the need to take the lines out of service, increasing the security of the power supply.

Reimagine energy: Enhancing renewable operations

ENGIE, together with Microsoft, built its global renewable operations software on Azure a few years ago to support the company’s goals of scaling in this high-growth market and decarbonizing its global energy production. With the acceleration of its renewable energy generation ambitions (+45GW through 2030 for a total of 80GW), ENGIE continues to strengthen its Darwin platform to scale new renewable assets worldwide and increase functional maturity levels through data and AI. With cloud-powered solutions such as Microsoft Azure IoT Hub and Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, the platform is flexible to ENGIE’s growth. ENGIE’s operational teams can now make insight-driven decisions based on real-time, historical, and AI-modeled data to improve energy production efficiency.  

Powering a sustainable energy future, together

According to an EY study, utility executives foresee new technology, advances in renewable energy sources, and the response to decarbonization and related consumption behaviors as the top three expected positive drivers for the growth in the power and utilities sector. To navigate these changes, executives note that they need both the right digital technology and a dynamic and skilled workforce that can operate in new environments.

Microsoft is investing in strategic partnerships and new initiatives to advance digital capabilities, sustainability, and innovation across the power and utilities value chain. By uniting advanced technology solutions for infrastructure, productivity, cloud, sustainability, AI, big data, and security, Microsoft helps companies and their workforce innovate, collaborate, and deliver on the promise of a highly renewable, distributed, safe, and reliable energy grid.

Our Microsoft Energy Team will join our customers and partners at DistribuTECH International 2022—now re-scheduled to May 23 – 25, 2022. We look forward to the opportunity to connect with you there to share ideas and innovations that will advance the industry.

To learn more about Microsoft for Energy, visit our future of energy industry solutions website.