The energy sector must overcome a lack of trust in artificial intelligence (AI) before the technology can be effectively used to accelerate the energy transition, a DNV report has found. Based on interviews with senior representatives from energy companies across the United Kingdom, DNV’s research determined that while AI is already being used across the sector, companies are largely cautious of its new and un-established uses. Interviewees include industry personnel from the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, EnQuest, National Gas, National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) and the Net Zero Technology Hub, among others.
The report outlines how AI can contribute to the energy transition and that an industrywide approach to standards and best practices is required to unlock its potential. While AI can be key to advancement and innovation in energy supply chains, the research found that putting in place the foundations for trust in the providers of AI solutions and the outputs of those solutions must be prioritized in light of recent geopolitical events highlighting the need for countries to have energy sustainability, security and affordability – in effect, a parallel trilemma for AI as it is increasingly democratized and utilized. It was also found that data policies and industry culture present significant barriers to its widespread adoption.
At industry level, data sharing has been identified as the area requiring the greatest improvement. In terms of culture, it was found that the engineering community has a high level of risk aversion and low tolerance to error.
“To truly harness the benefits of AI in the energy sector, it’s critical this technology is trusted,” said Hari Vamadevan, Executive Vice President and Regional Director UK and Ireland, Energy Systems at DNV. “There are two main challenges in achieving this: information to evaluate the trustworthiness of an AI system, and communication to relay evidence which allows users to trust the systems.”
The emergence of AI also poses cybersecurity risks in the sector, with heightened geopolitical tensions and the accelerating adoption of digitally connected infrastructure sparking concern over industry’s vulnerabilities to cyber threats.
“Accurate, accessible, reliable, and relevant – digital technologies and AI tools must be all these things if we are to trust them. But they must also be secure,” said Shaun Reardon, Head of Section, Industrial systems, Cyber Security at DNV. “Digital technologies – set to be enhanced by AI – are being connected to control systems and other operational technology in the energy industry, where safety is critical. The industry needs to manage the cyber security risk and build trust in the security of these vital technologies.”