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Industrial Edge: The Energy Opportunity

The recent rise in energy prices has brought into sharp contrast the need to re-examine how we generate, distribute, and consume electricity. 



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This article is a guest post by Natalya Makarochkina – Senior Vice President, Secure Power Division, International Operations, Schneider Electric

As if the drive to decarbonize energy as part of sustainability and climate change efforts was not enough, the recent rise in energy prices has brought into sharp contrast the need to re-examine how we generate, distribute, and consume electricity. 

It has been well argued that simply generating more electricity is not the answer to the myriad of requirements now being faced. Greater transparency, management, and efficiency in distribution and utilization must all be achieved to better use what is available, even as demand might require greater volumes. 

The increasing digitalization of industry, through the application of technologies such as Industrial IoT (IIoT), 5G and automation, managed through AI-assisted systems, has offered greater insights and visibility of how electricity is used than ever before. As Industry 4.0 has brought digital to industry and manufacturing, creating the Industrial Edge, that same trend in energy, Electricity 4.0, can have its methodologies adopted and implemented in industry, enabled by intelligent management systems, leveraging expertise from the world of data centers, microgrids and secure power. With these tools, services and insights, industries can ensure they utilize energy as efficiently as possible, even as they transform to meet the needs and demands of the future. 

Electricity 4.0

Industry 4.0 is the application of digital technologies to industry processes, supporting, enabling, and extending Operational Technologies (OT). Within this, the Industrial edge is the subset of edge computing where OT and information technologies (IT) combine to apply high speed analytics in a localized, on-site system, addressing various industrial and manufacturing challenges. The industrial edge can provide simple, secure, highly available, powerful autonomous edge computing solutions that can be managed remotely. These can be applied to dangerous, harsh, and extreme environments to ensure high availability, preventing, not recovering from, failure. 

Electricity 4.0 is a similar fusing of electricity generation and distribution with digital technologies to deliver new capabilities, insights, and manageability. It will be the foundation of the new energy future of renewable energy sources and net-zero carbon, to allow intelligent distribution, delivering electricity where it is needed, as it is needed, storing it when it is not, and balancing the needs of all electricity users. 

Electricity 4.0 will enable smart grids in smart cities, as well as meeting the needs of industry through not just greater volume but facilitating demand side moderation and generation. Through the insights gained, grid operators will be able to model and forecast usage and demand to further increase efficiency and resilience, bringing large energy consumers into the fold as part of the new energy future.

Data lead

The growing wave of digitalization in industry driven by transformation efforts, especially the implementation of IIoT, has meant that industries are better placed than ever before to gather and manage data on energy usage. However, industries were not always able to turn that data into intelligence, nor take advantage of it in real time. 

Speaking to Dalia Adib, practice lead, edge computing lead with analyst STL Partners, Dalia emphasized the importance of being able to act quickly, at low latency on sensor and IIoT data gathered, rather than centralizing it in a remote data center. 

The development of the Industrial Edge, that interface between OT and IT, has meant there are now facilities to utilize all that data from every sensor, machine and line. 

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Micro Data Centre and EcoStruxure IT combines edge compute expertise and innovation with remote intelligent management systems which enable customers and partners to leverage the Industrial Edge to make deep energy management more practical and informative than ever before.

Intelligence opportunity

The interface that is the Industrial Edge has the potential to deliver greater visibility across the entire infrastructure, from edge sensor to intelligent insight. With a holistic view of energy usage across the organization, predictive modelling can ensure that management can stay ahead of demand. 

With many geographies likely to see some restrictions on energy supply in the near future, as major transitions towards renewable energy sources are embarked upon, the ability to confidently predict consumption and demand, moderate it where necessary and support sustainability goals, is vital. The potential for information gathering through IIoT, combined with edge deployed compute power to apply analytics, enable automation and even autonomous operation, can increase resilience, reduce downtime and ensure efficiency. 

IIoT can facilitate predictive maintenance regimes, monitoring performance and efficiency, allowing remote management, to identify where failures may occur. Preventative measures can then be taken to ensure continuity. This applies not just in production and processing, but across the operation through power distribution and IT too.

There are many examples of industries taking the lead to bring the end-to-end benefits of IIoT, edge computing and direct intelligence to their business. 

Tver Carriage Works is a more than century old company based in the city of Tver, northwest of Moscow. It deployed an EcoStruxure Data Center Expert managed modular data centre infrastructure to achieve its aim of Digital Transformation of its manufacturing enterprise. Manufacturing electric trains, rolling stock and carriages to travel at more than 200 kph, it needed compute power close to manufacturing lines to improve efficiency, increase resilience, and reduce downtime. 

Brazil’s largest waste water treatment plant, Aquapolo, achieved a 15% increase in operational efficiency, with a lower cost of ownership, while providing drinking water for more than 500,000 customers. This was achieved while also improving compliance standards for environmental protection. There, the EcoStruxure Augmented Operator Advisor connects multiple industrial systems through an edge control framework, connecting Harmony HMI, Foxboro instrumentation, and ConneXium switches

Deep insights

The strides already made by industries to implement digitalization have brought many benefits, unifying OT with IT in the Industrial Edge. By taking on board the lessons of Electricity 4.0, industries can further improve efficiency, resilience and manageability.

With challenges expected in the near future as the world transitions to net-zero energy and operations, organizations that have achieved deep insights from sensor to core, will have the ability to predict, implement and adapt to change. 

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 Where is Canada with hydrogen?

It’s in the early stages, but it’s happening now, says clean tech expert Bryan Watson.



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Could the words “gas station” disappear any time soon, with the rising number of vehicles running on sources other than fossil fuels?

Whereas electric vehicles are all too familiar, various companies, experts, and think-tanks say the newest fuel on the block will be hydrogen. It’s been the focus lately of new government investment, research, and so far, small-scale adoption. Among its many benefits, hydrogen’s vehicle exhaust is just water. 

Clean tech expert Bryan Watson, Founding Director of OCTIA (Ontario Clean Technology Industry Association), says that hydrogen is the next ‘it’ fuel.

“It’s early, but it is happening now. There are trucking companies, bus companies, dump truck companies, all of these are being… retrofit and they’re sort of the early stages of it, but it’s happening now.”

For example, Canadian Pacific Railway has recently completed a trial run, powering a train with hydrogen fuel in Calgary. Routes in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary, and through the Rockies will follow in coming months. 

And as part of a one-year pilot project two hydrogen buses will take passengers in Edmonton and nearby Strathcona County. Also in Edmonton, a hydrogen fuelling station is under construction for Alberta Motor Transport Association’s testing of semi-trucks on the highways.

The pace of innovation

A big question for the naysayers or cynics might be: What happens if hydrogen advances fast enough to replace the EV market, before that widespread adoption?

“I don’t think it’s an either-or argument,” said Watson. 

Hydrogen and batteries do similar things, he added, “but sometimes the way you’re using the asset makes a difference.” In mining, he explained, it’s better to have the higher energy output that hydrogen can sometimes produce, compared to some batteries. “Or maybe you don’t have the connectivity to the grid to be able to fast charge (electric vehicles) on a mine site. But you do have the ability to get hydrogen there.” 

He added that he has seen schematics for hybrids of hydrogen and battery to manage the different energy needs of a particular type of vehicle. “So we’re still calibrating the market to those technologies,” he said. “We’re literally redefining a whole part of our infrastructure.”

What about government support?

The Canadian government has stepped up to the plate in embracing this innovation, especially in what looks like a direct response to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in U.S. Congress last year, that provides incentives for clean energy projects — including hydrogen.

The Trudeau government announced its own plans, as outlined in Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s fall economic update. Previously, in 2020, the government released a hydrogen strategy. This 141-page document outlined, among several things, the intent to become a world-leading producer of hydrogen, with the goal of achieving zero-net emissions by 2050.

Watson, who is Vice President of Venbridge, said that there are some tax incentives for corporations to catch up to hydrogen. With the Canadian budget of 2022 came a variety of Clean Energy Incentives and Resource Sector Measures, like the Investment Tax Credit for Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS Credit, up to 60%) as well as a clean tech tax credit (up to 30%). And in the fall economic statement, he added, the hydrogen production tax credit was announced, rebating 18.5 to 40 percent. As of 2023’s budget, he said it includes the clean technology, manufacturing tax credits, and the clean electricity tax credits. 

EVs vs. hydrogen

In an in-depth look at EVs vs hydrogen, found that hydrogen-powered vehicles have some benefits that EVs do not. For starters, they have a 300-mile range, while EVs have a range of roughly 200 miles. In cold conditions, the EV range decreases, but hydrogen-powered vehicles do not. A car powered by hydrogen could take up to 10 minutes to get completely fueled, while an electric one can take up to 45 minutes, the report also said. 

“I’ve actually seen in some cases with battery electric vehicles… the local grid is not stable enough, or (the charge) would be too much of a draw for that grid… because the grid itself isn’t robust enough in some areas. So having a portable (hydrogen) power source makes sense,” said Watson, who is also Managing Director of CleanTech North.

Another big selling point for hydrogen fuel cells, is that it takes up a small fraction of the space an EV battery might. 

There are already local filling stations for hydrogen-powered vehicles — just a handful so far. The Canadian Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association says there’s one in the Greater Toronto Area, one in Quebec, three in Vancouver and one in Victoria

The latter two inspired British Columbia courier company, Geazone, to recently order 40 hydrogen-fueled Toyota Mirais. British Columbia’s government has committed $10 million to build more stations. 

Canada, for its part, is already one of the world’s top ten producers of hydrogen, a homegrown market of about $6 billion annually.

Scaling hydrogen production in Canada

Alberta has signaled that they want in on the action, issuing its 2021 Hydrogen Road Map. The province currently produces around 2.4 million tonnes of hydrogen per year, aiming to increase it to three million in the next six years. 

In 2021, Air Products Inc. — touted as the largest hydrogen producer in the world — signed a plan for a $1.3-billion net-zero hydrogen plant in Edmonton whose construction is “well underway” as of April, 2023. 

Nova Scotia, meanwhile, has a few plans in the works to produce more hydrogen fuel. 

Ultimately, all-natural fuels as a substitute for gasoline have been in use for some time. Hydrogen has a big head start, boosts from governments and corporations, and looks to be the answer — at least for now — to wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

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80% of electronic waste in Canada went “uncollected” and “unrecycled” in 2020

According to University of Waterloo researchers, the amount of electronic waste in Canada has more than tripled in the last 20 years.



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When you think of waste management and reduction, you might picture dump trucks of food waste, packaging, and of course — plastic straws. 

But a less discussed type of waste is building up in Canada: electronic waste, or e-waste, meaning electronics that no longer work or are needed. Examples include:

  • Computers
  • Televisions
  • Stereos
  • Fax and copy machines
  • Headphones and radios
  • Electric appliances
  • Other electronic products

The study reminds readers that electronic waste has a large number of hazardous materials in its composition, including: 

  • Mercury
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
  • Brominated flame retardants (BFRs)
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

Now, Canada doesn’t show up in the top 10 countries with the biggest e-waste generation. We’re looking at China, the US, and India as the top three. 

Still, a study by researchers at the University of Waterloo found that Canada’s e-waste tripled in the last two decades. 

Canada doesn’t have many up-to-date studies on national e-waste

Released in May 2023, this University of Waterloo study is reasonably named the “first comprehensive estimate of e-waste in Canada.” 

Researchers estimated e-waste figures based on data from import and export statistics, as well as in-use stocks of electrical and electronic equipment from 1971 to 2030. 

E-waste has tripled in the last twenty years in Canada

The study mentions how society has dramatically advanced with digitization and technology, resulting in newer electronic equipment by the year. 

However, this increase resulted in the simultaneous decommissioning of older electronic equipment because they become irrelevant or unusable faster. The result?

“Faster stockpiling of waste electrical and electronic equipment.”

Just how much waste are we talking? The study’s 60-year historical and projected period suggests a total of 29.1 million tonnes of e-waste, with consistent growth each year at 0.5%. 

But how did Canada fare in the years we have solid data for? Researchers note: 

  • 252 kilo tonnes in 2000
  • 954 kilo tonnes in 2020

While businesses account for more significant outputs of e-waste, the study calculated a per-capita e-waste generation of: 

  • 8.3kg in 2000
  • 25.4 kg in 2020
  • Estimated 31.5 kg in 2030

How to move forward with e-waste

The study’s data presents an opportunity for policymakers to better understand: 

  • Life cycle of electronic products
  • Reasonable targets for waste reduction
  • Resource circularity potential for e-waste management

Read the full University of Waterloo study.

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 Leading insurance company Chubb goes all in on AI

A look at how the billion-dollar insurance company plans to embrace AI in all business areas.



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Insurance claims aren’t supposed to take longer than a few weeks to settle — but some can take as long as several months. This is just one business challenge that AI helps insurance companies overcome.

And Chubb, one of the world’s biggest insurance companies, has taken note. 

Founded in 1882, Chubb is a leading insurance company based in Switzerland with offices worldwide — including a new tech services center in Greece. 

CEO Evan Greenberg recently shared a company-wide adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) on a larger scale with investors. 

The company’s newest services center in Thessaloniki, Greece, is expected to spearhead AI initiatives to improve digital transformation, efficiency, and customer experience. The common denominator? AI, specifically automation, machine learning, and cybersecurity modernization. 

So, what can AI do for the average insurance company?

  • Fraud detection: Insurance companies lose over $40 billion per year due to fraudulent claims, a contributor to increased premiums. Machine learning overcomes human limitations when detecting fraudulent indicators. The algorithms continuously improve based on data, which can save insurance companies tons of money. 
  • Risk assessment: Every insurance underwriter uses customer-provided data to assess risk and determine coverage accordingly. But if customers fabricate information, or if underwriters make mistakes, risk could either be over- or under-accounted for. AI helps companies minimize the chance of dishonesty seeping through by catching human-crafted answers versus accurate ones. 
  • Customer service and overall efficiency: Indeed, most people have a negative perception of insurance companies. But quicker claims, risk assessments, policy purchases, and settlements will support better customer experiences in the insurance industry — all thanks to a customer-centric shift powered by AI. Some companies are already using AI-powered chatbots to support customers in finding the most suitable policies for their needs and income. 
  • Labour savings: A double-edged sword, AI development in the insurance field will allow companies to hire fewer underwriters and agents, which saves on labour costs. Still, McKinsey points out that this shift would result in transitioning the agent’s role from handling “busy” work and “data collection” to “process facilitation and product educators.” 

Greenberg attributed AI to improved operations like underwriting, customer experience and service, marketing, and more. The benefits are fuelling the company’s shift to wider-spread adoption. 

Read the full story here

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