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How the US energy sector innovates despite business environment

Feb 09, 2021
5 min read
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Joseph Dischinger, TechnologyCatalogue.com US partner talks about how the US energy sector is managing to navigate the current business environment

COVID-19 is taking a toll on the global energy sector, and the United States was not spared. Demands are down and there are pressures for suppliers to hold back outputs to support prices. 

With a volatile global market and uncertain national political situation, there is a need for companies to future-proof operations and be on top of solutions and strategies available in the market, including technological solutions. Renewables need to further drive their unit cost down to compete with traditional energy sources, while traditional energy companies see the need to diversify and explore emerging business streams.

To shed light on how innovations are playing a role in a challenging business environment that US energy companies are in now, US partner Joseph Dischinger talks through some issues. 

We know that the energy sector is walking a tightrope now given the instability brought by COVID-19 and demand uncertainties. Do you think there is still space for companies to introduce innovations?

Absolutely, but Innovation is a big bucket.  Is the innovation quickly implemented and going to have an immediate material impact or is it a long-term expensive investment?  It has really been a balance sheet exercise this past year I think for most in the energy industry. There is tremendous pressure on cost reduction.  How do we reduce costs immediately to stay in business? Companies tend to focus on reducing salaries, wages and benefits because these are dominate costs. Work still needs to be done, but now with less resources. How can we do more with less? There is a focus on automation, digitalisation, and data analytics/machine learning because there is a perception these have the greatest potential to rapidly reduce cost and keep the business going. 

But companies need to continue to think about the future and plan what to do when things are more profitable. They need to be ready to move quickly when the business environment improves to invest in longer term innovations, otherwise they will be behind competition. And this is where technological innovations come into play.

How can we execute a fast and smooth transition in the business units. Not all companies, especially these days, have access to information needed to make the right decisions. Nor do they have the time to go through each of the technological options available in the market. Recognising the right innovation is a huge challenge.

So, the question now is: how can they make sure they get it right on selection and deployment?

This is where technology valuation methods are important and yet still a challenge in the energy sector. Companies need to ensure they conduct a good inventory of available technologies in the market, study the reliability of chosen technologies and ensure appropriateness based on company needs. Choosing an effective innovation to be successful is often times dependent on a company’s ability to deploy it effectively to make a positive impact ahead of competition.

This process, at every level, can be painstaking and time consuming. In some cases, there is a need to share risks with other companies, even with your competitors. In data analytics, for instance, it might be critical to pool anonymised data from the industry to have a statistically meaningful dataset for machine learning.  Any one company might not have enough data to create meaningful models. These factors can be barriers to technology uptake, and most companies are missing the opportunity to benefit from innovations available in the market today.

Introducing technological innovations can seem like an impossible task, but it is doable with the right partner that can either take charge or assist you in selecting the right technology and deploying it with highest chances of success.

With all the mentioned factors, what could be the best way to be up-to-date with technological and industry innovations without spending too much time and money?

The idea of traveling for tech exhibitions or conferences today is still a major challenge, it was even before COVID. The level of effort needed to stay ahead of the fast-changing technological environment requires a lot of effort.  Just attending doesn’t do the trick, knowledge management and intelligence management of technologies just as critical as recognizing technology itself. Yet in challenging times like this, most companies cannot afford to maintain a team to do just that.

By crowdsourcing their technological needs and solutions, companies are making the world work for them. With a global platform such as TechnologyCatalogue.com, technology providers can parse their technologies into themes on the platform for you. Technologies that are all over the world and are not accessible through conferences or exhibits are all in an electronic catalogue within reach. Companies from other industries are able to showcase their technologies that can be new, but relevant and appropriate to the needs of the energy sector. Companies can enjoy a portal, current and evergreen, updated by suppliers.  With a proprietary ring fenced platform, you can manage your interactions, share ideas and share newly found technologies within your organization. You can also have access to external reviews of tech experts and end-users who have experience deploying the technology.

What is strategic about a partner like TechnologyCatalogue.com is that they can also develop filters for your company based on your unique needs and focus areas. A list of technologies can be prepared after a series of interviews with company executives on what their business is and what challenges they want to address. This list will contain readiness level and business impact metrics, among other indicators to give the company as much information as needed to make decisions.

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