Energy data reveals sectors that suffered from COVID-19 – electricity usage of accommodation and office buildings has fallen significantly
The significance of data utilisation increases constantly as the energy sector is moving towards a carbon-neutral future. Progressive use of data may have a wide social impact not only on the environment, but also on healthcare services. Energy data shows that the service sector in Helsinki was hit hardest a year ago at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and electricity consumption has still not returned to the normal level.
Helen Electricity Network, which is responsible for electricity distribution in Helsinki, has more than 400,000 customers. Every customer has an electricity meter that measures the consumed and produced amount of electricity by the hour. A huge number of meter readings are taken, up to ten million a day.
“The customers’ electricity consumption reflects the state of society very well. The service sector uses just over half of electricity in Helsinki, and the data shows that especially the accommodation and office buildings have seen a significant fall in electricity consumption during the exceptional situation that started in March last year,” says Markus Lehtonen, Managing Director of Helen Electricity Network.
Electricity consumption in offices fell by 15 per cent in March–April 2020, and even in late 2020 it was 6–7 per cent below the normal level. Electricity consumption in the accommodation business decreased by as much as 50 per cent in spring 2020. In the summer, electricity consumption recovered slightly, but at the turn of the year it was still down by one-fifth on previous years.
As a result of working from home instead of the office, electricity consumption in homes has risen by 5 per cent since last year. Electricity consumption by industry in Helsinki is low and, based on the data, the exceptional situation has not had much of an impact on industry.
Significance of data is increasing – customers reap the rewards
With data and artificial intelligence, energy companies can develop services and production processes to be even more flexible and efficient. The energy company Helen has focused on the utilisation of data and artificial intelligence, e.g. by investing in the Dutch growth company Gradyent, which optimises district heating systems with the aid of artificial intelligence.
“Helen is traditionally known as an energy company, but data plays an increasingly larger part of the company’s future. We use data and artificial intelligence in many ways. For example, with artificial intelligence we have managed to improve our district heat consumption forecasts by 30 per cent. By using more accurate forecasts, we ensure that we produce just the right amount of electricity and heat, sufficiently but not in excess,” says Helen’s Chief Digital Officer Tuomas Teuri.
Ordinary energy users reap the highest benefits of digitalisation in the energy sector. With the digital services of energy companies, customers receive services around the clock. For example, with the Oma Helen mobile app, Helen’s customers can monitor their electricity consumption and manage their contracts and billing with no hassle.
Electricity network companies utilise electricity consumption data, e.g. in the planning of the electricity network and in foresight. Data can be used for forecasting the development of electricity consumption by region and consumer segment. For example, the number of electric vehicles and the amount of electricity needed for charging are monitored closely in Helen Electricity Network. According to calculations, if the number of electric vehicles were to increase to half of all the cars in Helsinki, electricity consumption would rise by just under 10 per cent.