By Claire Fraser, Smarter Business
Artificial intelligence has breached the realms of sci-fi in recent years. In simple forms, it informs the technologies we use in our personal and business lives and its reach is expanding with new applications evolving every day. Big data is another evolving concept for modern businesses, with competitiveness relying on the collection and dissemination of – and strategic reaction to – high volumes of data.
There’s no disputing the transformative power of artificial intelligence and big data for business and our lives in general, but it also stands to affect global energy. What will the effect of these energy-intensive processes be and, against a backdrop of environmental concerns around fossil fuels and rising energy prices, how will it impact consumers?
What is artificial intelligence?
Very briefly, artificial intelligence is machine-based intellectual simulation through processes of learning, reasoning, and self-correction. Convenient every day examples include innovations like Siri, virtual assistants, and voice recognition technology – elements which have benignly slipped into our lives without drama. With AI progressing to include both technologies that are programmed to perform specific tasks, as well as those engineered to reason and problem-solve, AI is finding increasing application across a range of industries as a cost-saving and streamlining measure. The age of the self-driving car and robotics is upon us and it stands to have a revolutionary effect on commerce.
What is big data?
The definition of big data is along the lines of complex data which increases in variety, volume, and velocity. If you give any real thought to the sheer immensity of the data being generated from every online and real-life action and transaction, the future of business will be predicated on clever use of information. The value of the data collected is becoming an increasingly fundamental business asset allowing for analysis, forecasting, pre-emption, and reaction like never before, all of which impacts the customer experience, production, maintenance, security, and innovation for a competitive edge.
The cost of the future
When it comes to artificial intelligence and big data, it would appear there is no stopping the in-roads these are making into businesses of the future. However, with climate change and sustainability becoming key drivers for modern businesses, one has to wonder the hidden energy cost associated with this tech. Bitcoin mining drew global attention for its almost extreme energy usage. Will AI and big data do the same?
What powers AI and big data?
As artificial intelligence and big data grows in popularity and application, so too will the data centres required to power and store information. This process has already started with cloud-based technologies. A year ago, 7% of the world’s energy was used to service our digital lives – through server powering and cooling, as well as device manufacture and use – and this is going to increase exponentially year-on-year. Governments around the world are trying to regulate data centres, but will this regulation keep up with the resources required to meet the world’s growing demand for these technologies?
Will the explosion of data centres cause an energy crisis? Will the grid be able to even keep up with our needs? International companies who rely on big data are leading the charge, implementing new and more efficient technologies – and this is an encouraging starting point. The future data centre capacity requirements have no choice but to drive innovation for faster, more efficient compute systems to provide for energy-efficient processing.
What about the energy industry?
With AI ad big data playing a central role in a growing number of industries, it will most certainly have an effect on the energy industry too – and this could make a meaningful difference to consumers on the ground from a cost and supply perspective. AI stands to streamline forecasting for energy generation and demand – as well as weather patterns in the case of renewable advances. It also has the potential to manage the grid according to these forecasts.
On the ground, AI can also be used to monitor usage – informing reactive behaviour and habits for improved efficiency. This fits in well with the advent of a more empowered energy consumers in recent years, giving business owners the power to structure their usage around peak demand periods and other cost-affecting factors. Smarter Business has integrated this into their industry-leading Openview and Dataview programs, providing a whole-view perspective on business’s energy portfolios through transparent forecasting and reporting, which allow consumers to react for increased efficiency and savings.
Oil prices hit 11-month highs on tighter supplies, Fed assurance on low rates
By Florence Tan
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Oil prices rose for a fourth straight session on Thursday to the highest levels in more than 11 months, underpinned by monetary easing policies and lower crude production in the United States.
Brent crude futures for April gained 19 cents, 0.3%, to $67.23 a barrel by 0400 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for April was at $63.30 a barrel, up 8 cents, 0.1%.
Both contracts touched their highest since January earlier in the session with Brent at $67.44 and WTI at $63.67.
An assurance from the U.S. Federal Reserve that interest rates would stay low for a while boosted investors’ risk appetite and global financial markets.
“Comments from Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell, earlier in the week relating to the need for monetary policy to remain accommodative have probably helped, but sentiment in the oil market has also become more bullish, with expectations for a tightening oil balance,” ING analysts said in a note.
A rare winter storm in Texas has caused U.S. crude production to drop by more than 10%, or 1 million barrels per day (bpd) last week, the Energy Information Administration said. [EIA/S]
Fuel supplies in the world’s largest oil consumer could also tighten as its refinery crude inputs had dropped to the lowest since September 2008.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, is due to meet on March 4.
The group will discuss a modest easing of oil supply curbs from April given a recovery in prices, OPEC+ sources said, although some suggest holding steady for now given the risk of new setbacks in the battle against the pandemic.
Extra voluntary cuts by Saudi Arabia in February and March have tightened global supplies and supported prices.
(Reporting by Florence Tan)
Australian media reforms pass parliament after last-ditch changes
By Colin Packham and Swati Pandey
CANBERRA (Reuters) – The Australian parliament on Thursday passed a new law designed to force Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for content used on their platforms in reforms that could be replicated in other countries.
Australia will be the first country where a government arbitrator will decide the price to be paid by the tech giants if commercial negotiations with local news outlets fail.
The legislation was watered down, however, at the last minute after a standoff between the government and Facebook culminated in the social media company blocking all news for Australian users.
Subsequent amendments to the bill included giving the government the discretion to release Facebook or Google from the arbitration process if they prove they have made a “significant contribution” to the Australian news industry.
Some lawmakers and publishers have warned that could unfairly leave smaller media companies out in the cold, but both the government and Facebook have claimed the revised legislation as a win.
“The code will ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public-interest journalism in Australia,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said in a joint statement on Thursday.
The progress of the legislation has been closely watched around the world as countries including Canada and Britain consider similar steps to rein in the dominant tech platforms.
The revised code, which also includes a longer period for the tech companies to strike deals with media companies before the state intervenes, will be reviewed within one year of its commencement, the statement said. It did not provide a start date.
The legislation does not specifically name Facebook or Google. Frydenberg said earlier this week he will wait for the tech giants to strike commercial deals with media companies before deciding whether to compel both to do so under the new law.
Google has struck a series of deals with publishers, including a global content arrangement with News Corp, after earlier threatening to withdraw its search engine from Australia over the laws.
Several media companies, including Seven West Media, Nine Entertainment and the Australian Broadcasting Corp have said they are in talks with Facebook.
Representatives for both Google and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on Thursday.
(Reporting by Colin Packham in Canberra and Swati Pandey in Sydney; Writing by Jonathan Barrett; Editing by Leslie Adler, Stephen Coates and Jane Wardell)
OPEC+ to weigh modest oil output boost at meeting – sources
By Ahmad Ghaddar, Alex Lawler and Olesya Astakhova
LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – OPEC+ oil producers will discuss a modest easing of oil supply curbs from April given a recovery in prices, OPEC+ sources said, although some suggest holding steady for now given the risk of new setbacks in the battle against the pandemic.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, cut output by a record 9.7 million bpd last year as demand collapsed due to the pandemic. As of February, it is still withholding 7.125 million bpd, about 7% of world demand.
In January OPEC+ slowed the pace of a planned output increase to match weaker-than-expected demand due to continued coronavirus lockdowns. Saudi Arabia made extra voluntary cuts for February and March.
Three OPEC+ sources said an output increase of 500,000 barrels per day from April looked possible without building up inventories, although updated supply and demand balances that ministers will consider at their March 4 meeting will determine their decision.
“The oil price is definitely high and the market needs more oil to cool the prices down,” one of the OPEC+ sources said. “A 500,000 bpd increase from April is an option – looks like a good one.”
A rally in prices towards $67 a barrel, the highest since January 2020, the rollout of vaccines and economic recovery hopes have boosted confidence the market could take more oil. India, the world’s third biggest oil importer, has urged OPEC+ to ease production cuts.
Saudi Arabia’s voluntary cut of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) ends next month. While Riyadh hasn’t shared its plans beyond March, expectations in the group are growing that Saudi Arabia will bring back the supply from April, perhaps gradually.
Some OPEC+ members also anticipate that the Saudis will be willing to ease cuts further, but it was not clear if they had had direct communication with Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has warned producers to be “extremely cautious” and some OPEC members are wary of renewed demand setbacks. One OPEC country source said a full return of the Saudi barrels in April would mean the rest of OPEC+ should not pump more yet.
“The Saudi voluntary cut will be back to the market,” the source said. “I’m personally with no more relaxation, not until June.”
Russia, one of the OPEC+ countries which was allowed to boost output in February, is keen to raise supply and a source last week said Moscow would propose adding more oil if nothing changed before the March 4 virtual meeting.
(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal and Nidhi Verma; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
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