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IEA: Digitalization and Energy 2017

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Digital technologies are everywhere, affecting the way we live, work, travel, and play. Digitalization is helping improve the safety, productivity, accessibility, and sustainability of energy systems around the world. But it is also raising new security and privacy risks, while disrupting markets, businesses, and workers.


Digitalization & Energy is the International Energy Agency’s first comprehensive effort to depict how digitalization could transform the world’s energy systems. The report examines the impact of digital technologies on energy demand sectors, looks at how energy suppliers can use digital tools to improve operations, and explores the transformational potential of digitalization to help create a highly interconnected energy system.


This report seeks to provide greater clarity to decision makers in government and industry on what digitalization means for energy, shining a light on its enormous potential and most pressing challenges. It also lays out no-regret recommendations to help steer the world towards a more secure, sustainable, and smarter energy future.


In respect to buildings, the analysis shows that digitalization could cut energy use by about 10% by using real-time data to improve operational efficiency. Smart thermostats can anticipate the behaviour of occupants (based on past experience) and use real-time weather forecasts to better predict heating and cooling needs. Smart lighting can provide more than just light when and where it is needed; light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can also include sensors linked to other systems, for example, helping to tailor heating and cooling services.


The report concludes with 10 no-regrets policy recommendations that governments can take to prepare, namely:


  • Build digital expertise within their staff.
  • Ensure appropriate access to timely, robust, and verifiable data.
  • Build flexibility into policies to accommodate new technologies and developments.
  • Experiment, including through “learning by doing” pilot projects.
  • Participate in broader inter-agency discussions on digitalization.
  • Focus on the broader, overall system benefits.
  • Monitor the energy impacts of digitalization on overall energy demand.
  • Incorporate digital resilience by design into research, development and product manufacturing.
  • Provide a level playing field to allow a variety of companies to compete and serve consumers better.
  • Learn from others, including both positive case studies as well as more cautionary tales.

For further information or to download the report, please visit the relevant IEA webpage at the link provided below.