AI offers enormous potential for the energy industry and is a fundamental building block of the clean energy transition. It will lead to greater automation, saving money and driving operating efficiencies, the development of new products and services and - perhaps most importantly - enable a reduction in carbon emmissions. But the extent to which it will deliver the greatest possible returns for the energy industry will depend both on the acumen and involvement of senior executives to identify opportunities to create new value streams and ensure that projects progress from proof of concept stage, but also active and constructive engagement with regulators and policymakers.
Policymakers will have to walk a fine line between strong regulation to manage the known and as yet unknown risks of AI, while giving the young technology room to develop and providing the necessary incentives. And regulation on data access must protect consumer rights to privacy, which the Commission has recognised as a priority, but also respect companies’ legitimate interests and allow adequate access to data for solution providers. Somehow a compromise must be found that allows data to be anonymised, aggregated or otherwise sanitised so that it can be fed into digital interfaces without jeopardising consumer trust. Finding the ‘goldilocks’ level of regulation, ensuring the appropriate data is open and facilitating interoperability will be the key to success.
Narrow AI refers to the technology when it is able to handle just one particular task. General or strong AI is more complex. Applications of narrow AI will drive efficiencies in the short term, which will boost confidence in the technology. General AI projects will be more transformational but will take longer and will need to prove their maturity before scaling up. Complex decision-making required in the real world will need to be translated into AI language before we will be able to fully trust a machine to drive our cars, for example. But if trust can be established and ethical considerations are taken into account, the limits of what is possible with AI will likely be pushed to the boundaries of current human imagination.