Going Beyond Digital Twins
Updated: 4 days ago
Scenario Modeling is the next step for the utility industry, moving past the simple predictions of Digital Twins into anticipating and preparing for different potential futures.
Basing preparation for the future on what has already happened in the past is counter-intuitive. It’s the equivalent of driving a car by only looking in the rear-view mirror. While it is important to check that mirror occasionally, you won’t get where you want to go without being focused on opportunities and obstacles in front of you, rather than behind you.
"Basing preparation for the future on what has already happened in the past is counter-intuitive."
Despite this, Digital Twins, which are built from and fully operate on historical data, are taking over as the sole solution to predicting utility maintenance needs, risks and future hurdles. While they do provide solutions and assist with current issues, the unprecedented changes and pace at which the utility industry is evolving shows that one cannot ever assume that tomorrow’s problems will mirror today’s, let alone yesterday’s. This is why introducing Scenario Modeling into regular business practices is so crucial.
Scenario Modeling takes the current situation and highlights what potential future outcomes could be. This is based on different possible behaviours or shifts in identified variables, such as environmental factors or changing political landscapes, that could affect the scenario. The scenarios typically include an optimistic, pessimistic, and a selection of modest potential futures. Digital Twins cannot do this, instead making predictions about the future based on what their virtual model shows, a model that has been built using existing historical data.
Scenario Modeling does not make predictions, it derives a set of several potential futures as well as demonstrates how these possibilities could come to pass. It does not expect past observations to remain valid in the future. It aims to show you the futures that you haven’t thought of yet.
Companies across the globe are seeing the inherent value in Scenario Modelling. Oil giant Shell is one such case, having been ahead of the game for 50 years with an entire department dedicated to Scenario Modeling. Shell’s department describes the importance of Scenario Modeling as “understanding where we are today and exploring what could happen in the future”.
"One cannot ever assume that tomorrow’s problems will mirror today’s, let alone yesterday’s."
With the current changes in environmental factors and the impact of rapid advancements in technology (think electric cars and smart grids!), industries like energy utilities stand to gain a lot from preparation for the future. An example of how a business could use Scenario Modeling is as follows:
“The company Example Co builds rural power lines in an area that is a high-risk bushfire
zone. That area has a 40% chance of a bushfire during summer. If Example Co used a digital twin modelling system to plan vegetation clearance and line sag in their powerlines based on that historical data, they can lower the chances of their power lines causing a bushfire now.”
“However, by using Scenario Modeling, Example Co can factor in that temperatures may rise due to the predicted changes in climate over the next few decades, and the chances of a bushfire will increase. The heat would affect the sag of their power lines beyond what they’ve experienced in the past, meaning they will require more clearance than they do now.”
“Instead of causing future bushfires and rebuilding entire systems after the subsequent devastation, Example Co can use their Scenario Modeling to adjust designs now. This proactively reduces the chances of economic loss and wasted resources, thus saving Example Co from future potential hardship.”
To not factor in that the world is changing, and at an unprecedented rate, is akin to a death-sentence for companies. This is especially true of businesses centred around technology or energy, or ones relying solely on the history-based predictions of a Digital Twin. Scenario Modeling can be used to prepare your company for the challenges and changes ahead. It helps to anticipate problems and allows you to take advantages of new area in which to innovate. Using Scenario Modeling to look ahead is what equips your business to face the possibilities of the future – while what’s in the rear-view mirror gets left behind.