Energy and utilities organizations in Canada are navigating an unprecedented drive to transform for a new future of services and operations. CGI’s 2023 Voice of Our Clients research shows that Canadian organizations are focused on business priorities that include enhanced cybersecurity, optimizing business operations, and tapping into the power of data and analytics. Also top-of-mind are enhanced cost management, the evolving regulatory landscape and the journey toward carbon neutrality.
AI will enable a new future for energy and utilities
Where is AI already delivering pivotal and unprecedented capabilities and benefits in our work with leading organizations? Ground-breaking use cases are rapidly multiplying in Canada and beyond. Amid the need for resilience to keep operations and assets running on time and securely to avoid costly disruptions, for example, AI is taking monitoring and reporting to new levels – while offering unprecedented predictive capabilities to instantly reveal potential dangers demanding immediate action. CGI specialists helped a leading sector business that needed to streamline operations and optimize processes to improve service. By implementing AI, the business was able to compile, and provide secure online access to, thousands of training manuals and documents that employees rely on daily. Technicians working in the field, for example, can now share queries and information requests with an AI assistant by phone to significantly accelerate service.
AI is also playing a significant role through demand planning and logistics optimization across supply chains. Businesses are forecasting the need for materials and managing logistics as never before, improving cost-efficiency and energy use during transportation to decrease carbon footprints. Not to be underestimated is soaring demand for electric power amid the rapid proliferation of electric vehicles and charging facilities. The renewable-energy movement also includes digital transformation of energy networks – making them ‘bidirectional’ by enabling households to generate electricity via solar-panel technology and inject it into the power grid. AI is poised to play a crucial role in managing fast-evolving power needs and capabilities.
AI is also unlocking amazing new capabilities involving the use of digital twins to manage assets by mimicking their use and simulating scenarios in order to optimize operations, including the need to continually enhance employee safety across various workplace settings. In our work with a major power utility in Spain, our AI specialists provided informed insights and expertise on how the firm’s photovoltaic plants could take advantage of AI. The project included innovative use of drones to inspect facilities and instantly generate hundreds of images to monitor performance and detect thermal defects via digital dashboards.
In our work with a leading oil-and-gas industry organization operating thousands of sites in Canada and across North America, there was a pressing need to reduce rising production costs by modernizing operations and increasing cloud-based capabilities enterprise wide. To implement a consistent cloud strategy, we optimized the cloud environment by reducing duplication, redistributing resources and organizing what remained into a coherent structure. The final step was to implement a corporate cloud-governance structure. By working with Microsoft and the client, we produced the necessary policy documentation and held workshops to train staff on the new governance standards and expectations.
As innovation races ahead, AI will transform cybersecurity
Make no mistake – as energy and utilities organizations pursue digital transformation and AI, cybersecurity is no longer just an IT issue. It has climbed up the business agenda – challenging boards and business leaders on the need to implement revolutionary new tools as potentially crippling cyber threats proliferate. We are seeing sophisticated phishing campaigns that distribute fake emails and texts that look remarkably authentic. Employees tapping into these ticking time bombs can set off an alarming array of impacts that instantly paralyze the entire business. Ransomware attacks are also soaring – often making global headlines for their unprecedented disruption and cost. Businesses are also facing serious new risks as the rapid proliferation of IOT devices dramatically increases threat surfaces and exposure to disruptive attacks.
We are showing how AI fits into the cybersecurity picture and where best to dedicate investment toward secure operations. This includes new approaches to identity and access protocols, including zero-trust defence measures enterprise wide and across supply chains. The need to optimize resilience is particularly critical for this sector amid its reliance on complex operational technology and control systems. A significant portion of Canadian organizations have outdated legacy technology in their landscape and recovering from disruptive attacks can cost millions of dollars and the loss of valuable time. Secure AI and automation tools are the way forward and we are seeing more interest on this front among infrastructure companies and operators of pipelines, distribution terminals and railways.
Key to success is being able to detect issues at ‘machine speed’ using AI – identifying and responding to a cyber threat as it unfolds. Automation is transforming incident response and recovery capabilities. In this area, we are one of the top 100 organizations that have joined forces with Microsoft in its innovative Security Copilot Early Access program, empowering businesses to detect hidden patterns, harden defenses and respond instantly to incidents. We are encouraging Canadian and global organizations we work with to take a business-led approach to cybersecurity and the power of AI to become future ready. Our view is that we need to double secure AI adoption in the next three years to modernize data use, optimize productivity and respond to fast-evolving business and marketplace demands.
Close collaboration with research companies and energy consultants will go far in accelerating the journey to a new future that’s cyber-secure. As sector business increasingly explore and implement the power of AI, CGI is ambitiously building on our trusted AI foundation. We recently announced plans to invest $1 billion over the next three years to support continued expansion of our AI services and solutions.