Accenture and Microsoft team on decarbonization

Accenture and Microsoft have unveiled a new contract win and a joint proposition to support decarbonization initiatives in the energy sector.

The two suppliers, along with their joint venture vehicle Avanade, have been engaged by UK-based SSE Renewables, to “apply technology to reimagine its operations”. Specifically, the vendors will deploy data analytics, AI and data visualization capabilities on the Microsoft Azure cloud to generate actionable operational and commercial insights from the client’s ever-increasing data volumes. 

The aim is to help SSE Renewables to improve the reliability and efficiency of its renewable generation assets, while also using AI to ensure that wildlife is not adversely affected by new windfarm developments. The initiative is being led by SSE Renewables’ Chief Sustainability Officer, who stressed the importance of working with multiple partners with different areas of expertise – in this case business and digital transformation – to tackle the complex technological, market and regulatory aspects of decarbonization.

Accenture and Microsoft have also mapped out several areas in which they are aiming to help UK energy firms on their decarbonization journeys. They will work to cut the cost of renewable generation by up to 25%, reducing the lifetime cost of assets through initiatives such as the use of remote inspection with drones and AI.

The suppliers are also looking to support the electrification of energy, enabling 50% of new electricity demand for transportation and heating to contribute to balancing a system where more than 70% of power generated comes from renewable sources. They are also looking to help businesses achieve a 20% reduction in the cost of meeting increasing electricity demand through new approaches to network design, construction and operation, that harness aspects such as digital twins. Lastly, the two companies will also work on issues such as open industry data and connected workforce. 

PAC’s View: This is an interesting move from two of the vendors at the forefront of the crossover between decarbonization and digital transformation. Granted, many of the companies’ joint propositions apply a “decarbonization” lens to a lot of the “smart” asset management initiatives in which energy companies have been investing for some time. But it helps to clearly position the value that the alliance can bring to the table from the perspective of the increasingly empowered Chief Sustainability Officer. The move is also timely with many UK companies doubling down on their Zero Carbon commitments in the run-up to the COP26 climate conference in November. 

Both companies have aggressive decarbonization ambitions of their own, but they have also been on the front foot in adapting their portfolios to support external customers. 

Accenture launched a dedicated sustainability services practice last year and more recently launched an alliance with Salesforce to help organizations measure and manage their carbon footprint and report climate data. Meanwhile, Microsoft has announced major engagements with oil majors BP and Shell to help them accelerate the transformation of their businesses around renewable energy sources. 

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