Data treasure: Understanding power use in the ‘big data era’

Australia’s electricity sector is facing complex challenges and rapid transformation, with ageing infrastructure, increasing supply volatility and evolving consumer behaviours, combined with the trend towards decarbonisation. 

This is the second in a series of four articles that explore the work of Monash University researchers who are at the cutting edge of shaping the electricity grid of the future.

By DAVID McALPINE, 
science editor

A Monash University data scientist is delving behind the numbers to help reduce power usage.

Post-doctoral research fellow Dr Zahraa Abdallah is an expert in applying machine learning techniques to analyse data to solve industry problems.

“I work across different projects on how to use data science to solve real problems that we face in industry and to bridge the gap between industry and research, so it’s more a practical side of data science,” she says.

Dr Zahraa Abdallah looks at how to use data science to solve real world problems.

Machine learning is not new but its applications and power to solve complex problems are evolving rapidly. Everyday examples include internet search engine predictive typing, voice control and traffic optimisation.

“The learning process is to gain knowledge and to understand from this knowledge what your next action is,” Dr Abdallah explains.

Australia’s increasingly complex electricity grid is creating a gold-mine of data that can be used in Dr Abdallah’s research to understand consumer behaviour, optimise processes, reduce emissions and reduce costs for industry.

“We are in the big data era. We have smart meters that are collecting lots of data and this is treasure. We just need to apply the right techniques to understand what is going on in this data and understand the insights,” Dr Abdallah says.

“This area is a very hot area and every day we have something new that people are proposing and trying.”

Dr Abdallah is enthused that Monash’s Grid Innovation Hub, launched earlier this year, will foster new connections to industry and allow to her explore more problems with access to new data.

“Having a way of facilitating these connections, getting the right people in touch and getting the data used by research people, would be very helpful.”

“They need to share the data with people who can get insights out of it because these insights are much more valuable than the numbers.”

“I’m a research person, so every problem that no one has solved before is a challenge for me. It keeps me excited to find a solution.”

This article was written by David McAlpine and originally published in print and online by Monash Energy Materials and Systems Institute (MEMSI)