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CERAWeek 2022 was an exceptional opportunity for the global energy ecosystem to come together and share diverse perspectives on key issues and build relationships that will drive collaborative co-innovation critical for the industry. It was truly motivating to see the community gather in Houston and to connect with customers, partners, and the Microsoft team. I know I came back committed to tackling the challenges we are facing and hope that those who participated did too. Amid the turbulence and uncertainty in the world currently, the conference heightened the sense of urgency to act, collaborate, and do more.

At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. While we are proud of the progress the energy industry has made, there is more work to do to meet our climate commitments. Challenges present opportunities to innovate and create new solutions. And if CERAWeek 2022 was any indication, the industry is determined to achieve net zero faster. Reflecting on conversations with customers and partners, the panel discussions, and innovation sessions at the Agora and the Microsoft booth, three recurring themes emerged which are critical for the energy transition: strong partnerships, scalable and secure data, and a digital-first workforce. 

1. Success relies on expanding collaboration across energy customers and partners

CERAWeek kicked off with U.S. special envoy for climate change John Kerry calling on the energy industry to cooperate and help the global economy in this “defining moment for this century.” He urged the industry to close the gap between climate ambition and climate action to shore up much-needed energy security and energy transition goals and to focus on 2030, not just 2050.

For the industry to achieve its decarbonization commitments and zero-carbon energy 24/7, it is critical we expand the energy ecosystem and embrace new ideas, players, and partners. There are organizations new to the energy industry that have had success driving solutions in other industries. Given the tremendous effort needed for the energy transition, there is ample opportunity to expand the energy ecosystem and welcome new players. Partnerships help de-risk and speed time to market and help fill solution portfolio gaps.

Microsoft has a legacy of building strong public-private partnerships and has worked with governments and corporations large and small to help advance their net-zero ambitions. We demonstrate this firsthand with our customers and partners and the solutions we have co-innovated and co-developed with them. For example, the Northern Lights project is a joint effort between the Norwegian government, Equinor, Shell, and Total which is moving the needle on decarbonization.

Every organization has the potential to introduce the next big idea or solution that reduces carbon emissions or increases clean energy generation. No single entity has all the answers and we can learn from each other and co-innovate. The stronger the partnerships we develop, the faster we ideate and deploy solutions to get to net zero.

Microsoft values the relationships we have built across the energy ecosystem and welcomes new partnerships that have yet to be formed. The challenges we face need the efforts and innovation of many.

2. Underpinning technology innovation needed for zero carbon is scalable and secure data in the cloud

Another recurring theme at CERAWeek was technology’s role in accelerating decarbonization. Data, AI, and cloud technology enable the energy transition and help companies decarbonize at scale. Whether it’s integrating renewable energy sources into a company’s power generation mix or reducing fugitive emissions from the Permian Basin, companies are increasing their investment in AI to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs.

How should companies be thinking about data, one of their most critical assets? With many companies drowning in untapped data, how should they make sense of the mountain of data and make it actionable? The power of the cloud is that it makes data scalable and accelerates the path to insights, actions, and results.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm called for protecting the energy supply chain and needing to be “shields up” when it comes to cybersecurity. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Richard Glick raised the need for a more resilient grid where utilities have a system to monitor intrusions and can protect against supply chain, hardware, and software threats.

In the “Technologies for Zero Carbon” session I had a lively conversation with our partners Ashok Belani of Schlumberger and Gwenaelle Avice-Huet of Schneider Electric where we discussed the need for more partnerships and new technologies to solve complex energy issues together, whether it’s cloud and AI to scale decarbonization or protecting data and assets against cyber threats.

As energy companies digitize and migrate to the cloud, the number of connected assets exponentially increases along with the need for more data security and protection. Digitization heightens the focus on cybersecurity because the more data you have, the more vulnerable you are to security threats. Energy companies across the value chain need to protect themselves from supply chain threats, both around data and hardware.

3. Transforming the energy workforce with digital is real and accelerating

The talent crunch is being felt especially hard in the energy sector as companies undergo digital transformation and compete with other sectors for technology workers. With just about every company digitizing their operations and enterprise, the demand for technology workers is higher than it’s ever been and the need will continue to rise.

How should a company approach talent management—attracting, training, and retaining employees—to ensure they’re building a workforce for the future? The solution may not lie just in hiring new talent but in upskilling your existing workforce and leveraging digital tools to increase productivity and collaboration across your enterprise. Empowering workers with digital solutions means they’re more connected, productive, and happier. I’m encouraged to see this growing trend and the energy industry’s frontline workers using technology to enable their workforce, reduce downtime, and improve employee satisfaction.  

The energy transition is increasing the pace of change and technology adoption for workers across all parts of the energy industry. Energy frontline workers welcome the changes technology is driving and the job opportunities available to them—while improving safety in their day-to-day work.   

Staying on pace to a net-zero energy future

CERAWeek’s theme, “Pace of Change: Energy, Climate, and Innovation,” effectively captured the essence of evolving global events and what our industry needs to focus on to continue driving decarbonization. There is a cleaner future ahead for the energy industry. With a continued focus on innovation, accelerating digital transformation, and strengthening the relationships we’ve been building, we can make net zero a reality.

Read more about how Microsoft partners with energy companies to accelerate digital transformation.

To learn more about Microsoft for Energy, visit our future of energy industry solutions website.