The growing field of energy informatics
Meet Hwei-Ming Chung, a computer scientist doing energy research, with three recent acceptances to IEEE journals under his belt.
Chung is a Doctoral Research Fellow with Digital Infrastructure and Security (DIS) at the Department of Informatics, UiO. He started his academic career in Taiwan, where he received the B.S. degree from the Department of Electrical Engineering and the M.S. degree from the Institute of Communications Engineering, National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung, in 2014 and 2016, respectively.
During the first half year of his master studies, Chung focused mainly on wireles communication technology.
– Later, my supervisor led a project related to the electric vehicle (EV) charging control, and then I was assigned to this project. That was my first venture into energy informatics. In the second year, I had a chance to participate in an exchange program to Telecom SudParis in France. I cooperated with the professor there to finish my master thesis, and it was published in an IEEE journal, Chung recounts.
Creating smarter power systems
After submitting his master thesis, Chung was a research assistant at the Academia Sinica, Taiwan, and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) in 2017.
– After that, I joined the Department of Informatics, University of Oslo, as a PhD candidate, he says, and elaborates on his research area:
– Energy informatics is about a combination of traditional power systems and modern information and communications technology (ICT). In other words, we are trying to use modern technologies in order to make power systems smarter, as well as using renewable energy more efficiently. As such, energy informatics can be used to tackle the challenges of global warming and climate change.
Over the last few years, the Department of Informatics and UiO:Energy has helped establish energy informatics as a new important field of research at UiO.
– This initiative is headed by Frank Eliassen, and two more full-time staff members have now been hired, in addition to a number of associated staff, PhDs and master students, explains Vebjørn Bakken, Director of UiO:Energy.
– Through collaboration with both national and international universities, as well as Norwegian industry, an attractive balance between cutting edge research and relevance has been struck, he says.
EV charging, energy scheduling and wind turbines
When asked about the impressive achievement of recently having three articles approved for publication in top IEEE journals, Chung is quite modest.
– It takes a long time for manuscripts to be reviewed, so it is just a coincidence that they all were accepted at the same time, he says, and gives credit to his supervisors for providing many useful suggestions and careful revision.
His three IEEE-articles deal with the topics of electric vehicle (EV) charging, energy scheduling for households, and automated inspection of wind turbines.
– In the first article, I look at how to efficiently charge EVs with renewable energy. As the generation of renewable energy is stochastic, we need to overcome this problem, he says and continues:
– The second article is about using Machine Learning Algorithms to schedule energy consumption of various household appliances. I have attended a Machine Learning course at UiO, and therefore wanted to apply this to my research topics. As for the third article, it elaborates on how to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for the inspection of wind turbines.
A key enabler for future energy systems
The debate of basic versus applied research is a recurring one, and relevant to the field of energy informatics. Vebjørn Bakken at UiO:Energy feels that the linear model of basic research leading to applications, has generally been abandoned.
– There is in general no clear line between one and the other, and the connection may very well be the inverse – applications that suddenly open up new venues of basic research.
Hwei-Ming Chung´s view is that energy informatics can be both basic and applied research.
– We carry out basic research when we look into the design of power electronics and develop new materials to be used in solar panels and batteries. On the other hand, such research also provides concrete solutions to practical challenges.
– For example, we use lithium-ion batteries for our phones and electric vehicles. It is harmful to the environment, so our research into new and eco-friendly materials helps replace it. Likewise, we study how to efficiently charge EVs. The outcome of that are reduced electricity costs for EV owner, and the avoidance of electricity system peak loads.
Vebjørn Bakken concludes:
– UiO:Energy is very much looking forward to follow the growing field of energy informatics and talented young researchers like Chung in the coming years. This field is a key enabler for the energy systems of the future, otherwise we will simply not be able to integrate the required amounts of renewable energy while matching supply and demand.