Digitisation is affecting more and more industries. While energy has been key to all industrial revolution so far, not all parts of the energy industry may have as yet fully realised how much the current digital industrial revolution will be transforming the energy sector. A recent conference of the Institute for Mining and Energy Law (IBE) at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, addressed the emerging subject of the “Digitisation of the Energy Industry”. I covered “From Industry 4.0 to Energy 4.0: Future Business Models and Legal Relations“.

The term “Industry 4.0” (Industrie 4.0) is a buzzword used widely in German speaking countries for the fourth industrial revolution currently taking place. This fourth industrial revolution was also the subject of this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos. Other terms frequently used in this context are cyber-physical systems, internet of things (IoT), smart factory, smart product, big data, cloud, machine to machine (M2M).

Industry in general has made great progress in recognising the importance of this development, and that we are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and relate to one another. The energy industry is getting increasingly involved in this as well. Energy 4.0 is one of the key areas that the German government has identified as part of its Digital Agenda 2014 – 2017. It is also an important area for the European Commission’s DG Connect, as Mercé Griera I Fisa’s presentation “A Digital Single Market for Europe: Challenges facing the Energy Sector” at the Bochum IBE conference showed.

Energy 4.0 is likely to be at least as disruptive as the current transition towards more renewable energy in many countries. This all comes at a time, when the energy industry is struggling with this transition, for example the Energiewende in Germany. It is happening at a time, when other industries are already in the process of realising what potential and what risk are associated with Industry 4.0.

Discussions at the Bochum IBE conference showed that it will be challenging, exciting and necessary to find solutions to the legal challenges that this upcoming revolution will surely bring.