M&A between energy and artificial intelligence firms soared this year

Courtney Goldsmith
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BDO says AI and renewables are the perfect storm for M&A (Source: Getty)

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) between energy and artificial intelligence (AI) or big data companies shot up over the past year as renewable energy firms work to better manage fluctuating production.

Business adviser BDO found M&A activity among the two groups rose 50 per cent over the past 12 months, with an average reported deal value jumping from $500m (£380m) to $3.5bn.

The International Energy Agency has predicted renewables will be the fastest-growing source of electricity generation over the next five years, but current energy infrastructure and management systems are unable to accommodate the fluctuations in production from wind and solar, BDO said.

The report said: "In these uncertain times, energy businesses adapt their strategy and look to artificial intelligence and big data to improve energy forecasts.

"The acquisitions, scores of energy start-ups and new solutions hitting the market make the marriage of machine learning and renewables a very promising space to watch and - one that often leads to quick-fire M&A."

Read more: This startup is using AI to tackle rising UK energy prices

(Source: BDO)

While the adoption of new technologies to improve prediction models is slow, BDO said the utilities sector is starting to see a "marked" shift where both the production and distribution sides were adapting.

The firm pointed to a number of recent acquisitions in the sector, including smart metering firm Itron's purchase of demand response provider Comverge for about $100m. Comverge uses machine learning to improve demand forecasts.

Major tech firms like IBM and Google are also investing in the space. IBM Research has already partnered with 200 companies that use its solar and wind forecasting technology.

"Making the demand for electricity ‘intelligent’ means that vital capacity can be provided when and where it is most needed and pave the way for a cleaner, more affordable, and more secure energy system," BDO said.

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