Automation in Energy Transaction Management: Friend or Foe?

March 13, 2024

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The media is rife with rumors and fearmongering about automation—and its über-embodiment, artificial intelligence (AI)—replacing human endeavor.

This fear, often encapsulated by the term "technological unemployment," is not a new phenomenon.

Throughout history, technological innovations have been met with resistance—and sometimes outright hostility—as they have threatened established ways of working and living.

One of the first instances of tension between technological progress and workforce displacement took place during the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A group of English textile workers known as the Luddites became infamous for destroying weaving machinery as a form of protest because they believed the machines would replace their skilled labor, leaving them without work.

The recent acceleration in computerized automation and AI has impacted societies around the globe, rekindling debate on the future of work, economic disparities, and the very essence of human contribution in the workforce.

A recent Pew Research Study[1] found that a majority of citizens across ten nations had a concern or fear of automation.

Closer to home, the automation of energy trading and transaction management has stirred up similar emotions.

Will the sector fall prey to the “rise of the machines” or is automation an escape hatch from rote tasks and data overwhelm?


Some Historical Context

Despite workers’ persistent fears, history has shown that technological advances often lead to an increase in worker productivity and the creation of new industries and jobs.

The personal computer revolutionized the workplace by automating tasks that were previously time-consuming and labor-intensive.

This both increased efficiency and paved the way for the development of new sectors like information technology and digital marketing, creating millions of new jobs.

The internet has similarly transformed the global economy, heralding the dawn of e-commerce, online services, and the gig economy.

Technology, in these cases, has acted as a catalyst for growth and employment diversification, rather than a force for job elimination.

However, it's undeniable that technology has also replaced certain jobs.

Automation in manufacturing, for example, has led to a significant reduction in the need for manual labor.

Similarly, advancements in AI and machine learning have begun to automate tasks previously thought to depend on human intelligence, such as data analysis, customer service, and some aspects of journalism and content creation.

This represents a complex challenge.

On the one hand, these technologies promise unprecedented efficiency, cost reduction, and even the potential to perform tasks beyond human capabilities.

On the other, they create valid concerns about job displacement, with people who perform routine, repetitive tasks seeming particularly at risk.

History suggests that the key to addressing these challenges lies in adaptation and policy.

Education and training play critical roles in transitioning workforces to new job functions and new industries.

Moreover, it's important to recognize the potential of technology to create new job opportunities.

The focus should be on leveraging technologies to augment human capabilities rather than replace them, enriching jobs rather than rendering them obsolete.


Automation in Practice

Automation looks different, depending on your level within an organization.

High level executives—and CFOs in particular—are incentivized to drive up efficiency. They’re looking for the best output-to-work ratio possible to help maximize margins and throughput.

In the energy trading industry, this sets alarm bells ringing for those doing front-line work, such as traders, schedulers, and accountants.

However, while there are anecdotal examples that support these concerns, the weight of evidence suggests that automation does not reduce headcount.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, automation can, in practice, lead to hiring.

According to Harvard Business Review[2], automation more often acts as a force multiplier—allowing teams to produce more—rather than as a replacement for staff.

Furthermore, automation can remove the repetitive, burdensome tasks that generally consume a disproportionate amount of staff time and weigh on employee morale.

That effort can be redirected toward more productive tasks that create greater value, leading to higher job satisfaction and employee recognition.


Automation in the Energy Sector

Spoiler alert: Automation is generally a big plus in the energy sector.

It leads to higher output for producers, stronger margins for marketers and brokers, and lower energy prices for domestic and industrial consumers.

By replacing repetitive, manual entry tasks with automation, businesses can significantly accelerate routine processes while simultaneously reducing the risk of errors.

They can also free up smart people to focus on more challenging tasks—including those that computer algorithms are still less capable of handling than humans.

Regardless of your role within the energy sector, automation is likely to represent an opportunity rather than a threat—provided you embrace it appropriately.

Dharmesh Shah, CTO at the marketing automation firm, HubSpot, asks how one might read the sentence: “You are competing with AI.”

Did you interpret it as competing against AI, or competing using AI?

If you picked the first option (“against”), he recommends shifting your mindset to the second alternative.

Seizing the opportunity to apply new technology might enhance your work or even allow you to become an expert in a new field.

Rejecting new technology is likely to drop you into the relegation zone, at risk of being replaced by someone more adept at the new way of working.


The Bottom Line

The future of work will be shaped by our ability to innovate technologically, socially, and economically.

Whoever finds the most effective ways of harnessing automation and AI—while mitigating their potential downsides—will come out ahead.

This holds true for both businesses and individual employees.

As a software provider, Trellis Energy is constantly assessing the risks and benefits of incorporating new approaches into our products.

While we want to deliver a familiar, easy-to-learn experience to our users, we also want to equip those users with tools and workflows that make them as efficient and effective as possible.



[1] In Advanced and Emerging Economies Alike, Worries About Job Automation, September 2018,

[2] How Automation Drives Business Growth and Efficiency, April 2023,


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