Tr 05 2004 Digital Camera Equipment
Tr 05 2004 Digital Camera Equipment
Tr 05 2004 Digital Camera Equipment
Tr 05 2004 Digital Camera Equipment
Tr 05 2004 Digital Camera Equipment

It's All About Perspective in the Utility Industry

April 2, 2020
Whether the technology is disruptive or transformational depends on the perspective of the viewer.

Here we are a few months into the new year, and I have been hit with my yearly subscription fees for all the software I use to run my company. It got me thinking about how much my business model has changed over the years due to digital technology trends. I really like the yearly fee for my software with updates throughout the year. Of course that keeps me jumping to stay on top of the changes and additions to my software.

It was the last invoice that came from my photo-editing software supplier that really got me thinking about how this technology has advanced. There was also an announcement about an upcoming release that would include artificial intelligence (AI) enhanced photo tools. Wow, AI-infused photo-editing tools got my attention! I haven’t talked much about the photography I do, but in addition to writing a lot of technical articles and reviewing new technologies for T&D World, I do some photographic work too.

One of my earliest photo assignments was to accompany my friend Rick Bush to tour the storm damage caused by Hurricane Ike in the Houston/Galveston area. I packed up all the paraphernalia a hard-working digital photographer needed for field work, which was extensive. Prior to digital technology, my packing was pretty simple — my trusty camera, some filters, a couple of lens, and a flash, but digital photography changed all that.

It Wasn't Easy

Now I needed a laptop chuck-full of photo-editing software along with extra camera batteries, spare camera memory cards, and various chargers plus extension cords. Not to mention I needed a portable hard drive to back up the photo files. All of this also required a carryon bag to prevent damage and loss, but it gave me something I never had before. I had all the tools I needed to process photos in the field, which was a quantum leap forward over my darkroom days.

With this technology, we had an important advantage for bringing our readers the restoration story as it was happening. During the daylight hours we visited the people and the places where the rebuilding of the grid was taking place. We took a lot of notes and photographs. In the evening while I processed the photos in my laptop, Rick put our notes in order. Then we wrote the stories of the day, added the photos, and uploaded the day's package to our support team at the magazine.

That laptop with its photo-editing software was indispensable for me. After all, one good graphic sets off the story for our readers the way nothing else can. By today's standards that photo-editing software was pretty primitive. It was not very user friendly and required a lot of finesse on the part of the user.

Despite all the additional hardware/knowledge the technology required, it quickly won acceptance within the amateur and professional photography ranks. Interestingly, the digital camera was invented by a film manufacturer, but the manufacturer didn't pursue the technology. Others did, however, and the rest is history. When was the last time you have seen a roll of film for sale at the local drug store?

Awareness Counts

I'm guessing that is why so many emerging technologies are called disruptive when they may actually be transformational. That's why it is so important to keep an open mind. Whether the technology is disruptive or transformational depends on the perspective of the viewer.

To the customer, rooftop solar-plus-storage may be transformational because it gives them a way to lower their electric bill while improving the environment. To the utility, it may be disruptive because it is reducing load while the customer expects the utility to provide power when the sun isn’t shining, and their storage is empty.

A more positive approach is occurring where utilities and customers are taking a partnering attitude. A good example is in Australia. South Australia, the state utility, and Tesla are providing solar-plus-storage for homeowners. The homeowners take advantage of the solar-plus-storage and the utility gets grid support when needed.

Closer to home, Green Mountain Power, Liberty Utilities, and National Grid have pilot projects offering customers energy storage equipment for a demand response program where all parties benefit. I read one report that said California hit one million rooftop solar installations in 2019 and it’s not just California. Dropping prices are encouraging solar-plus-storage to spread over the country. Being transformational is much better than disruptional!

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