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Thinking into the Future of the Electric Utility Industry

The energy company of the future will likely be experiencing flat or declining load, will need to figure out how to handle stranded assets due to greater adoption of distributed energy resources and environmental regulations.

Greetings! I am excited to introduce myself as the new senior content director for T&D World and the Utility Analytics Institute.

In the July issue, my predecessor, Rick Bush, welcomed me to the fun that never ends! My mind immediately went to a song by Emerson, Lake and Palmer that has now been stuck in my head for a month. "Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside!” Thanks for that Rick! Thank you also for your many years of service. We all wish you the best in retirement.

This is such an exciting and transformative time for the electric utility industry. I believe our industry has had more changes in the last five years than in the last 100. As a self-professed "energy nerd" and a long-time reader of this iconic brand, I couldn’t be happier to be here. I have a long history in the energy industry, most recently coming from Kansas City Power and Light (now Evergy), where I collaborated with a variety of stakeholders, including regulators and legislators to influence and shape energy policy. It is my belief that my deep industry knowledge and experience working for utilities has positioned me well to understand the issues that the industry is facing, best practices, and how utilities want to partner with solution providers.

I believe the following to be the top critical issues, uncertainties, and driving forces for the electric utility industry over the next 20 years. (Note: I didn’t list these in any particular order of importance):

  • cyber and physical security
  • distributed energy resources
  • environmental regulations
  • flat or declining load
  • stranded assets
  • changing customer expectations
  • emerging technologies
  • an aging workforce and a growing talent gap
  • smart cities and transportation electrification (I recently heard at the IEEE ESMO 2019 Conference that more than US$80 billion is expected to be spent on EV infrastructure development by 2025, leading to the development of nearly 230 GW of charging capacity).

The Energy Company of the Future

Amid these uncertainties, utilities must be nimble and forward looking, something they haven’t always been known for. Customers are expecting more and now look to their utility to be their trusted energy advisor, which also means that utilities will need to work with, not against, third-party intermediaries. And, while technology has certainly enabled smart grid infrastructure and new system technologies have greatly improved operational efficiencies, it has also introduced significant risks to the grid. The energy company of the future will likely be experiencing flat or even declining load and will need to figure out how to handle stranded assets due to greater adoption of distributed energy resources and environmental regulations. The importance of a skilled and trained workforce to develop solutions to address these challenges cannot be overstated. Last, but not least, regulatory structures will need to catch-up and new pricing models will also need to be developed.

Technology will enable many of the solutions for the energy company of the future. The disruption in the electric utility industry is occurring at the same time as many new advanced technologies are becoming available — sensors, wearable technology, drones, robotics, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and automation, to name a few. Additionally, a robust communications system is necessary for interoperability and is the only way to get visibility into the state of the grid.

For these reasons, I’m very excited to be involved with the Utility Analytics Institute (UAI), as well. Both the T&D World and UAI brands will benefit one another through mutual involvement in cutting-edge technologies and utility solutions. I highly encourage our readers to also become involved in UAI, if you aren’t already.

Check out these awesome upcoming events that UAI has planned:

UA Week / UAI Leadership Forum: http://www.utilityanalyticsweek.com/

UAI Day of Analytics: www.uaidayofanalytics.com

Six Cities: Anaheim, Portland, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington DC

Utility Analytics Summit – 2020 PG&E: https://www.utilityanalyticssummit.com/

Long term, it will be imperative for regulators, legislators, utilities, and customers to come together to solve these critical issues, so that the electric utility industry isn’t left behind. Never has providing safe, reliable, and affordable electric service been so challenging…and fun! As always, T&D World will be right there in the thick of things, not only covering current events, but also providing thought leadership on these important topics for the industry and focusing on topics that will guide utilities into the future.

I would love if you would reach out to me at [email protected] and let me know your thoughts on the current state of the industry and T&D World, in general. Do you agree with my industry assessments and what else would you add? What content have you loved from us in the past and what would you like to see more of? Or, simply feel free to just drop me a note to say hello.

I look forward to meeting and working with you all.

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