As the utility business model continues to change around the world, a number of utility companies are beginning to incorporate a range of innovative strategies. As has been the case in many industries, technology is proving to be the driving force for change. Over the course of the last decade, utilities have found it necessary to invest in a vast array of technologies. Most of such changes have occurred since the advent of the smart grid technology. Some of the most prominent technologies have included distribution substation and feeder automation, advanced metering infrastructure, and monitoring functions. Moving forward, utilities will need to continue to consider incorporating the latest technologies to meet both the needs of today’s smart grid applications as well as future needs that have yet to be defined.
Like many other industries, the utility industry is beginning to form mergers around energy management, renewables, distributed energy resources, etc. Recently, there has been a trend toward cross-industry movements. For instance, many utilities have made the decision to invest in natural gas assets, while others have begun to make investments in areas that offer opportunity, such as distributed generation, demand response, renewables, energy efficiency, etc. Last April, the French firm Total announced it would be creating a Gas, Renewables, and Power division with the goal of becoming a leading player in renewables and electricity within 20 years. Specifically, Total would like to be among the top three global solar power companies by expanding electricity trading and energy storage. The company has stated it plans to spend a minimum of $1 billion each year in renewable energies while increasing its share of clean energies from 3 percent to as much as 20 percent by 2035.
An Emerging Energy Cloud
Slowly but surely, the older utilities infrastructure is being replaced and driven toward a smarter and more decentralized power grid architecture. Known as the Energy Cloud, this emerging platform incorporates two-way power flows along with an intelligent grid structure that is anticipated to deliver a far higher quality of power. Although such a shift does represent certain risks, it also presents significant opportunities. This is particularly important in a market that has become increasingly innovative and competitive. Moving forward, such a transition will affect regulation and policy as well as business models and the way in which the power grid is operated around the world.
It is critical not to underestimate the power of such trends, as they are accelerating change within the energy industry. They not only are making it possible for new players to enter the industry but are also placing pressure on existing players while changing traditional business models and strategies. In order to remain competitive, organizations will find it necessary to adapt as this transformation continues to take shape.
Energy Efficiency And Demand Response
The way utility companies approach customers with demand response and energy efficiency is changing rapidly. Among the companies working at the forefront of this changing frontier is CLEARResult. Based in Austin, Texas, the firm assists with designing and implementing energy programs. Regulatory issues combined with rising customer expectations are contributing to an increased interest in demand management programs. Opower is yet another firm working in this regard. Focused on engaging customers based on behavioral demand response, Opower is working to make behavioral demand response predictable and reliable. The firm recently announced that its programs managed to save utility firms as much as 5 percent off peak demand. Driven by massive amounts of energy usage data generated by smart meters, behavioral demand response is anticipated to continue expanding over the next several years. So much so, in fact, that global spending on behavioral and analytical demand management is anticipated to reach $2.5 billion by the year 2024.
Third-Party Energy Services Emerge
Third-party energy parties are now being allowed to provide energy services in many areas. In terms of energy efficiency, this means that new products and markets are now available to consumers that might have been too cost prohibitive in the past. Previously, price has been a significant barrier to entry. Now, a number of third parties have begun to enter the industry that have made innovative technology far more affordable for consumers. Utility firms are also identifying new opportunities for energy savings by forming partnerships with third-party providers. TXU, ComED, and PG&E have all formed partnerships with software startup Bidgely to provide customers with disaggregated energy consumption data via a mobile app to assist consumers with reducing usage.
As the need to save energy increases around the world, more organizations are turning toward new technologies that will facilitate the conservation of energy. To a large degree, the importance of energy consumption stems from a need to save energy, which can affect emissions targets, energy prices, and legislation.
Energy management technologies focus on metering the consumption of energy and the collection of relevant data. Identifying opportunities to save energy as well as estimating the amount of energy that could be saved with each opportunity is the forefront of emerging industries. Eneas Group, one of the leading players in energy services in Scandinavia, is paving the way in energy management and metering. This firm handles all tasks associated with energy management as well as tracking and optimizing the infrastructure of electricity meters. For instance, Eneas collects, controls, and verifies meter readings automatically, thus ensuring pricing and billing are handled accurately. This firm also provides and operates complete smart grid and metering solutions that are customized for commercial buildings with multiple tenants. For more information, visit the FAQ-site.
The utility industry is currently at a pivotal crossroads that could result in revolutionary changes. Emerging trends in the power industry are not only making it possible for utility companies to work more efficiently while meeting regulatory demands but also allowing consumers to save money. Moving forward, the utility industry will likely see the emergence of even more trends that will continue transforming the way in which the world consumes energy.