Beyond-the-meter technologies challenge the utility monopoly.
Smart metering and beyond-the-meter technologies are challenging the utility monopoly model. Now, regulated utilities must re-think their customer relationships as a revitalized retail sector provides growth opportunities.
The smart grid and its biomorphic destiny.
Smart grid technology is bringing inanimate objects to life. In connecting nodes and equipping the system with distributed intelligence, the network is developing toward an environment that becomes quasi-biological over time. Such an organic system might defy deterministic ideas of planning and control.
Shaping long-term smart-grid strategy.
Making the business case for the smart grid is an important utility goal. It provides the justification for making or deferring required investments. Utilities might find it necessary to engage in a cycle of continuous strategic planning.
Forecasting brings wind energy under control.
Advancements in forecasting have improved the reliability of day-ahead and hour-ahead estimates of wind generation. Wind never will behave like a base-load power plant. But as system operators integrate wind forecasts into their planning and market processes, they’re transforming intermittent wind energy into a variable but reliable resource.
Get ready for fundamental changes.
In almost all business and non-profit environments, change is occurring at an accelerating pace. In the electric industry—which used to be stable—we are seeing major changes too. Utilities face growing ambiguity as well as increasing paces of change, uncertainty and complexity. As Irene Sanders stated in Strategic Thinking and the New Science, “[t]hat the future will be different from today is given. What we struggle with is our desire to know how it will be different and what we can do to influence it.”1
Grid upgrades spark an interactivity revolution.
The smart grid is opening the floodgates on customer data, just as consumers are getting comfortable with retail self-service and mobile apps. With dynamic rates, distributed generation and electric vehicles just around the corner, big changes are coming in the utility-customer relationship. Will IOUs let upstarts control the new energy market?
Smart Grid as Quick-E Mart
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
During interviews for this month’s cover story, “Customer Service: 2020,” leaders in the world of back-office information technology (IT) spoke with Fortnightly about customer service and the smart grid. They came from companies as diverse as Oracle and Telus, HP and Convergys, Vertex and SAP. But whatever the company, whatever the discussion, almost every leader came around eventually to focus on a single agent of change—the rise of electric vehicles.
Realizing the benefits of a modernized system requires an integrated strategy.
The U.S. power market consistently has displayed cyclical characteristics of boom and bust over the last two decades. Today’s market environment has been directly and significantly impacted by the recent economic recession. Decreases in load growth, declining commodity prices, and lack of accessible financing have caused challenges for the industry.
A system approach to managing demand.
To fulfill the promise of the smart grid, utilities need to give consumers a greater range of options as well as the education to make sustainable, energy-saving decisions. That includes integrating demand management into the utility back-office.
Hollywood envisions the utility of the future.
Michael T. Burr, Editor-in-Chief
One of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters this summer has been Wall-E—Disney-Pixar’s animated movie about a lovable robot who restores humanity’s place on a trashed Earth. I doubt Wall-E’s producers realized it, but they created a cynical metaphor for the U.S. utility industry.