IN THE DRIVE TO MATCH INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS WITH THE
demands of "deregulatory" standards, utilities are investing billions in information technology (em some launching new business lines from their experience.
Worldwide, utilities are investing $20 billion; electric utilities pony up the most: $12 billion each year, according to Newton-Evans Research Co. An average U.S. electric utility will invest $43 million this year; a gas utility will invest $9 million.
The research company defines IT as "enterprise-wide" systems, management information systems and technical information systems. The latter include applications found in utility control centers, notably those for energy management.
According to Newton-Evans, the most applications planned for rework or replacement at electric utilities are those for customer information, then financial systems, followed by systems in work order management, materials management and human resources.
One of the most significant trends, according to the data, is that utilities are teaming up with known vendors or consultants (em IBM, EDS, Andersen Consulting, Price Waterhouse (em to develop applications for themselves. They then spin off subsidiaries or start divisions to commercialize the technology. Some have been more successful than others.
"We helped Idaho Power spin off Stellar Dynamics Inc., which is turning into a very sharp leading edge little business out of Boise," says Charles W. Newton, Newton-Evans president. "Stellar has gotten multiple millions of dollars of business in its first two commercial years."