Strategic pain points require an artful approach.
Monica Benner is a manager in Accenture’s Utilities’ practice. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Vadari is a partner at Accenture. Email him at email@example.com. Note: The authors would like to thank Michael Burck and Chris Chu for their assistance in the development of this article.
Utilities are at the threshold of some of the most significant changes they have faced in their history, rivaling the passage of PUHCA in 1935. This change emanates primarily from a handful of key business drivers associated with major technological improvements (i.e., AMI, smart grid), the need for increased customer focus, increased regulatory mandates, and a changing workforce.
In particular, these changes are greatly impacting one of a utility’s critical functions, system operations. The system operator has primary responsibility and authority for the reliable operation of the electric transmission and distribution system, and is responsible for the entire flow of energy, from the generator(s) to the customers, literally keeping the lights on. The system operator must master a complex range of demands and critical interactions, and must be capable of making split-second decisions. The skills employed by today’s system operator emphasize a physical understanding of the power grid, often focused on a narrowly prescribed area or specific jurisdiction.