Utilities adapt to a shifting landscape.
The U.S. utility landscape is more dynamic and uncertain than it’s been since Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse waged their infamous war over alternating current—and the results might be just as fundamental to the industry’s future.
Last year at this time utilities were gearing up for the expected “big build”—an unprecedented investment in new infrastructure to produce, transmit and distribute gas and electricity. As exciting as this prospect was, industry executives worried about the spiraling costs for fuel, raw materials, equipment and skilled talent. Indeed, the talent gap ranked among utilities’ biggest worries, as the industry’s most experienced professionals were getting ready to retire, leaving a burgeoning industry short on human resources.
Today, a mere 365 days later, companies are focusing on a completely different set of challenges. In many places, the big build has been canceled or delayed. Utilities are re-thinking their capital-spending priorities, and are trimming their operating expenses as much as possible. At the same time, policy makers are pushing the industry toward a green future—with a combination of greenhouse gas (GHG) constraints, renewable energy standards and incentives for green-energy investments.