A new watchword for the industry and its regulators.
The next big trend is to make network resources more interchangeable and less expensive.
Information technology (IT) infrastructure should be more like the infrastructure that generates electricity, IT consultants say, and at least one Texas utility is listening.
Forrester Research labels its vision for IT infrastructure "Organic IT" and promises that this new kind of infrastructure will save companies big bucks in the long run, without requiring a rip and replace of existing hardware and software.
In the rough-and-tumble energy biz, IT departments are paddling hard to stay afloat.
The storm that Enron ignited last fall shows little sign of abating. Information technology (IT) departments at every energy company have had to react to rapidly changing conditions, whether it be shrinking budgets or nervous workforces.
The crazy quilt emerging in restructured markets only impedes competition.
The enthusiasm among energy retailers has become infectious. It grows as each successive state opens its market to competition. Yet behind the promise lies a grim reality.
Retailers struggle against a tide of thin margins, high customer-acquisition costs, inconsistent rules and regulatory prescriptions for the unregulated market. With all the rulemakings and workshops, the dollars budgeted by utilities to implement retail choice rise above even the level of spending to eradicate the Y2K millennium bug.
Computer systems must move beyond insular needs (billing and work orders)
to marketing opportunities. But few regulators really understand.
Everywhere we see the march of technology, especially computer and information technology. Pagers hang on nearly every belt or bag, PDAs have replaced notebooks and portfolios, computers sit on more home desks, and every major magazine and almost every daily paper has sections dedicated to news about the Internet.
may be less than healthy, unless you're ready to replace them with technology.
As competition intensifies, increasing numbers of executives are realizing that customer service may have a more important role now than just placating regulators. After all, the broad spectrum of customer service is the principal way (em other than rates (em to differentiate a utility product and the utility itself.
Erroll B. Davis, Jr.
President & CEO
Wisconsin Power & Light Co.
WP&L advocates that the following steps be taken to create a level playing field for merchants entering the retail market:
s Distribution rates should be fully unbundled from retail sales tariff rates.
In our vision of the future, today's distribution function will be divided into two companies (em a poles and wire function and a merchant function. The merchant company would provide value-added products and services to the customer. We have used credit cards, branding, and other marketing gimmicks to sell our services, particularly demand-side management (DSM). In the future, however, I think there will be greater emphasis on the types of energy-purchasing alternatives we provide. Pricing options are one offering that we would expect to expand.
In less than a decade, three powerful trends will converge on gas distributors.