The mission of this group is to bring together utility professionals in the power industry who are in the thick of the digital utility transformation. 


3 Questions for Utilities to Determine Their Next Technology Move

image credit: Photo 132116345 © Wrightstudio |
Karen Marcus's picture
Freelance Energy and Technology Researcher and Writer Final Draft Communications, LLC

Karen Marcus has 25 years of experience as a content developer within the energy and technology industries. She has worked with well-known companies, providing direction, research, writing, and...

  • Member since 2017
  • 416 items added with 371,553 views
  • Sep 23, 2021

Utilities are managing challenges and change from many directions, including incorporating renewable energy sources, keeping up with smart grid development, and nurturing partnerships with customers. Technology can be a part of all these efforts, but the variety and number of solutions available can be overwhelming. So, how should utilities prioritize? The following questions can help to narrow down which technologies are most critical to implement next.  

1. What do your customers need?

Start with areas that are in obvious need of repair. For example, is equipment failing, causing outages and requiring financial investments? Maybe it’s time to investigate drones that examine grid components in hard-to-reach places or artificial intelligence (AI)-powered predictive maintenance technologies that help you proactively plan for repairs and replacements.

Do customers want to be energy partners and not just rate payers? Consider using technologies that apply granular data analysis to AMI data or a system that adds sections to monthly bills like comparison reports and EE recommendations based on each customer’s usage. Or look at investing in DER technology that can help customers generate energy and sell it back to the grid.

What about better billing or payment options, such as kiosks where customers can make payments 24/7 or an updated portal that makes signing up for autopay easy and convenient?  

Customers may also be demanding EV options and you can respond by prioritizing EV infrastructure.

2. Where are you behind other utilities?

Keep an eye out for news about ways in which other utilities are using new technologies. For example, in a recent Energy Central article, I wrote about three utilities using advanced technology to restore power faster:

  • Duke Energy is using AI, computer vision (CV), and drones to inspect solar farms.

  • SoCal Edison is testing the use of drones to inspect poles and wires before restoring power.

  • Florida Light & Power is experimenting with a new drone and robotic dog to reduce the need for technicians to perform dangerous work.

Other types of technology updates to watch for include those to aid in renewables integration, vegetation management, and load management.  

3. What new technologies have you not yet explored?

The items in the following list may sound like buzzwords or something you would only use in the far-off future. But consider exploring them anyway. It’s never too early to think about how technologies might be deployed in the future, and you may discover it makes sense to start preparing for their implementation now.

  • Blockchain can help utilities and distributed energy providers determine pricing and trade energy.

  • Cloud computing can be used for a wide variety of purposes, including virtual desktops and data storage and analysis.

  • Data analysis should be a big part of every utility’s operations because the smartest decisions are those made based on real insights from reliable data sources.

  • Edge computing is essential for any operation that uses connected devices at locations distant from central data processing facilities.

  • The Internet of Things (IoT) is the world of connected devices mentioned above. One of the primary uses for utilities is monitoring grid equipment.

  • Robots can be used to perform a variety of tasks, including repairing failing equipment.

Technological advancement doesn’t always happen in a straight line. You may decide that two priorities are equally important or that you need to step back and make changes in your operations before you can deploy a particular solution. The important thing for deciding what to do next is to focus on the utility’s most pressing needs.  

What is your next big technology move? And how did you decide what it should be? Please share in the comments.


No discussions yet. Start a discussion below.

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »