5 Big Trends in Utility Technology for 2022
- Jan 14, 2022 11:00 pm GMT
It’s been said that all companies are technology companies, and that’s becoming truer for utilities all the time. For customer care, grid maintenance, restoration, making smart business decisions, and much more, the right technology selection is essential for utility efficiency and success. As someone who has been engaged in the tech industry for nearly 25 years and in the energy sector for 5, I am fascinated by how the two are evolving together. Following my trends articles in 2019, 2020, and 2021, here are a few technologies that are likely to have a big impact for electric utilities this year.
Artificial intelligence (AI) showed up on all three of my previous trends lists because of its usefulness in a wide variety of applications. AI can help with things like demand management, outage prevention, transition to renewables, cost-cutting, and improved customer care by analyzing the large amounts of data that these processes generate. The analysis leads to meaningful patterns and useful insights that are used to improve utility operations.
Companies, including utilities, have many good reasons to shift some of their operations to the cloud. They include regulatory requirements, security concerns, and the ability to use multiple cloud providers for processes they specialize in. Additionally, cloud services can be used on an as-needed basis, enabling utilities to reduce the expense of purchasing computing equipment that is only rarely needed for higher-than-normal use.
None of the other technologies on this list are feasible without enhanced cybersecurity. Given the relentless actions of cybercriminals — and especially the continued rise in ransomware attacks — companies in every industry, including energy, must stay one step ahead. Given that many cyberattacks are inadvertently facilitated by humans, the answers must include not just stronger software, but also a greater focus on employee education.
Utilities are increasingly deploying drones for vegetation management and power restoration. To reduce the chance of wildfires, they are enhancing their efforts to clear vegetation away from transmission lines. Identifying the location of vegetation is the first step, and drones can help by flying into hard-to-reach areas and feeding data to computing systems for analysis. Drones can also reduce the danger of restoration by taking the place of humans in identifying and inspecting areas that need repair.
2022 will be the year electric vehicles (EVs) move from the fringe into the mainstream. Many major auto manufacturers will be releasing EVs this year, and the infrastructure needed to support them isn’t far behind. According to Forbes, The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) alone includes “a $5 billion investment in state-administered grants for deploying [EV] charging stations nationwide.”
As always, this list could be much longer. Technologies like 5G, blockchain, data sharing, DERs, digital twins, edge computing, energy flexibility, and smart metering will all likely have a strong impact on utility operations in 2022 as well. With these solutions and those mentioned above, utilities have many opportunities to better serve customers and protect the environment this year and beyond.
Which technologies do you expect to have the biggest impact on your utility this year? Please share in the comments.
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