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Utility Trends, From Fiction to Fact

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Nevelyn Black's picture
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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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Lately it seems all the gadgets they had on Star Trek have become commonplace realities.  Was Captain Kirk sitting on the bridge using an iPad?  Weren’t their onscreen conversations just FaceTime calls?  Over time science fiction has found its way into reality.  No longer fiction but fact.  We’re well into 2022 and we’re seeing several industry predictions come true as well.  Across the board, utilities have been switching to renewables and transitioning to digital technologies.   Energy sector trends include the acceleration of digital technologies, AI and greater investments in renewables.  83 percent of utility executives agree that their organization’s business and technology strategies are becoming inseparable, according to an Accenture study.  The same study revealed, 88 percent of utility executives believe that their organization’s ability to generate business value will increasingly be based on the limitations and opportunities of their technology architecture.  

While artificial intelligence is being used for operations, analytics and infrastructure, a simpler task, like digital payments, still hasn’t become the norm for utilities.  Industrywide, there is a lack of digital payment options.  Utilities express concerns about acquiring the right technology as well as having properly trained employees to complete digital transactions.  Utilities would also carry the burden of onboarding customers and educating them about new processes and services.  Another challenge is altering customer behavior.  Many still send their check in the mail.  Obviously, companies investing in additional features want to know customers will take full advantage of them.  A survey found a surprising 37 percent of millennials wrote a check in 2022. 

True to the trend, renewables are gaining investments and sometimes in the most unpredictable ways.  In 2015, Green Mountain Power offered a discount on Tesla Powerwalls to customers that would allow the utility to tap into that stored energy whenever necessary.  “The pilot regulation is what really got us started here. We can show real data and real customer testimonials,” said Josh Castonguay, the top innovation executive at the investor-owned utility, which serves 270,000 customers in Vermont. On July 20th, a heat wave drove electricity consumption on the grid to its highest.  The utility was able to use the network of batteries installed in customers’ homes to shore up the grid while meeting the power needs of the homes where they were installed.   These batteries knocked $1.2 million off the bill the New England grid operator charges GMP for usage during the annual peak demand hour.

As the year progresses, what other industry predictions have you seen come to fruition? And what role is your utility playing in that?

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Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Aug 23, 2022

“The pilot regulation is what really got us started here. We can show real data and real customer testimonials,”

Will the pilot project be expanded to be made available to all or, at least, more Vermonters?

Sounds like a winner! 

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