Utility Transformation and Innovation in 2020

Posted to Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) in the Utility Management Group
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Jennifer Szaro's picture
President/CEO Association of Energy Services Professionals (AESP)

Jennifer joined the Association of Energy Services Professionals (AESP) as their newest President and CEO in April of 2020.  Prior to her current role, she served as Vice President of Research...

  • Member since 2015
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  • Jan 30, 2020

This item is part of the Special Issue - 2020-01 - Predictions & Trends, click here for more

At the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), we believe that 2020 is shaping up to be a significant year for utility transformation. On the technology side, we see eMobility as a game changer and as something that will impact existing utility business processes, grid systems, and grid controls. Put directly, transportation electrification is the opportunity of the century for utilities if they are proactive and prepared.

In addition, we expect more utilities will either recommend, directly market, or utilize 3rd party platforms to market home energy systems and smart home devices to their customers. As a result, utilities will gain a larger percentage of their customers enrolled in DR programs, innovative rate programs, and home energy efficiency programs enabled by these systems and devices. Furthermore, utilities will engage in technology partnerships inclusive of start-ups to achieve technology innovation that helps motivate the customer to decarbonize their home footprint.

While some of this technology will be predictive analytics for stronger targeting and marketing efforts by utilities, other technology will be directed at cloud-based residential and commercial device aggregation solutions or services. Utilities will pursue innovation in a way that requires involvement much earlier in the hype cycle for new technology and service opportunities – whereby traditional utility technology thought-leadership processes took a wait-and-see perspective.

Focus on the customer

As we move into 2020, another trend we are watching is the continued shift to a more customer-centric utility focus. We expect to see greater exploration and implementation of new business models in response to new technologies, regulatory expectations, and expanding customer awareness and participation. Utilities will develop home energy storage and home EV charging integration processes and systems that will have the potential to bring more value to both the customer and the grid. Increasing focus will be placed on using these assets to provide grid services.

Utilities will also continue to engage with governments and agencies on local efforts to decarbonize regions through a multitude of ‘smart community’ initiatives, which may include electric vehicle charging, smart lighting, multi-use mesh networks, energy storage applications, emergency sensors, etc. and successfully defining the right integration and operational strategies for these “smart ecosystems” will be key to the success of these initiatives. Utility community engagement efforts will be heightened beyond traditional government affairs interactions covering workforce development, construction, and give-back campaigns.

Change is needed

While many of these utility transformation shifts are underway, change is still needed in several important areas. Over the next year, we need to see an evolution of regulatory structures and processes to more easily accommodate new customer-focused technologies, new grid modernization investments and new utility business models.

Utilities need to ramp up investment in control and coordination technologies (DERMS, ADMS, SCADA) and system integration capabilities to allow customer adoption of new technologies. Specifically, they will need to learn how to integrate and evolve their business processes to operate with new DER integration and management platforms to better capture the value of distributed generation at the operations level, rather than just considering these resources during load forecasting and resource planning processes.

2020 is a year of opportunity for utility transformation and industry innovation. SEPA is dedicated to helping electric power stakeholders address the most pressing issues they encounter as they pursue the transition to a clean and modern electric future and a carbon-free energy system by 2050. We are a trusted partner providing education, research, standards, and collaboration to help utilities, electric customers, and other industry players across four pathways: Transportation Electrification, Grid Integration, Regulatory Innovation and Utility Business Models. Through educational activities, working groups, peer-to-peer engagements and advisory services, SEPA convenes interested parties to facilitate information exchange and knowledge transfer to offer the highest value for our members and partner organizations.

Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA)
The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) is an educational nonprofit working to facilitate the electric power industry’s smart transition to a clean and modern energy future through education, research, standards and collaboration.
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Thank Jennifer for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 30, 2020

As we move into 2020, another trend we are watching is the continued shift to a more customer-centric utility focus

It's been fascinating to watch the relationship evolve to where customers are integral parts of the energy journey and not just the final end use of power generated. 

Are there any segments of customers that remain particularly hard to reach in this type of engagement for utilities? 

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