Grid Modernization: Utility 2.0 has arrived, but it brings opportunity and caution

Feb 15, 2017 9:00 AM ET

For years, utilities have struggled to define the more responsive operational systems and customer-centric performance models that would trumpet the arrival of Utility 2.0. Lacking a singular event marking the shift, it seems more likely a steady, incremental advance through technology deployments, analytics and a focus on customer engagement represents the path towards a continually evolving future state. As we have seen with the progress to date, further advances will require continuing coordination within utilities, their regulators and customers to ensure a sustainable path forward.

The 2017 Strategic Directions: Smart City/Smart Utility Report finds many service providers wrestling with the need to update aging systems to support the transition to a Utility 2.0 model. From electricity and water to natural gas utilities, service providers have been deploying data collection and transmission sensoring equipment for years. In fact, only 14 percent of respondents indicate they do not include smart infrastructure implementation as part of their repair and replacement programs and/or capital plans.

Download the 2017 Smart City/Smart Utility Report

Driving Operations and Maintenance

Among the various benefits of greater system intelligence, two-thirds of survey respondents indicate they plan to use smart monitoring to inform smart maintenance. A core tenant of Utility 2.0 is the idea that automation and data-driven operational and maintenance decisions become the new norm.

But for many service providers a key question remains: How are system updates prioritized and now that many intelligent assets are in place, what do we do with the information they’re producing? Like many businesses, the opportunities to reduce operational costs inform utility capital deployment planning. Industry leaders and functional groups must look beyond simply the opportunities to create operational efficiencies to examine what customers want, system integrity and security concerns and other key operational factors to understand how to target investments.