Black & Veatch
The “2012 Strategic Directions in the U.S. Electric Utility Industry Report” shows the electric utility industry is starting to change how it operates.
Factors ranging from electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy growth to water supply issues and efforts to improve customer access to information are driving this shift.
“Utilities are evolving in a manner that will redefine core functions such as power production, distribution and customer service,” said John Chevrette, president of Black & Veatch’s management consulting division. “Driven by new technology and regulatory shifts, we are seeing the impact across all aspects of the electric industry.”
- Regulation (economic and environmental) will remain the primary motivator for utility leaders concerning investment decisions. Electric customers will be the ones who pay for changes through increased rates. More than 65 percent of utility leaders said customer rates had risen in the past year.
- Potential benefits of smart grid programs include better power quality and reliability, improved customer service and opportunities to reduce power consumption. “Customers’ lack of interest and knowledge” is ranked as the top impediment for smart grid investment.
- The nexus of water and energy continues to be a major issue for the industry. Nationally, water supply is second only to carbon-emissions legislation as the industry’s top environmental concern. In drought-stricken Texas, it is the top concern.
- Utility leaders are starting to “see gold” in green programs. The industry’s view on renewable energy is shifting from one of doubt to one of opportunity:
- More than 40 percent have begun to modify their service models to account for distributed generation resources, such as rooftop solar.
- Utility leaders, on average, estimate EVs will account for 7 percent of overall electric load by 2025.
- Solar is the top-ranked traditional renewable technology for the second year in a row. It was the top-ranked renewable technology in all geographic regions of the country.
- The industry’s view on coal is changing rapidly. Last year, 81.5 percent said they believe there is a future for coal in the United States. This year, less than 60 percent believe this statement.