Governmental policy and regulation – One thing is certain when it comes to regulation, there is no certainty. Even if lawmakers roll back regulations, companies must run effective and efficient businesses as part of risk and compliance analysis so they are able to meet the expectations of any applicable legislation. Utilities must continue on the path of finding new ways to generate power with plants reaching their end of life. In order to do this, updating the infrastructure will remain a critical need from 2018 and beyond.
Updating grid infrastructure – Modernizing the U.S. power grid to make it smarter and more resilient is one of the largest undertakings in utility history. The Grid Modernization Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP) developed by the U.S. Department of Energy seeks to increase the grid’s reliability and resilience. For utilities, a modernized grid means improved security, reduced peak loads, and increased integration of renewables and lower operational costs. The goal is to use technologies, equipment and controls that communicate and work together to deliver electricity more reliably and efficiently. Consumers will benefit from the reduction in the frequency and duration of power outages, reduced impact from storms and having service restored more quickly when outages occur. In addition, with easy access to their usage data, consumers can better manage their own energy consumption and costs.
Aging workforce – The most significant challenge facing the industry today is an aging workforce coupled with a decline in available talent. According to the Department of Labor, as much as 50% of the nation’s utility workforce will retire in the next five to 10 years. Many utilities require additional support to work on new capital projects, and those projects are increasingly complex. This need is particularly acute with engineering and design, where the talent supply is greatly diminished and most high-tech companies have done a good job of recruiting and developing top STEM talent. According to a 2015 survey by the U.S. Department of Energy, 72% of energy employers report having difficulty finding talent. We expect this gap to only increase over time.
Integrating renewable energy sources – With global markets in Asian and European countries leading the charge, another goal of the MYPP is increasing supply-side opportunities that incentivize customers to participate in electricity markets. Many utilities are recommitting to the customer relationship, achieving retail revenue growth by providing popular commodities like solar energy and battery storage to the consumer. In the UK for example, energy providers are looking to adapt “pay as you go” business models through transparent billing and flexible payment options, putting customer service at the forefront.
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