Week in Smart Metering - The Future of the Energy Sector

How are utilities driving their businesses into the future, asks Claire Volkwyn, editor, Metering & Smart Energy International?
Published: Wed 20 Apr 2016

I had the pleasure of listening to Marie-José Nadeau, Chairman of the World Energy Council, speaking around the future of the energy sector last week in The Hague.

Pressure to decarbonise energy, the rise of renewable energy, new business models rising from the digitalisation of the power sector and increased smart technologies across the entire energy sector are just a few of the factors driving and influencing the energy transition.

The electricity sector is in the midst of a profound transition, particularly on the customer side. “Increasingly, customers are becoming empowered by choices which previously did not exist, not just the choice of energy supplier, but also the ability to produce their own electricity,” Nadeau told the audience of professionals from the oil, gas and power sectors.

“Technology is changing the landscape, and in the process, is challenging business models and providing new opportunities for non-traditional players. The evolution of technology at ever accelerating speeds, the rising awareness for social and environmental sustainability, and the global consensus on the importance of reducing carbon emissions are translating into fundamental shifts.”

The energy transformation is already taking place in many developed nations, but will inevitably take place throughout the world and along all elements of the energy chain.

“This transformation, driven by the increase in renewable energy and the closure of coal and nuclear assets around the world, is already eroding the bottom line of many corporations,” Nadeau continued.

“These changes and their implications for electricity utilities will impact on revenue as well as investor returns. In many developed economies, the financial consequences of the energy transformation have been severe, forcing utilities to dispose of assets and reduce capex in order to manage their financial balances and ratios.” 

All this is well known, but perhaps the question that needs to be answered is this: Now that the energy sector is entering into unchartered territory and the rules of the game are changing – how are utilities continuing to drive a business proposition that both drives growth and creates value?

More from Metering & Smart Energy International

US utility Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) has partnered with smart grid solutions provider Oracle to automate its communication with customers. In a company statement, the utility cooperative providing electricity to more than 160,000 customers said it integrated Oracles new tech with its existing customer information system. [Oracle automates customer engagement for US utility]. The combined solution of the Oracle Utilities Customer Self Service and the Oracle Utilities Customer Care and Billing solution is said will allow SMECO customers to view their bills, make payments, access grid information, report outages and participate in various programmes online, on a single website.

Software company ARCOS has unveiled a new solution to help utility grid operators to better monitor and manage their grid networks. In a company statement, the North American solutions provider said with the Crew Manager solution, utilities are able to dictate tasks to their crews in the field, view their location as well as of resources in real time. [Software company launches new solution for utility grid management] . By so doing, utilities are able to have a record of the amount of work accomplished in a day as well as consistency on how the work is performed.

Following a vote by the members of the Georgia Public Service Commission, the state-utility announced that its base electric rates will remain flat through to 2019. According to a release, the decision to keep electricity rates flat adds to a net reduction of approximately US$2.50 in the overall monthly bill for the typical residential customer primarily driven by a 14 percent decrease in the fuel rate. [Georgia Power maintains flat base electricity rates through to 2019]. The reduction in overall spend by utility customers , prompted by the Georgia Power, began on the 1st of January 2016.

Australia’s first community mini-grid has been launched by AusNet Services Managing Director, Nino Ficca and Victorian Energy Minister Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP. According to an AusNet release, the community mini-grid trial is aimed at demonstrating how homes with residential solar systems and batteries can generate, store and share renewable energy amongst themselves, as a ‘mini-grid’ via their local powerlines. [AusNet inaugurates Australia’s first community mini grid]. Mr. Ficca reportedly said that AusNet is currently installing the solar systems, batteries and associated communication equipment. He also thanked the community for their participation in the trial.