3 Utility Industry trends from UWL19

Events, Technology

The Power of Big Data, Localization and The Involved Consumer

The utilities sector gets it; they’re an industry facing disruption. But now what? Utilities must evolve and change, but how? Transition was the theme for this year’s Utility Week Live in Birmingham, UK. Transition to a new kind of utility, one that can thrive in the digital age.

As always at this busy event, there was a lot to take in. From O2’s ‘Challenge Wall’ where delegates listed what they felt are the industry’s key issues, to the thought-provoking keynote speakers, the emphasis was on how utilities can transition to an organization that thrives in a changing environment. Here are some key themes from just a few of the many presentations and talks that were underway when we were at UWL19.

1. The Increasing Importance of Utilities’ Data

    ElectraLink’s Chief Executive, Stuart Lacey, was one speaker who discussed this theme in the ‘Transitioning to a Digital Utility Model’ panel session. In the session he discussed how data could be used to reframe utilities’ thinking in the coming years.

    Emerging Technologies and Data Quality

    Utilities are data rich and they are beginning to successfully access that data. Keynote speaker, Zoe Kleinman spoke about AI’s massive potential for the utility industry, but said we are only scratching the surface of what it could do for the sector. As AI becomes more widespread, emphasis must be placed on the quality of the data used, ensuring that the patterns it identifies exist in the real world.

    Why we found this theme interesting

    AI and data go hand in hand. With so much rich data at their fingertips, AI and Machine Learning have massive potential for utilities to bring innovative and personalized new products to their customers. However, the insights from the data and the innovations they can generate are only as good as the data that is used. No one wants to talk about the unappealing, but critical task of data provisioning, yet without this part of the process, the benefits of emerging technologies such as AI are lost.

    2. Finding Localized Solutions

      Much of the change and innovation in the utility sector is being driven from the edge.

      One speaker advocated a local-first structure for innovation with regions finding solutions and applications to problems which can be rapidly deployed at a local level. Rather than the traditional top-down flow of ideas, these solutions could be migrated from the edge to the center of utilities, finding solutions that can be rolled out throughout the organization.

      This idea was echoed by a speaker from Energy Web Foundation who advocated integration of technologies and ‘local tailoring,’ utilizing new technologies such as blockchain and 5G. This would enable more consumer involvement through mobile apps.

      Why we found this theme interesting

      When it comes to utilities, ‘local’ is an interesting place right now. Electric Vehicle charging, microgrids, distributed energy resources, local renewable production; all these developments are happening at a local level and driving change in utilities. The integration of these innovative technologies demands the rapid transition of utilities to digital organizations. One of the ways that utilities can achieve this is to become a platform provider, enabling utilities to become a platform for innovation, integrating Electric Vehicle charging, local energy production and renewables.

      3. The Involved Consumer

        A note on the ‘Challenge Wall’ posed the question of how utilities could collaborate more with consumers. One presentation talked of utilities ‘fragmenting’ to deliver customer experience at a local level. Once again this comes down to the ability of utilities to integrate services such as Electric Vehicle charging. Another presentation talked about people, technology and data coming together in an accessible, mobile driven world. This would enable more customer involvement through mobile apps.

        Why we found this theme interesting

        This theme is at the heart of all the challenges facing electric utilities. Why do we need quality data enabling us to get the most from emerging technologies? So that we can provide the innovations and customer services that our customers want. Why must we focus on the ‘local’? Because this is where our customers are driving change, whether this is though charging their Electric Vehicle or by demanding more involvement in where their power is produced.

        The transition to a digital utility is also the pathway to a consumer-focused utility. The key to the digital transition is open availability of data, and the decentralisation of data access.

        About the Author

        Bill Joss

        Bill Joss is the Chairman of the Board at Greenbird Integration Technology

        Greenbird offers out-of-the-box system integration for utilities. We are a true DevOps company, delivering unique time-to-market and reliability. We were named a Gartner ‘Cool Vendor’ in 2018 because of our domain specific and flexible integration capabilities, crucial for creating easy-to-consume integrated solutions. Utilihive empowers utilities to manage their data flow faster and smoother than traditional system integration models while accelerating the journey towards the energy revolution. To learn how you can unleash the value of data while removing silos. Get the executive brief on Utilihive here.