Utilities are facing new challenges brought on by various changes in the market. These changes include an increased demand for renewable energy sources, ever-changing government regulations, the digital revolution, and the need to offer better customer service. The increased consumer demands and market competition also require utilities to remain competitive. Here are 4 major challenges being faced by electrical utilities in 2018.
1. Customer Service
As consumer expectations continue to evolve and shift, it is a challenge for utilities to meet those expectations and deliver customer satisfaction. It is in recent years that the industry has woken up to the realization that it is important to come up with new ways to deliver better customer experience. Some of the steps taken in this regard include:
- Upgrading the front-end
- Offering improved dashboards
- Creating new customer service channels that include social media
However, the key to overcoming this challenge is to make changes across the organization. Achieving a higher level of transparency, offering new services, and more advanced customer service using multiple technologies is the solution to this challenge.
2. Ever-Changing Regulations
Government regulations keep changing with time or with events. Maintaining efficiency and effectiveness can be a challenge in the face of ever-changing compliance requirements. Even when the authorities roll back regulations, utilities should conduct compliance/risk analysis to meet the standards while ensuring that the commercial operations run efficiently.
Utilities will have to continue finding new ways to generate power even when their plants reach the end of their lifecycle. This critically requires infrastructure update from time to time.
3. Threat from Renewable Energy Sources
More consumers are interested in generating cheaper energy from wind turbines and solar panels. Some utilities are overcoming this challenge by offering commodities like solar power to their consumers. Some companies have also begun offering ‘pay as you go’ model with transparency in billing and offering flexible payment options.
The integration of renewable energy sources with the distributed network requires a smarter approach to data analytics to ensure a reliable supply of energy. Modern network engagement systems provide these companies with real-time data to manage this integration in an effective way. A study in 2017 showed that more than 60% of utility users showed significant interest in integrating distributed services and renewable energy sources. In a 2016 study, more than 94% respondents found a compelling reason in making renewable energy a part of their life.
When utilities integrate renewable energy sources into their network, it will benefit them in controlling and getting better visibility into the new energy resources which are used in the market. The result will be in the form of benefits for both the consumer and the companies.
4. Smart Application of Big Data
Utilities have rich data resources, but the reporting is mostly restricted to addressing historical needs. The smarter use of big data can allow them to build better customer relationships, understand their operations, and take better business decisions. The latest technologies offer real-time insights into all aspects of the business – from network performance to consumer relationships. Some of the key technologies that drive change in this regard include:
- Smart meters
The use of these technologies allows utilities to access valuable data on individual consumer usage. Analyses of consumer and network data can help these companies predict future network performance in a more accurate way.
The integration of IT/OT offers many benefits including:
- Improved efficiency
- Lower costs
- Reduced downtime
- Minimizing risks to assets
- Improved customer satisfaction
The utility industry is facing these 4 major challenges. But the good news is that many utilities have also found ways to face these challenges and create new opportunities. As these companies continue to evolve their processes using the latest technologies, it is the consumers that will be benefiting at the end of the day.
Cory Magee is a certified Master Red Seal Calgary electrician with years of experience in residential and commercial sector in the city and the nearby areas. He likes to stay up-to-date with the latest changes in the industry and believes in innovating and staying ahead of the curve.