A continuum of technology and experience that will reshape the utilities industry
Welcome to the “Metaverse Continuum”— a spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities and business models poised to revolutionize how energy is produced, consumed and sold. It applies across all aspects of business, from consumers to the workforce, assets, and across the enterprise; from reality to virtual and back; from 2D to 3D; and from cloud and artificial intelligence to extended reality, blockchain, digital twins, edge technologies and beyond. As the next evolution of the Internet, the metaverse will be a continuum of rapidly emerging capabilities, use cases, technologies and experiences.
Ninety-four percent of utilities executives agree that leading organizations will push the boundaries of the virtual world to make it more real, increasing the need for persistence and seamless navigation between the digital and physical worlds.
Why is it necessary? The energy world will change dramatically, and utilities must dramatically change or completely reimagine their solutions for entirely new business models. The Metaverse Continuum will help support a world where renewables and storage are ubiquitous. Internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle bans, high fuel prices and falling battery costs make EVs the most common form of light duty vehicle. Like renewables, charging infrastructure is also ubiquitous.
A new generation of low-cost heat pumps will electrify the heating of homes, offices, and industrial processes. All new buildings will be net zero in construction and operation. Smart building technology will turn every building into a microgrid that connects seamlessly with local energy markets. A building’s energy consumption will be optimized, maximizing consumption when prices are low and selling excess power to the grid when prices are high.
The trading of power in local energy markets becomes so commonplace, energy becomes a new currency. Energy can be traded for goods and services. Electric vehicle (EV) owners can pay for parking by dispatching power. Solar photovoltaic (PV) owners can donate power to charities that distribute power to those in need.
Alternative energy sources – such as green hydrogen – will start to scale, while new innovations will emerge. For example, induction charging may charge EVs as they drive on roads. EVs’ paint may be replaced by coatings that turn an EV’s exterior into a solar panel. The need for wire-based transmission could be negated by transporting hydrogen fuel cells and batteries, or using space-based solar1 to beam energy back to Earth. For example, the Space-based Solar Power Project is developing technology that generates solar power in space which is beamed down to Earth. Its first prototypes will be launched in 2023.
The Metaverse Continuum will transform the utility
The energy transition changes everything. How utilities interact with customers, how work is done, the products and services utilities offer, how they make money, and how they operate within their ecosystems. While change will be rapid, the energy transition is still an evolution. Utilities must create strategies that support this continuum over the next 15 years, and beyond. The winners in this race will be those who best equip themselves now and prepare for a very different future. How will they do this?
of utilities executives believe continuous advances in technology are becoming more reliable than economic, political, or social trends in informing their organization’s long-term strategy.
The way utilities make money will completely transform. Today, utilities make money; in a decade they will save money. The shift from volume-based commodity sales to energy-saving services has already begun. But utilities’ primary revenue streams will shift to energy performance contracts and facilitating local energy markets. Italy-based Enel X is a recognized leader in Energy as a Service, but is not alone.
While we are at the early days of the metaverse, utility leaders who shy away from the metaverse will soon be operating in worlds defined by others. Utilities will find themselves on the front lines of establishing safety and defining the human experience in these worlds. Trust will be paramount; existing concerns around privacy, bias, fairness and human impact are sharpening as the line between people’s physical and digital lives blurs. Leading utilities will shoulder the charge for building a responsible metaverse, and are setting the standards now.
As these developments challenge our basic assumptions about technology and business, we’re entering a new landscape with no rules or expectations. It’s time to build and shape the worlds of tomorrow and architect tomorrow’s continuum, today.
of utilities executives agree that emerging technologies are enabling their organization to have a broader and more ambitious vision.
The good news? There’s still time to get ahead – but companies must make decisive technology investments. At a minimum, they must build on a digital foundation, pick partners to build a digital twin, go beyond data and analytics to use AI in more visible and collaborative ways. The stronger the digital foundation, the greater a utility’s ability to participate in (or build) new environments and worlds.