Requirements differ across the value chain and in different markets. A retailer in a deregulated market has different challenges to a transmission operator or a vertically integrated, regulated utility. But there is one constant: change is coming. Despite their differences all utilities and energy providers face a more complex, fast changing, and uncertain future. The industry will look to its leadership to navigate through this uncertainty, not just to survive, but to succeed.
Change is not for the faint-hearted, but it cannot be avoided. There is a risk that if utilities do not step forward, others will. A new leadership must deliver a new innovative, connected, and digital culture. It must shake off the old, risk-averse, asset-based, engineering culture it has developed over decades. Industry leaders will become Experts at Change, and engender a digital-first, innovative culture to effect this much needed transformation.
This new mindset will dramatically change utilities’ approach to technology adoption. The utilities industry has never experienced the level of disruption or the pace of change it currently faces. Some find these new challenges daunting. But Experts at Change are emerging, showing the industry the art of the possible.
Leading utilities recognize the need to do things differently. They are innovating to compete in the energy transition. They are creating new business models to meet customers’ changing needs. For example, Enel has formed Enel X: a separate organisation4 with a stronger tech profile, standalone branding, and a stronger focus on purpose. Exelon is separating its regulated utility assets from its power generation and retail business, to allow both to pursue their own strategies.
Australian market operator AEMO has opened a DER register to accelerate the creation of the world’s most sophisticated two-way electricity market.5
But innovation is not just restricted to single-company initiatives. In the future, collaboration will be vitally important. The Northeast corridor in the United States, which extends from Washington DC to Maine, will be one of the world’s largest EV markets. Utilities are working with Electrify America and state governors to create a charging infrastructure to support this new market.6
Many more utility leaders must follow suit and seize the opportunity. Why is this imperative? Because most of the value in the energy transition will be created in new, competitive markets, in collaboration with customers, regulators, and a broad ecosystem of suppliers. Utilities will not be alone offering products in services behind the meter, in renewable generation, or electric vehicle charging. The energy transition is accelerating and the time for change is now. Utilities are uniquely positioned to take charge and play a more central role on the path to net zero by reinventing their businesses with technology at the core to deliver greater value to all stakeholders.
1 “US power generation by renewables exceeded 20% in 2020” Renewables New, Feb 25, 2021; History made: Renewable energy surpassed fossil fuels for European electricity in 2020, CNN Business, Jan 25, 2021
2 “Renewables 2020: Analysis and forecast to 2025, International Energy Agency” © OECD - Used by permission
3 “The world’s most sustainable energy company – three years running” Ørsted
4 “Separation facts” Exelon
5 “NEM Distributed Energy Resources Program” AEMO