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Capture the next wave of distribution services

How electric utilities can harness the optimized grid to drive value and growth


As the electricity grid of the future takes shape, distribution utilities want to extract full value from their investments in smart technologies. This will mean creating a truly efficient grid by optimizing the smart network itself, while also harnessing a wide array of distributed energy resources (DER) and flexibility from customer participation.

As a result, close to half of utilities industry leaders globally now recognize the current distribution model must change. In choosing a new model, distribution utilities have four choices, each of which brings its own opportunities to sell value-adding services.

The smart grid operator is deploying smart technologies within the existing regulatory model. But until the regulatory model changes, the opportunities for new services and value delivery will remain relatively limited.

The decoupled integrated utility is now incentivized to implement cost-control solutions that would have reduced revenues in the traditional model, seizing opportunities in areas like demand response and peak load management.

The platform access provider can operate new markets open to all network users, opening up opportunities to offer network optimization services that support grid operations in real time.

The distribution platform optimizer combines the benefits of revenue decoupling and platform access provision, and provides clarity on which of the major beyond-the-meter opportunities are within scope for distribution businesses.


The way forward: The distribution platform optimizer

The prize for achieving this engagement and participation is substantial. Put simply, it will help to create a grid that is more reliable, resilient, flexible, efficient and cost-effective. And fortunately, the ability to deliver this is within utilities’ own control.

Accenture believes the distribution platform optimizer is likely the most sustainable model for the future of the utility industry, managing and coordinating all elements of the grid end to end to produce the optimal outcome for the overall system. Our Digitally Enabled Grid research confirms utilities assertion that the industry is turning toward the distribution platform optimizer-type model.

Do you believe the role of your company will evolve toward that of a distribution system operator (DSO) or a distribution system provider (DSP), whose role is to integrate DER and facilitate the market for DER services?

North America

We already operate as a DSP/DSO

Base: All respondents; *please note: due to limited North America sample, results for this region are to be interpreted with caution and within context.

Source: Accenture’s Digitally Enabled Grid program, 2016 executive survey

The distribution platform optimizer structure will be predicated on an array of new grid services:

Market Services
The first service area is market services: creating a market framework for commercial decisions on asset operations
Network Optimization Services
The second service area is the set of network optimization services offered to support grid operations in real time
Accenture Asset Deployment Services
The third service area is a broad set of asset deployment services available to customers deploying distributed energy resources

68% utility executives expect the market model to be a blend of competitive and regulated mechanisms in the next 10 years


utility executives expect the market model to be a blend of competitive and regulated mechanisms in the next 10 years


Smart inverters: A key piece of the smarter grid jigsaw

Whatever grid services distribution platform optimizers choose to offer, a vital enabler will be the implementation of smart inverters alongside storage or small-scale distributed generation, as a way to provide and manage the necessary control signals and response monitoring.

To be defined as “smart”, an inverter needs to have a digital architecture, bidirectional communications capabilities, and sophisticated software infrastructure.

As a result, the inverter can become a valuable tool for utilities to use for optimizing the delivery network as well as an opportunity for the customer to earn additional revenue.


Advanced smart technologies are delivering flexibility to distributed generators, the distribution network and to customers. It is by harnessing this flexibility that the smart grid will truly deliver on its promise.

Accenture believes that the new role of the distribution platform optimizer will provide an excellent basis to deliver on this potential—and that in tandem will come a need to develop a broad set of new business services. As a result, distribution businesses could be well positioned to secure a significant share of these services, both in the regulated and competitive domains.