Intelligent grids pt 3, Role of the utility industry as the middle man
Transformation of the industry
The once top-down, centralized framework of the electricity and energy production industry is currently flattening into a more interactive and distributed system. This is transforming the way we produce, deliver, manage and consume energy. Electric utilities play an increasingly major role in engaging and supporting various stakeholders involved in this transformation of energy consumption. Better educated consumers means an upgrade in the job requirements of utility industry actors and electric contractors to address the increased involvement of their clients. With the understanding that both parties have something of value to offer, the intelligent grid insists on being used to its full potential.
In order to fully realize the benefits of modern technology and the intelligent grid, the electric utility workforce is required to streamline and manage the production process, any emerging innovations, varying systems, and services for both customers and organizations.
Industry and company needs
As hardware and software companies compete to leverage the capabilities of the intelligent grid, they are constantly expanding to provide an array of management services. Some of these services include:
- Advanced metering infrastructure
- Distribution and substation automation communications
- Asset management and condition monitoring
- Software solutions, and analytics
- Demand response technology
- Home energy management
Image courtesy of leadentsolutions.com
However, there has been concern about the workforce in the electric utility industry. Many in the industry are aging and less aware of the technologies transforming the shape of the energy market, and the several phases involved in creating and delivering value. There is growing urgency for a workforce that understands current market disruptions and the implications that will be felt through IoT and other technologies in the industry.
Keep up with technology
Such a workforce thinks less traditionally and must be comfortable dealing with the nature, pace, magnitude, and possible risks driven by IoT changes. They should have the mindset and capability to adapt, and create opportunities and solutions that result in augmented intelligence and behaviours enabled by the Internet of Things.
Due to the rising number of systems involved in the grid, next-generation utility staff will be expected to be as knowledgeable about the physics of the grid as they are about the operations of sophisticated monitoring, control, and analytical systems. The type and nature of the work involved requires multidisciplinary teams composed of employees as varied as linemen to data scientists. Not only will technical skills be crucial for these teams and individuals, but strong leadership skills are paramount to the success of the future of smart grids. This will enable them to organize, direct, and inspire those around them while also educating consumers, managing the system and working cohesively with all stakeholders.
Image courtesy of clp.com.hk
As consumers become active players in the production of energy, they will continue to seek new ways to invest smart energy solutions into their lives. The electric power industry system thus transforms from a unilateral system into an integrated network ecosystem. The role of electric contractors will be to engage, support, and help consumers transition into making smart decisions and becoming active participants in the system.
Electric contractors and utility service providers will have two main roles in engaging customers:
- Ease the integration and implementation of intelligent grids into our systems and infrastructure
- Help customers, or prosumers, produce and sell energy produced at home
Other than offering the standard electric products and their associated services, electric utility service providers will have the opportunity to offer a range of new energy-related services to actors such as technologists and marketers that include:
- Life-cycle EV battery change-out
- Home-related convenience services such as new utility service setup coordination
- Management selling home-produced energy to the grid
Image courtesy of bridgeenergygroup.com
Another skill crucial in the interaction of utility companies and their consumers is that of marketing and advising. Customers will seek empowerment. How will homeowners adopt and implement renewable energy solutions? How can they gather insights about their energy consumption patterns? What’s the best way to manage their usage during peak demand periods in order to minimize their bill? The utility service provider’s role will be to provide customers with the right tools and knowledge to answer these questions and allow them to realize the benefits of managing energy usage.
Masters of the trade
In order to push intelligent grids to their full potential and improve consumer involvement, all electric utility service providers will need to become experts at gathering, synthesizing, and analyzing data. Converting and reading such data from our smart devices and appliances, combined with supplementary layers of information about demographics, behaviours, and lifestyles will produce insight into consumption habits and patterns. This will allow service providers to guide their clients towards a more innovative and energy efficient future. Through education, leadership and innovation, we look to utility service providers and electric contractors to guide us in energy consumption and delegation.
We hope the Intelligent Grids series got you as excited for the future of energy as it got us. Keep checking The Electric Blog for updates on all things electric!