Conditions are changing faster than ever in electricity distribution markets throughout the U.S. Utilities are facing increasing pressure to maintain reliability, improve resiliency, integrate renewable generation, enhance customer options and services, and ensure sound financial performance—all at the same time.
“Renewable generation is not going away given the decreasing levelized cost of energy for wind and solar PV, as well as the growing prominence of global sustainability initiatives. Integrating and operating these resources is a significant change for utilities,” said Gary Rackliffe, vice president of smart grid North America for ABB.
Meanwhile, substations and other power grid assets are aging beyond their design life, and utilities are seeking a better balance between maintenance, life extension and replacement. Asset health is closely tied to the core utility values of safety and reliability, and grid operators need to make sound decisions on maintenance and replacement while maximizing the efficiency of their grids.
While these challenges are unique to the tightly regulated electric industry, the best solutions are not. Utilities can learn from organizations in the financial, retail and industrial control sectors that are further along in their technological evolution.
One of the most compelling opportunities for technology investment is in the digital grid, which combines software with powerful data analytics and connected intelligent grid devices.