Utilities need to be forward-thinking while also offering shareholders value
When it comes to grid modernization, where utilities want to spend money — and where they have approval to spend money — are not the same thing. Under today’s regulatory models, utilities typically do not have a way to recapture all the fixed costs required for critical upgrades. This can mean the choice between keeping the lights on today and preparing the grid for the challenges of the future.
These factors and many more are driving risk for utilities
With great power comes great responsibility, meaning it falls to utilities to ensure that their transmission and distribution (T&D) assets can — and will — perform at the appropriate reliability and safety levels while continuing to meet regulatory and environmental standards.
Facing increased risk by hackers, utilities are ramping up cybersecurity
For power suppliers wanting to be vigilant about the threat that hackers pose to the grid, a March 2019 intrusion may have been a benign warning about vulnerability. When hackers disabled a Utah-based renewable energy developer’s control system for about a dozen solar and wind farms in the West, the grid’s operators were left blinded for more than 10 hours to those 500 megawatts of generation sites. Thankfully, no outages resulted.
With greater technological dependency comes greater responsibiilty
As climate change continues to flex its catastrophic muscle, a storm is brewing for U.S. utilities. The scourge of extreme weather events — prolonged droughts, pounding hurricanes and deluges blamed for unprecedented flooding — are joining wildfires as challenges that have utilities scrambling to harden their assets to provide the resilience that consumers and regulators demand. Unrelenting threats of cyberattacks and the rising number of technologies that increase the load and strain on infrastructure assets add to the complexity.
Private Networks Promise Utilities Giant Step Towards Reliability
Reliable communications networks are crucial to allow utilities to deliver an uninterrupted supply of power to customers. With high-speed wireless technology at the fore, and the addition of hundreds of new field applications that require communications networks — including Long-Term Evolution (LTE) — a digital utility is built on communications that extend to the edge. Converged networks employing IP-advanced private wireless networks enable these systems to become more efficient and extend deeper into the distribution system, where they’re most needed.
Are utilities keeping up with the proliferation of distributed devices?
Millions of devices are measuring and sometimes controlling the health of our utility networks, and millions more are coming. As distributed resources drive rapid, increasing demand for data-intensive grid management to ensure high-quality, reliable and resilient power delivery, ask yourself this question: How are you keeping up?
Utilities see advanced distribution modernization giving them more control
Let’s face it: The old days were much simpler, when the flow of power from the utility to end-user was, for the most part, a straight line. There were challenges, but there wasn’t much getting in the way between baseload power generation and the light switch.
Utility Managers are Working to Break Down Silos and Overcome Barriers
Ask anyone who’s been in the utility world for a while, and they’ll assuredly tell you: most utilities have operated in silos, separate groups focused squarely on their own little corner of the business. The silo mentality thrives when members of one department don’t share information with other departments, operate with separate goals, use different tools, and follow different processes than those folks across the hall.
Utilities are doubling down on distribution investments to boost resilience
Power sector players got a jolt in January 2019 when Virginia utility regulators rejected the $6 billion grid modernization rate case proposed by Dominion Energy. This “no” followed similar decisions in Kentucky and North Carolina from the previous year. Despite such setbacks, results from Black & Veatch’s 2020 Strategic Directions: Smart Utilities Report survey show that utilities are “all in” on grid modernization plans, and it looks like regulators are moving that way, too.