2020 will be remembered as one of the most difficult years in living memory for practically every industry. However, in the power generation and distribution sector, there are reasons to look to the future with optimism. In some ways, the pandemic has served as a driver for positive change as electricity companies seek innovative ways to navigate market uncertainties and keep the power flowing into homes across the nation.
The topic of digital transformation is one that features on the majority of board meeting agendas. However, the pandemic has acted as a driver for decisive action that will reap benefits over the years to come. The World Economic Forum reports that digital transformation could unlock $1.3 trillion of value worldwide through four key areas:
- Asset life cycle management – real time and predictive maintenance to extend life cycle and reduce downtime
- Power grid optimisation – improving efficiency through load balancing and connected assets
- Integrated customer services – digitally enabled services relating to power generation and usage
- Personalised services – known as “beyond the electron,” provision of bespoke services tailored to the individual
Done right, digital transformation means costs and environmental impact are reduced but the customer experience is enhanced.
Tackling climate change
Two years ago, Xcel Energy in the US said it would be completely carbon-free by 2050. Over the subsequent two years, other energy suppliers have made similar commitments, and this is set to be an ongoing trend over the years ahead.
In short, electricity companies are raising the bar when it comes to tackling climate change. The reason they are able to do so comes predominantly down to technological improvements, and it is a message that resonates with both customers and shareholders.
Preparing for the EV revolution
On 01 October 2020, there were around 165,000 purely electric cars on the UK’s roads, and around 375,000 if you include plug-in hybrids. Plug-ins now account for more than 10 percent of new car registrations, and that number is only rising. Meeting the infrastructure needs of the EV generation will be one of the biggest challenges for power suppliers.
In June 2020, UK Power Networks launched its EV Charge Challenge, throwing down the gauntlet to anyone and everyone to submit their ideas on when, where and how charge points should be installed.
The concept of smart cities is one that is rapidly spreading across the country, and indeed the world. In brief, a smart city is one where big data is harnessed to improve efficiencies, manage assets and minimise environmental impact. London, Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol and Hull are just a handful of examples where local government and power distribution companies are working hand in hand on smart city initiatives.
Utility companies can and must take the lead in these projects if they are to succeed. There are mutual benefits to be achieved, as the innovative technologies at the heart of smart city projects can also help the power companies to meet their own sustainability and carbon footprint objectives.