The energy industry is experiencing a rapid evolution in its technology, and electric utilities continue to discover new ways that it can be integrated into their systems. Since the landscape is changing dramatically, it’s important for utilities to identify the ways that innovations can contribute to the overall stability of their organization and incorporate them into an overall grid modernization plan.
Every utility will have its own unique set of objectives. But there are key motivators common to most organizations that can be helpful in guiding your utility’s plan.
Using common drivers to build a strategy
Continually returning to basic motivating factors will help keep your plan streamlined and focused. One of the main things most utilities will want to focus on in the changing landscape is meeting or exceeding their customers’ expectations. Customers rely heavily on electricity, and with the development of new technology, this reliance increases all the time. They are in need of a reliable, resilient, cost effective source of energy, and remembering this as you make plans for your utility will help keep your goals in line with those needs.
While improving electric utility service is always a priority, one part of satisfying customers is your utility’s general reputation. With a widespread focus on sustainability, it’s important that your organization be visible as an environmental steward. Electric utilities are a vital piece of creating a future of reduced carbon emissions and cleaner energy, and this goal should be prioritized in any grid modernization plan. This is further reinforced by the numerous federal and state regulations focused on these issues.
Another common driver is technology advancement. Over the past several years, usable technology for electric utilities has come increasingly closer to the smart grid’s theoretical capabilities. Many of these new technologies are still in the early phases of adoption, but pilot programs nationwide are demonstrating how effective they can be. Being aware of the advancements in the field will assure that you’re taking advantage of all the benefits they have to offer.
Finally, renewables integration and system planning should be taken into account by establishing common themes across system and business integration plans. The recent growth in residential solar and distributed energy resources across the nation speaks directly to the needs of utilities to have holistic plans, communication strategies, and interconnection procedures that benefit both the customer and the utility. This includes recognizing new and emerging interconnection polices and systems.
Generating a plan specific to your utility
Though electric utilities share common objectives, each one has an individual mission or vision for growth that aligns with its own and its community’s particular needs. This should serve as a foundational component of any grid modernization strategy.
Since one of the main drivers behind grid modernization is increasing customer satisfaction, you’ll want to prioritize short-term efforts that provide long-term value. When prioritizing initiatives, customer value needs to be optimized at every stage of the process. It can be helpful to look first at projects that won’t just translate to added customer value in the near future, but will make a valuable contribution to your ultimate vision.
Technology advancement is critical to keeping up with the industry, but being too far out in front can decrease the value customers see from that technology. To ensure a high level of service and keep pace with peer utilities, learn from other utilities’ work. Identify areas in your own utility where new technology will be most valuable, and maintain an awareness of early adopters’ experience with their grid modernization efforts.
Lastly, maintain openness and flexibility in the standards you set for your utility throughout the modernization plan. To make sure that modernization efforts continue to serve the best interests of the system, each investment should be adaptable and enable greater interoperability. The modernization of the grid is a continually evolving process, and approaching it as such will contribute to greater organizational success.
Grid modernization is exciting for the contributions it can make to the smaller scale goals of individual utilities and the larger goals of the energy industry. Begin by making a plan based on what drives your organization and what will create the most value for your customers and continue coming back to your plan as your modernize. Adjusting your strategy from time to time as goals and technology change will ensure your grid modernization efforts continue to be applicable and effective. Keep in mind that working with an expert in developing and utilizing your plan can be advantageous, as they can be helpful in meeting sustainability objectives, implementing new technologies, and ensuring your various efforts are combining to accomplish your goals.