Utilities were transforming fast and with an economic push from the feds may move faster. Fast is okay, if it is in the right direction. What is that direction?

Power magazine ran a story worth visiting to get a sense of that: The 5 Steps Utilities Should Take in 2021 to Prepare for a Carbon-Neutral Future. “For the world to hit net-zero emissions targets by 2050, grid investments need to almost triple triple to $2.2 trillion by 2030 … More than a third of that needs to be spent expanding, modernizing, and digitalizing electricity networks. It’s a heavy lift to generate and transmit that much power, but the groundwork starts in 2021.”

Utilities not already off the starting block, or those languishing in problems of ten years ago, are in deep something.

The five big areas that should be in play now, says the report (edited for length from the article):

Energy Storage: A core component of powering our carbon-neutral future. Investments and adoption in battery storage will drive more breakthrough applications in areas such as the commercial and industrial sectors where the convergence of smart cities, electric vehicles, and energy autonomy is rapidly accelerating the path toward electrification.

Automation and Communications Systems: New residential and commercial use cases such as electrified transit systems and the ability to navigate grid complexities from renewable energy will need a strong communications system. Utilities are beginning to invest in automation and communications systems now to improve the reliability and efficiency of electricity networks.

Distributed Digital Operations: Over the next year, utilities plan to continue a digital transformation with an increase in autonomous operations to enable a fully digitalized utility worker.

Next-Gen Video Analytics: A wave of new video algorithms and analysis this year came at just the right time. Utilities needed to make routine asset management, damage assessment, and documentation quicker, safer, and with fewer boots on the ground.

Real-Time Grid Analytics: Digital transformation … software that crunches existing data sources with artificial intelligence and machine learning to determine exactly what is happening on the grid in real-time. The ultimate platform will combine workforce details, weather patterns, power generation trends, battery insights, and more.

Good report from Power magazine worth reading. I’ll add a few other items.

Coal: It is going, going, and will have to be gone in utilities. Sooner rather than later. In the Carolinas, Santee Cooper is about 36% coal when the nation is about 20%. That is behind the curve. Customers, or its owner, the State of South Carolina, can ask why and encourage the company to meet its corporate social responsibility for its territory. Don’t accept excuses for waiting to transition off coal.

Transmission: With the future increased need for power for transportation, storage, and new decentralized networks of power, a modernized grid is essential. Clean power does not matter if you cannot get it.

Talent: A recent news story said there may be a gasoline shortage soon. Not because of a lack of oil or refining, but a lack of truck drivers to deliver fuel to gasoline stations. This shows the need for a variety of talent needed in the energy space. What is your utility to train its current workforce, recruit new workers, and support workforce development?

In the end, just throwing money at these issues is not smart. Managing these issues is smart. Has your utility demonstrated its ability to analyze, plan, and meet the future of clean, reliable, and affordable power? As a customer, ask your utility about these questions.


Feature image is a Florida Power and Light solar field