Taking Advantage of the Disruption at the Grid Edge Part 4: Parting Thoughts for Utilities

Posted by Kimberly Getgen on Jul 21, 2017 10:00:00 AM
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As we’ve pointed out in the blog series, Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), particularly in commercial and industrial (C&I) settings, are mushrooming. The U.S. Energy Information Administration Between estimates behind-the-meter distributed generation in the U.S. C&I sector increased by 400 percent from 2011-2014. Navigant Research expects global DER capacity to grow up to five times faster than new central station generation over the next five years and DER capacity in the U.S. to double by 2024.

While many will interpret DERs as a disruptive threat to the traditional utility business model, we argue DERs will create opportunities by delivering data and control over to a new class of distributed energy assets and sources of clean generation.

 So what if regulations changed and DERs could benefit the customer-utility relationship in new and exciting ways? To put it bluntly, waiting for regulation change will be too late. Energy providers must make themselves integral players in the development of the grid of the future today, and explore behind-the-meter options before they are left behind.

To thrive in a 21st century dominated by distributed generation, here are some final thoughts and guidelines needed to plan the future of your business today:

  1. Play offense, not defense. New entrants are lining up to steal market share, and utilities would be smart to not underestimate the pace of transformation, nor take big energy customers for granted. Customer choice and technology will accelerate change, whether you’re ready for it or not.
  2. Understand the business case for innovation. Networked DERs will connect you more closely to your C&I customers and catalyze high-growth and long-term shareholder value. Investing in new technology and services is far less capital-intensive than building a new power plant and can even be funded with the money saved through automation and reduction in operating expenses when digital grid programs like automated demand response are enabled.
  3. Become a leader in the eyes of your biggest customers. Capitalize on your reputation as energy and engineering experts by becoming a powerful force integrating DERs into a modern, transactive grid. The largest energy buyers know they need your help as trusted advisors in reaching their long-term energy goals; don’t let them down. Your engineering expertise is desperately needed behind the meter.
  4. Don’t try to master Energy IoT on your own. Look for plug-and-play IoT platforms that can be offered as a service and take the complexity out of behind-the-meter deployments. Instead of building IoT networks, stay focused on what you can do with unlimited data and control over DERs. Innovative technologies available right now will help you become a disruptive force, and that won’t leave you wasting time and money on re-inventing IoT.
  5. Remember IATD: It’s about the data. Data matters in this new energy world, and the data made available by Energy IoT can transform DERs into a lucrative and transformative opportunity. Utilities that capitalize on the rise of real-time energy data today will find long-term value for their business and remake the so-called “death spiral” into a transformative growth engine.

For decades, commercial and industrial energy systems barely changed; some joke that the most recent innovation in the facilities industry is the elevator. Today, with the sheer amount of onsite generation coming from solar, storage, CHP and microgrids, all that is changing. Ready to learn more? Download our Energy Service Provider Case Study to learn how one nationwide energy leader used Blue Pillar’s open, vendor-agnostic Energy IoT platform to connect their nationwide fleet of DERs 75% faster and 30% more affordably.

Topics: Microgrids, Energy IoT, DER, DERs