Last week at DistribuTECH 2018 in San Antonio, TX, energy professionals from all over shared ideas and perspectives on the future of the industry with one clear conclusion: our energy future remains uncertain, but “digital” will be a major driver in addressing this uncertainty. Multiple speakers echoed the theme that changes in technology, customer expectations, legislation, new business models, and dynamic market forces often lead to more questions than answers. Furthermore, the risks associated with these complex and inextricably linked uncertainties will require utilities and energy stakeholders to act quickly and collaboratively. Fortunately, what is beginning to take shape is a persistent focus on digital capabilities that will allow utilities to successfully evolve through these many uncertainties and deliver value for its customers well into the future.
Digital transformation has disrupted and revolutionized many industries—e.g., retail, banking, marketing—but it has yet to release its transformative power across the utility industry. This is about to change. For example, DistribuTECH’s keynote speaker, Gil C. Quiniones, President and CEO of New York Power Authority, is leading the largest state-owned utility in becoming the nation’s first end-to-end “digital utility”.
Regardless of where an energy customer resides on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a “digital” solution will help utilities achieve the most cost-effective outcome. Disaster victims in areas equipped with advanced distribution automation experienced significantly less outage impact during a tumultuous year of flood, hurricanes, wildfire, and mud slides. An increasing number of utility customers are benefiting from the choice, control, and convenience afforded to them by their utility’s digital customer experience efforts—bill alerts, estimates, pre-paid energy, and other self-service features. In other instances, utility customers actively participate in the energy value chain, transacting clean energy among individual neighbors and the greater electric grid.
Other digital capabilities are helping utilities achieve a safer and more efficient deployment of field workforces—e.g., field chatbots, schedule and dispatch optimization, and drone monitoring. Similarly, enterprise asset management systems with sensory and machine learning capabilities are extending the life and safe operation of critical T&D infrastructure. Lengthy rules-based processes can be performed accurately within a fraction of the time by leveraging Robotic Process Automation software. Seamless data sharing of machine-readable customer and utility information can be used to animate third-party markets in innovating solutions that support all stakeholders in the energy value chain.
At West Monroe, we understand “digital” has a wide-range of powerful application across the value chain. We are helping our clients identify specific ways in which “digital” can be deployed to maximize their own business value—safety, reliability, customer satisfaction, and affordability. We believe digital transformation is a journey that should pervade all areas of the modern utility:
- Set the Digital Foundation through the deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), ubiquitous communication systems, data analytics, customer insights, and digital platforms
- Optimize utility operations by simplifying customer interactions, digitizing workforce operations, advanced outage and asset management, and improved customer engagement
- Enable Utility of the Future by creating new revenue streams, developing DER management and data analytics capabilities, and expanding the energy marketplace
A quick assessment of digital maturity helps utilities evaluate whether they are setting the proper digital foundation so they can begin optimizing the business of today while enabling the business of tomorrow. Our expansive catalog of practical use cases and value propositions focus on digitizing the utility end-to-end—generation, transmission, distribution, and customer service operations. A comprehensive business case analysis ensures utilities are making informed decisions about the investments that will modernize their organizations to meet the evolving expectations of customers and stakeholders and the uncertain future of energy. A practical implementation roadmap focusing on maximizing benefit realization, while considering organizational change impacts is an important piece in the process that will enable flexible prioritization and implementation of initiatives.
DistribuTECH 2018 makes it clear that technology, processes, and people are converging, albeit at different rates, to shape an uncertain energy future. Defining a structured approach to best leverage digitally-enabled capabilities will position utilities to effectively navigate this uncertainty. At West Monroe, we exercise an uncommon blend of digital technology and utility experts to help you explore your own digital transformation. Let us help you define the “no-regrets” actions that can be taken today to help your organization shift gears and thrive.
- If you would like to learn more about our utilities capabilities and connect with our utilities experts, please check out our website for more information.
- If you would like to learn more about our technology capabilities and connect with our technology experts, please check out our website for more information.