The dust has settled after a great week in Florida at DistribuTECH, where it was once again clear why this is a “can’t miss” event for those within the Energy and Utility space. This year’s theme “Focus on the Future” accurately captured the tone and frame of mind among the thousands of attendees, including a diverse group of Utilities, service and technology providers, product manufacturers, and thought leaders. Below are my five key takeaways from the show:
- Renewable Energy has REAL Staying Power. There was more discussion than ever focused on the continued growth and expansion of renewables and distributed generation. This includes how Utilities must adapt to this evolving landscape from Customer and Regulatory engagement, and internal operations perspectives, which is consistent with what we are seeing with our clients across the industry. Keynote speaker Michael Liebreich, Founder and Advisory Board Chairman from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, noted that prior claims of renewable energy’s reliance on government subsidies are proving to be false, based on the significant private investments being made in the sector and its continued growth within the global energy portfolio.
- Star Wars: Utilities Awaken. Several cutting edge technologies were featured throughout the show, making it clear that the industry is embracing innovation like never before. Exciting trends included the use of drones for operations and maintenance and the expansion of the Utility’s place within the Internet of Things (IoT) to include Wearable Technology that leverages pricing signals, demand patterns, weather conditions, usage alerts, and other real-time data to further empower customers to control their energy consumption and costs. While we still may be years away from these becoming a large part of core Utility operations and offerings, this is an area for excitement and legitimate optimism.
- Analytics Remain Mystifying for Many Utilities. Analytics for Utilities was once again a common topic of conversation and debate at DistribuTECH this year. While much progress has been made in this area, many Utilities are still struggling with how to best leverage their increasing data footprint. Our team was excited to share our experiences in developing an overarching Strategy and Roadmap for Analytics, including focusing on targeted, practical uses, with real financial and operational value (“low hanging fruit”) as an important first step.
- Water Concerns are Top of Mind. The presence of the Water Utility segment was significantly greater than in previous years, aligning with industry trends. Recent events, including the difficulties in Flint, Michigan and water scarcity trends worldwide are driving increased interest in grid modernization and other emerging technologies that we are helping our clients plan for and implement to further advance the water value chain.
- The Utility Spirit of Collaboration is Alive and Well. One of my favorite elements of working in this industry is the level of open collaboration and communication that takes place amongst Utilities to drive improvement, innovation, and the overall greater good. This spirit of collaboration was once again on display at DistribuTECH via case study read-outs, engaging Q&A dialogue, and interactive panel discussions. During sessions and one-off meetings, industry peers openly shared points-of-view, key learnings, and implementation and operational challenges as our industry moves forward with grid modernization and improved customer engagement.
It was truly an inspiring and engaging week at DistribuTECH, and our team is already looking forward to next year in San Diego.