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Reinventing the Utility Business Model: Impact of IoT, Smart Home, and Distributed Generation

Reinventing the Utility Business Model: Impact of IoT, Smart Home, and Distributed Generation
February 09
14:10 2017

Authored by Tom Kerber, Director, IoT Strategy, Parks Associates

Utilities have the opportunity to adjust their business models to align with the new world of IoT, the smart home, and distributed generation (DG). The impact of lower load growth on the utility business, the new opportunities in DG and battery storage, and how new partnerships and smart home services could reshape the traditional utility business model are all key issues for utilities to examine.

Distributed energy resources are forcing change in the utility industry. The levelized cost of solar is now less than other generation resources and solar prices continue downward. While utilities grapple with the short term challenges integrating distributed resources, long term, the impact on the utility business model is even more challenging.

Wayne Gretzky famously said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Having a clear vision of where the puck is going is critical to establishing a vision of for any organization, and utilities are no exception. Grid Vision 2050 describes a future where generation and consumption are co-located. This is a clear vision of the future upon which business decisions must be made.

Utilities must align decision making to move closer to the vision of co-located generation and distribution. Investment in non-wire alternatives including EE, DR, and distributed generation at the grid edge is aligned with the vision. Investment in T&D is not aligned with the vision, and therefore, is moving in the wrong direction, and will hurt utility competitiveness.

The utility monopoly on power generation and distribution is slowly disintegrating as distributed generation takes hold. We see the results of competition and non-competitive investment decisions in recent legislation to save power plants. This is the tip of the iceberg. If utilities do not align their business to be competitive in the future, write offs and rescue efforts will accelerate.

The utility business model that rewards investment in T&D must be changed to reward investment at the grid edge. Continuing down the current path makes utilities less competitive.

The world is changing in many ways. The Internet of Things is transforming businesses and creating new opportunities. Just as connected products are expanding business models to include advertising, lead generation, product commissions, app sales, and transaction fees, utilities can also take advantage of the vast stores of data from smart meters to provide or enable value added services using meter data. If utilities have to invest in infrastructure to maintain grid reliability, they should be allowed to monetize that investment in order to be more competitive.

Today, utilities have not pursued alternative monetization approaches for value added services. Whether due to regulatory restrictions, choice of business model, or inability to execute, the utility industry has not capitalized on new approaches to monetization. Retail energy providers and non-regulated entities are offering a broad array of home services. These efforts include offerings such as energy audits, HVAC maintenance services, security and smart home services, and home warranties.

Join 300+ industry leaders at Parks Associates eighth-annual Smart Energy Summit, Feb 20-22, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas to learn more about the impact of smart home services on energy providers. More information at www.ses2017.com

Image from  Pixaby

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