There is no denying the utilities industry is being disrupted and there are two key factors that are driving this continual disruption according to Tony Histon, director of transmission and distribution practice for APEC, Africa and the Middle East at Accenture. 

He described these during a webinar hosted by Which-50 and Dell Boomi. The first factor, he said, is that people are changing the way they consume energy. 

“Today, we use 20 per cent less energy per person than we did at the beginning of the century and this is because we’ve got more efficient appliances and lights. 

“We’ve moved away from energy intensive industries like manufacturing, but also I think we’re just becoming more conscious of our energy consumption.” 

The second factor is the way energy is being generated is changing. 

“We now get over 20 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources. This is up from just over 10 per cent in the year 2000. 

What contributes to this is the energy from some 2 million solar installations across the country. We’re seeing greener energy that’s more distributed.”

The disruption will continue as more electric vehicles come online, as weather patterns become more unpredictable and as our reliance on renewables increases.

Histon said the industry will respond in three core areas; through technology, new ways of doing business and regulation. 

In the technology space, the industry is responding with the enablement of the digital grid.

“Parts of the network are self healing, the energy network is equipped with intelligent digital devices that can identify faults, can isolate them, and then switch the network to restore supply to as many customers as possible as quickly as possible. 

“Back in the control room, operators have support tools which help them visualise what’s happening on the grid and predict what might happen in the future so they can plan their responses.” 

He said these systems visualise and control the greater being extended deeper into the networks closer to the customers.

In terms of new business models, there has been the emergence of intermediaries that helping demystify available energy offers and help customers get the best bang for buck.

Histon said, “We’ve also seen the emergence of new energy service providers that offer the customers rewards for use of their generation facilities or their consumption in a way that’s going to provide support to the network. 

“They’re able to package and provide network support services back to distribution businesses.”

 Regulation is changing through the new rules and structures around those markets previously discussed. 

“There’s also a new regulatory process in place to establish a centralised register, have distributed energy resources so they can be effectively managed. 

“There’s changes to the rules that apply to transmission companies in particular, to make them more accountable for mitigating the impacts of the loss of conventional generation and delivering a stronger grid.”

The scale of transformation 

Despite the amount of connected devices people have and the compulsory smart electricity meters there is still a significant amount of transformation to come. 

Histon said what will happen over the next 10 years is the development of applications and algorithms that will take advantage of computing capability. 

“I think we’ll see things like adoption of solutions that automatically determine how customers solar installation may feed back in the grid or charge their own batteries in a way that gives them the best rewards for their purpose.”

Investment will probably see greater automation of the grid in the context of more intimate energy resources according to Histon.

“We will ultimately see field resources and workers equipped with more tools that leverage this communication and capability to make their jobs safer and more enjoyable.”

Digital revolution

Over the past 10 years the disruptive influences in the sector has been industry regulation, rapid growth and environmental changes. 

But according to Venkata Nerra, solutions consultant at Dell Boomi the digital revolution happening right now is being driven by customer expectations and the emerging technologies. 

“In this information age, I know customers demand better cheaper and more portable services with the ability to even further personalise them. What we see is utility firms have found it difficult to adapt and improve their offerings as quick as the customer wants it.

“Success in such challenging environment requires not just an efficient and customer focused business model, but also they have to be supported by the HR technology platforms.”

The conversations Boomi is having with customers is integration is no more an afterthought. Nerra said customers are realising integrating plays a key role towards being digital ready they understand that the cost of suboptimal integration is large, and it keeps growing. 

“What customers are saying to us is to strive in this digital age, they need a technology foundation that makes information and interactions flow faster through their ecosystem. They are looking for platforms that not only can help better adapt SaaS applications, which are close to business or customers, but also help them with legacy applications.” 

Customers are asking Boomi how they can help them realise these business outcomes faster. 

“This is where our platform does exactly that by unifying everything and everyone. They can work together better in a way Dell Boomi gives them the speed and agility for the future.” 

About this author

Athina Mallis is the editor of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit of which Dell Boomi is a corporate member. Members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply. 

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