Recently we attended the ETS17, Energy Thought Summit in Austin, Texas that was themed Design for Energy.  In attendance were many top utility executives and industry to look at solutions for a rapidly changing business model happening within Power Utilities today.  Some of the discussions centered around the challenges of and impacts of technology moving faster than the ability to leverage available disruptive technology.  There was a quote that summed it up by Mary Powell, President and CEO of Green Mountain Power, "130 year old regulatory model" exists alongside innovation and disruption.

Let’s look at disruptive technology for a moment.  This is what Wikipedia had to say about it:

A disruptive innovation is an innovation that creates a new market and value network and eventually disrupts an existing market and value network, displacing established market leading firms, products and alliances.

The term was defined and phenomenon analyzed by Clayton M. Christensen beginning in 1995.  This is what the McKinsley Institute said about it in a recent report Disruptive technologies:

Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy.  It sounds like a roller coaster ride, you can walk away, scream the entire time or strap in and enjoy an exhilarating experience.

Examples of disruptive technologies but not meant to be exhaustive:

Cloud Technology     Renewable Energy     Virtual Reality

IoT     Analytics     Autonomous Vehicles

Machine Learning   Block Chain   Artificial Intelligence

How do we move forward in this fast and ever changing time?  A great suggestion was tweeted by @cpsenergy.

It is a strategy we employ as we look to broaden our circle of those who would consider us a trusted advisor along with strengthening our strategic alliances.  There isn’t a silver bullet to get it all done but a series steps into the realm of what is currently called disruptive technologies.  What are some of the benefits of moving forward?  Greater insight into a highly complex ecosystem through visualization, predictive data and leveraging of information already in existence across the organization.

How we get there is more conversation, more idea sharing and open dialog about the long list of challenges faced by utilities.  These include a higher level of expectation from customers, decarbonized energy infrastructure, increased safety concerns, distributed generation, renewables, storage, demand for higher grid efficiencies, decreasing nontechnical losses, smart grids, digitalization, and the need to see end to end grid data.  Who is going to do this?  A great point was made by the Chief Executive Officer of Pedernales Electric Cooperative John Hewa (@PedernalesCoop).

The technologies that have been implemented and will be implemented bring with them more and more data.  A point also shared was that some utilities now collect as much data in a day as they did in a whole year just a few years ago. When data is manageable, it provides us with the opportunity to go from being reactive to proactive.  The implementation of some of these disruptive technologies provides the means to break down data silos that have long existed and integrate them into meaningful and actionable information.  This is the sentiment that was shared by the President of the Board at Sacramento Municipal Utility District Nancy Bui-Thompson‏ (@NancyBui) :

What if we just look at it differently?  It could be exactly as the President & CEO of Exelon shared, @ets_conference:

You decide - but if you agree we can help with that!

About the author

Laura has over 25 years of technical sales experience working with the utility industry in various management roles.  She has a diverse technology background that includes a Cisco certification for networking, management optimization software, substation hardened communication gear, and more. While at Pulse Energy, she provided SaaS energy efficiency software directly to the utilities for their Commercial &Industrial customers to help with Demand Side Management programs. Laura is married and has three grown boys.  Her interests include hiking, baking, reading and travel.