by Sheri Cleary, Client Relationship Executive, CSC
Industry experts all over the world agree – power grids are becoming more complex. They need to be capable of handling various forms of energy, from traditional thermal sources like coal and gas, to newer sources like solar, wind and hydroelectric. They must also support distributed generation and energy-efficient technologies. Most importantly, they will need to comply with regulations designed to control emissions and mitigate the environmental effects of energy generation.
This represents an unprecedented shift in social and industry expectations. As a result, grids must now be adapted to suit an environment in which energy efficiency is prized above all else. For the utility companies responsible for this transition, the big question is how to modernise while remaining competitive and profitable in this brave new world.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”
– Alexander Graham Bell
Providing a reliable supply of affordable electricity while modernising your grid to meet new social and legislative expectations can be risky, expensive and difficult. The situation is further complicated by the general lack of clarity when it comes to the ideal end state of a modernised grid. Should energy suppliers anticipate full reliance on renewable sources at some point in the future? Or should they plan for a combination of thermal and renewable sources?
With uncertainty in the market comes risk, but with risk comes opportunity. For utility companies, the most promising sources of potential growth are to be found in effectively managing customer relationships, investing in distributed energy resources, and maximising returns on newly purchased assets.
While many providers are unsure of how best to adapt their business models to accommodate growth, the good news is that there are numerous examples of companies that have successfully switched to new business models and increased their efficiency, growth and market share. In the utilities sector, such companies will likely be those that take advantage of technologies that support distributed energy schemes and energy-efficiency initiatives.
A new paradigm
The ideal new model will engage consumers as active energy producers while continuing to sell them services provided by traditional assets. And that’s exactly what CSC’s Power System Services business model does. It’s based on four key technologies that will allow utilities to manage costs, increase productivity and bring new products and services to market quickly. The model is made up of five key components:
- Business transformation
To stay relevant in today’s digital world, businesses need to become ‘digital enterprises’. They can do this by replacing inefficient existing ICT systems and business models with automated self-service alternatives. In doing so, they’ll take an important step towards becoming a lean and agile organisation whose access to on-demand information, applications and services gives them a powerful competitive advantage.
IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) is a model in which a company’s IT department functions like an independent subsidiary, consuming resources on demand, using defined and industry-tested solutions. This involves taking charge of IT performance while also developing products designed to help the business achieve its goals. In some cases, the ITaaS model involves the use of cloud or software-as-a-service solutions, allowing businesses to streamline their IT departments and focus more determinedly on financial goals and meeting market needs.
- Cloud computing
Cloud computing frees companies from the burden of maintaining an expensive and ageing physical IT infrastructure. More importantly, it allows them to provide new resources as needed, meaning that they only pay for what they use, and can be agile enough to respond quickly to new demands. With multiple hybrid cloud environments available, businesses can easily access the right service for the right price.
Mobile technology allows employees to access a full range of tools and applications in the field, while remaining in touch with office-based colleagues. A thoughtfully designed mobile solution reduces costs by allowing employees to enter data in a timely and accurate manner regardless of where they are. In the utilities industry – which relies on the maintenance of far-flung power stations, meters and grids – this can be particularly valuable. Mobile solutions work closely with real-time data analysis. For example, smart grids allow for the instantaneous detection of brownouts and power outages. By automatically delivering this information to mobile field workers, a rapid response to customers can be ensured.
- Big data
Big data refers to the predictive analytics of data – much of which comes from new sources like smart meters and social networks – that can be used to identify patterns which might previously have been obscured or undetectable. Such analysis allows companies to identify areas of possible growth, pre-empt business challenges and make more informed business decisions. For example, predictive and condition-based maintenance of substation equipment can decrease unplanned outages. Similarly, the generation of short-term weather forecasts can help utility companies prepare and dispatch repair teams in advance.
A whole new world
Moving towards this future requires utility providers to harness the latest IT technologies and, in doing so, ensure their continuing adaptability and growth potential. Fortunately, many businesses have navigated this transition successfully, drawing on the assistance of people with the necessary experience to implement affordable solutions with speed, simplicity and a strategic focus.
The time to start is now…
For more information about how you can begin modernising your company, contact Sheri Cleary, Client Relationship Executive at she[email protected].