Published on March 4th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Utility Insiders See Major Changes Coming (Charts)

March 4th, 2014 by  

The folks at Utility Dive recently conducted its first annual survey of 500+ US utility professionals, “The State of the Electric Utility.” Overall findings? Utility insiders see the industry changing considerably over the coming decade, with a particular focus on greening the grid.

Some of the overall findings included:

  • 95% anticipate that their utility’s regulatory model will change over the next 10 years, and 57% believe it will change significantly.
  • 70% of utilities already offer or plan to offer dynamic pricing to customer within the next five years.
  • 54% of utilities say they face stakeholder pressure to supply cleaner and more sustainable energy.

There are a ton of interesting findings in the report, which you may download for free here. Here are just a few that stood out to me:

distributed generation utilities dynamic pricing utilities EV charging utilities utility challenges utility growth utility regulation

Interesting stuff. And there’s a lot more in there. Download Utility Dive‘s report for more. (Full disclosure: we have no relationship with Utility Dive and don’t benefit from you downloading the report; I just think it’s cool.)

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Doug

    I was in a meeting today and three of the five of us in the room have solar panels installed and one more is on the fence. The storm is coming for the utilities industry.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I think you’re right. We’re about to hear great wailing and gnashing of teeth.

      Look for thermal plants to start going bankrupt when they can’t pull profits from peak hours. Profits they need to cover the loses wind is giving them at night.

      Grid storage may not be too far in our future.

  • Will E

    to Hans

    Cut the Grid loose from the Utilities by law.
    In the land of the free, the people are slaves of the utilities.

  • sault

    Good article. But people REALLY need to stop using an unmistakable “Smart Car” look-alike to signify an electric vehicle. While the Smart ED is a nice car, most people will start thinking that ALL EVs are cramped 2-seaters that take 20 seconds to get to 60 mph if they keep this up. Just like how a lot of people thought the Prius was a small 2-seater because of the original Honda Insight.

    • Tom G.

      I agree. Lets make it look like a Tesla, Volt, iMEV or Leaf. That would certainly be better.

  • TedKidd

    “Seek decoupling electricity sales from profits” – such an obvious answer. Fixed costs should be covered by fixed charges. Shifting burden perverts incentives.

  • Ross

    Their concerns are all on the side of things that threaten their current business model. They don’t really mind all the green, cleantech.

  • Altair IV

    It’s not just the utilities. There’s a huge sea change coming in the world, and I personally believe that it’s going to happen so rapidly that many people are going to be caught completely by surprise. There’s a virtual perfect storm brewing of renewable sources (solar, wind), storage (esp. batteries), electric vehicles, new smart grid systems, efficiency improvements, active demand management, and cultural awareness. It’s all merging into one massive unstoppable force, and it’s nearly upon us. The costs of implementing just about everything listed are either already at or below parity with other existing technologies, or will reach such parity within a few years, and their performance keeps improving too. I can already see the pace of adoption starting to accelerate, and it’s only going to move faster and faster over the next couple of decades.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I agree. We struggled to climb the mountain and now we’re starting down the other side. Things will accelerate from here on out.

      I would not be surprised to see electricity close to 100% renewable and almost all personal vehicles EVs 20 years from now. 30 years is probably more likely, but 20 seems to be within reach.

      I’ll throw in one of my favorite graphs once more. Stuff can change in a hurry.

      • Matt

        No linear growth baby. It looks real slow at first and them BAM it is everywhere.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I just ran across the 2013 numbers for installed solar in the US. Things are accelerating….

          “According to GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Solar Market Insight Year in Review 2013, photovoltaic installations continued to proliferate, increasing 41 percent over 2012 to reach 4,751 megawatts. In addition, 410 megawatts of concentrating solar power came on-line.

          Solar was the second-largest source of new electricity generating capacity in the U.S., exceeded only by natural gas. Additionally, the cost to install solar fell throughout the year, ending the year 15 percent below the mark set at the end of 2012.

          At the end of 2013 there were more than 440,000 operating solar electric systems in the U.S. totaling over 12,000 megawatts of photovoltaics (PV) and 918 megawatts of concentrating solar power (CSP).”

    • Doug Cutler

      As for myself, I sometimes feel like a next generation car battery cargo cultist: I’m not going to feel so comfortable until its clear the writing is on the wall for the ICE. Toyota begins field testing solid state lithium next year touting 3X range at 1/2 cost/kwh of current lithium ion. Now imagine that tech coupled with the economies of scale promised by Telsa’s megafactory. It should make for entertaining viewing but its still a few years off yet.

      I’m also not going to feel so comfortable until China and India’s coal demand at least levels off or even begins to fall. There are indications China will cap coal CO2 in a few years as their renewable efforts catch on and their population chokes on the smog. But that still means they’re burning a hell of a lot of coal for some years. India is also likely to keep adding a lot of fossil fuel thermal until their lagging renewable program gains mo.

      There’s lots of hopeful developments of late. Northern Europe has been stellar. We’ve begun to bring the ship about but its a long, slow process. From where I sit it still looks like we could side-swipe the global warming iceberg pretty hard. Somebody please tell me why I’m wrong.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I don’t think you’re wrong. I think we’ve dialed in a new climate unlike the climate we enjoyed for a long, long time.

        I think we are likely to get GHG emissions under control. But it’s already too late to stop some change, all we can do now is avoid extreme change.

        We’re going to have to endure some painful adaption.

        Had we followed Carter’s lead and not replaced him with Reagan we might have avoided significant climate change. But we’re simply not good at taking preventative action.

      • Matthew

        I think you are dead on accurate. Hypothesizing: what we need is some profitable way to be able to clean the atmosphere, that would allow us to reverse the trend.

        If we could grow algae and turn it into oil that would be a win. If we could feed that algae the pollution in the air it would be a huge win! If we could get to scale with something like this, we could create “Global Cooling!”

        • Doug Cutler

          Yes, we need a carbon tax reflecting true costs of FF with revenues directly slated for carbon negative biofuel and other renewables. Many bright minds pursuing breakthroughs. There’s even tech for removing CO2 from seawater. Unfortunately, it looks like it will take more superstorms or other GHG consequences before such a tax will be widely accepted.

          Long term I’m actually rather optimistic. I see a bright future where EVs, clean energy and sustainable economies are the norm. I even have this crazy idea of a time when we use our hard won knowledge of climate effects to ward off future ice ages by controlling atmospheric CO2 up or down like a thermostat. It would go nicely with an emerging ability to detect and deflect earth crossing asteroids.

          Its just that getting to this bright future could still be a rough ride.

  • Will E

    Today RWE utilitie company in Germany announced a loss for the first time since world war 2 1945. Euro 2,3 billion loss over 2013, and no better forecast, how much is that in dollars??? USA utilities can see what they are fighting.
    Power to the people. clean and easy

    • Hans

      RWE is not completely comparable with U.S. utilities, which are mostly vertically integrated. In Europe power production and power grids have been separated. In theory power production companies operate on the free market (although in practice they still get quit some protection), and the grids are semi-commercial with a special government agency checking if the grid-operator does not abuse their (natural) monopoly.

      RWE does power production, but does not own a transmission grid.

  • Kyle Field

    VERY insightful, actually. 38% of utilities see distributed generation as a threat? makes me laugh and cry at the same time. Laugh because those are the utilities that are stuck in an old mindset and are fighting against “those tree huggers trying to use my grid as a battery without paying me for it”. I fully expect those utilities to be thrashed in the market and hopefully will either evolve past that dated mindset or be pushed out of the market because of it. As Obama loves to say…I believe they are “on the wrong side of history”.

    Cry…because yeah…that’s sad. They are likely owned and run by climate change deniers…meh. I don’t have energy to waste on a rebuttal. but yeah. 🙁

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