What challenges and opportunities await in 2016? Key industry figures share their thoughts on the big issues of the year, from smart cities to meter dataIn a prediction focused on smart cities, Tim Wolf, director of Marketing, Smart Grid Solutions at Itron, maintains that catalysed by the recent Paris climate agreement and country-specific initiatives, such as Envision America, the smart cities movement will go mainstream in 2016, becoming a half trillion dollar market – a figure that will more than triple before the end of the decade.
Mr Wolf believes that utilities, through their investments in smart grid technology and IoT-ready networks over large urban areas, will be on the leading edge of the smart cities movement.
"Energy companies can use these technologies to drive energy efficiency, water conservation, reduced carbon emissions, while also providing a technology platform to make their communities more liveable, sustainable and economically vibrant.”
Shifting utility model
When it comes to utility digitisation and modernisation, James McClelland, senior global director, Customer Value Office - Energy & Utilities at SAP Americas, believes the utility industry is currently challenged with balancing the efficient operations of its existing infrastructure with the need to adapt to the volatile market environment.
Mr McClelland foresees that in 2016, leading utilities will re-evaluate their physical assets and customer relationships in a bid to find new revenue and profit sources.
"I believe utilities will begin offering innovative supply, load balancing, and smart home/business energy services."
McClelland also continue the process of operational technology and information technology as well as reimagine the role and structure of the workforce to support future business by incorporating wearable technology, 3D printers, and geospatial technologies.
Liberalisation of smart meter data
In Europe, Sasha Renate Bermann, chief dissemination officer at global energy think tank VaasaETT, predicts that a key challenge facing many market players is liberalising smart metering data.
Ms Bermann said: "This means making the data available in a standardised format, in an accessible platform aligned with regulations on data privacy and security across the EU.
"If succeeding at this, then new, innovative services can be created and commercialised in the smart energy space. This would be the starting point of a potential smart energy boom.
She concludes: "In collaboration with our project partners VaasaETT is presently working on an EU-supported project, Flexiciency, aiming to solve this challenge on a pan-European level.
"It is our hope that Flexiciency will be able to facilitate the creation of new smart energy services in a more competitive, open marketplace."