Resourcefulness

The wise and careful use of energy and water is at the core of resourcefulness. It’s about managing energy and water efficiently and using them thoughtfully.

All human societies rely on these resources in order to thrive. Reliable access to energy is essential for modern commerce, education, public safety, government and so much more. And clean, safe and affordable water is essential to life itself.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International 1-2019.  You have access to our digital magazine today.

Around the world, utilities that provide electricity, gas and water are charged not only with safely and reliably delivering these resources, but also with acting as stewards for years to come. As climate, consumer expectations and usage patterns have evolved over time, utility companies have had to keep up.

The 2018 Itron Resourcefulness Report detailed the results of a survey designed to track perceptions of consumers and utility executives on an array of topics relating to how utilities deliver energy and water, and how consumers use them.

There are numerous data-driven insights in this year’s report, including four forward-looking takeaways that help illustrate the ways we can expect to see the evolution of resourcefulness take shape in the near future.

Resourcefulness is a shared responsibility between utilities and consumers Utilities and consumers agree that they share the responsibility of creating a more resourceful world. Consumers of all ages and utilities themselves believe they have a role to play. The report found that 58% of consumers are seriously concerned about their impact on the environment.

Although consumers say utilities should be responsible for improving resourcefulness, utilities are placing the responsibility on consumers too.

While price is almost always a key motivator in consumer utilisation of resources, we now have a benchmark for what success looks like, according to global consumers: 61% of consumers would act more resourcefully if they could save 5 to 20% on their utility bills. To address these concerns, consumers are taking action, including using programmable thermostats and solar panels.

Consumers are also looking to utilities for more information to help them better manage their water and energy use. Only one in three consumers are satisfied with the communication they get from utilities.

And more than half of utility executives believe they are successfully engaging with consumers. What type of information do consumers want? Consumers expressed interest in information on how to reduce utility bills, energy efficiency programmes, real-time access to usage information, rebates and more.

Renewables are a priority

Integrating renewables is a shared priority, not only amongst consumers and utilities, but also regulators, as evidenced by recent legislation approvals.

This goal is the number one change consumers want to see utilities make.

In fact, according to consumers, the lack of traction made on integrating renewables to date is the leading cause of inefficiencies and waste. Utilities are equally concerned, citing renewable integration into their energy mix as their No. 1 unmet need.

Legislators are helping address this by working on ways to invest in infrastructure modernisation to support the growth of renewables and further committing their efforts toward clean energy. In September, California passed Senate Bill 100 into law, which sets a target of 100% renewable electricity for the state by 2045.

Also, city lawmakers in the District of Columbia recently voted to move a bill that would set a 100% renewable energy mandate by 2032 and require all public transportation and fleet vehicles in the city to be zero emission by 2045.

Alliances and partnerships will thrive Having allies in the journey toward a resourceful future will be an important way to overcome these challenges and invest in important initiatives. Utilities must look at changing their approach to getting consumers on board with altering their energy consumption behaviours.

Collaborative utility programmes can reduce energy consumption and costs, which benefits utilities and consumers alike.

A collaborative in Charlotte, North Carolina is a great example of how effective these partnerships can be.

A public-private collaborative called Envision Charlotte worked with local utility, Duke Energy, to decrease energy consumption in the biggest energy users in the town – 61 commercial buildings of more than 10,000 square feet in size. This programme saved $25.7 million in energy costs and decreased carbon emissions to levels equal to taking 11,000 vehicles off the road.

Connected infrastructure will enable smart communities at scale

Connected infrastructure is key to making resourcefulness happen. With a standards-based mesh network, utilities can enable smart city applications, integrate renewables and much more. Seven out of 10 consumers say connected energy systems are a top priority in their country, while eight out of every 10 utility executives identify a lack of infrastructure investment as a growing or urgent concern. This is why mesh networks are necessary to enable the smart city technology that consumers and utilities want.

Mesh networking is flexible and allows utilities to integrate smart city technology at scale. Organisations such as the Wi-SUN Alliance simplify the integration of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices via a standards-based approach. Mesh technology will be the ingredient to help smart cities scale quickly, securely and cost-effectively.

Everyone has a role in resourcefulness

Utilities and consumers have the same goal in mind: creating a more resourceful future.

They want safer, less wasteful, more efficient and sustainable communities. They want to embrace the efficiency and responsiveness benefits that connected infrastructures offer.

And they want easy access to renewable energy sources. Consumers and utilities view themselves — and each other — as the catalysts for transformative change.

The actions both parties take to use resources more responsibly can redefine what resourcefulness means for generations to come. There are several benefits to smart technologies, and as utilities and cities align their initiatives with citizens’ priorities, they will be strongly positioned to create a more resourceful future. SEI

About Marina Donovan

Marina Donovan has more than 20 years of global technology marketing and public relations experience with a background in data security, networking and mobile. She joined Itron as vice president of global marketing and public affairs in January 2018. Prior to joining Itron, she was vice president of marketing for Silver Spring Networks.

About Itron

Itron enables utilities and cities to safely, securely and reliably deliver critical infrastructure services to communities in more than 100 countries. Our portfolio of smart networks, software, services, meters and sensors helps our customers better manage electricity, gas and water resources for the people they serve. By working with our customers to ensure their success, we help improve the quality of life, ensure the safety and promote the well-being of millions of people around the globe.