utilities

US cities and utilities continue to adapt to pressing issues, such as aging infrastructure, natural disasters and the growing desire to incorporate renewables. Now, more than ever, cities and utilities have the opportunity to find new ways to innovate and demonstrate resiliency through technology, writes Marina Donovan, vice president, global marketing and public affairs at Itron.

Deploying connected technology will be critical for utilities and cities to optimize their existing infrastructure to reliably deliver energy and water in the face of uncertainty, while fostering a more resourceful and sustainable world.

To find out how cities and utilities are addressing present and future challenges with advanced technologies, we conducted an informal survey during Itron Utility Week (IUW) 2020 and on social media about utilities’ and cities’ investment priorities. According to respondents, the three most important investment areas for cities and utilities are AMI/networks/smart meters, data analytics and customer engagement technology. The survey showed that over the past 12 months, cities and utilities have invested in AMI/networks/smart meters and data analytics, first and foremost. Looking to the future, utilities and cities said that customer engagement technology is an investment priority in the next 12 months.

AMI/Networks/Smart Meters
At Itron, we are seeing our customers benefit from intelligent connectivity during the current shift to remote work. Employing modern communication networks enables faster, more responsive grids and improved data-driven decision making through capabilities like distributed intelligence. Remote meter reading via a network simplifies data collection and field operations – which is proving its value with a distributed workforce.

Related articles:
The rise of renewables – managing the impact on the grid
Load forecasting in the post-Covid era needs new variables
Maine utility modernises grid network with Itron smart meters

Data Analytics
The second most important area of investment comes as no surprise as we are seeing utilities realize the importance of data analytics and automating data collection to improve their operations. Leveraging analytics can transform the way utilities see customer demand patterns and provide access to critical data for infrastructure planning. Data analytics allows utilities to deliver consistent and reliable energy and restore service quickly and efficiently.

Customer Engagement Technology
Going forward, customer engagement technology is a priority area for utilities and cities. It’s clear that technologies such as smart thermostats provide a value-added service to customers as well as demand response capacity. Investing in technology to improve customer satisfaction enables customers to proactively optimize energy/water usage and meaningfully interact with utilities.

Looking Ahead
Through our informal survey, we uncovered top technology investment priorities of utilities and cities to address present and future challenges. Through the work we do every day, we see that even during a difficult year, utilities and cities are rising to the occasion and exploring opportunities to deploy innovative technologies — safely, reliably and efficiently.