Top 5 disruptions that utility execs are probably worrying about right now


DistribuTECH 2019 showcases all the latest innovations and disruptions taking place in the electric utility industry.

If you are one of the almost halfmillion people who work in the utility industry, no doubt you know that the industry is changing, and fast.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International 1-2019.  You can read the full digital magazine here.

Lucky for you, DistribuTECH offers you an in-depth look at every single aspect of the utility business and how all of those changes will affect you and the work that you do every day.

Here’s a look at the top industry trends that you might want to learn something about as you attend the event.

Customers: More and more utilities are working to meet the needs of their customers. This includes responding to requests to offer more access to clean energy, engaging with customers to deliver better services and helping customers integrate a wide array of technologies and gadgets that make energy more, well, fun.

Don’t miss the following in the Customer strategies & technologies track: • Monday, February 4 @ 9:00 AM – The Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative’s 2019 Consumer Symposium: exploring the evolving world of energy

• Wednesday, February 6 @ 1:30 PM – Understanding your small and medium-sized business customers • Thursday, February 7 @ 8:45 AM – Giving customers what they want: a look at innovative utility offerings in community solar, demand response, storage and more

Cybersecurity: The world is digitalising everything. From running our power plants to running our distribution systems to running our homes, we are turning to digitalisation as a means to make our businesses and lives more efficient and easier to manage.

But those tiny sensors and big connected software systems come with one enormous caveat – what happens when they get hacked? A cyberattack on the utility grid could have very big implications for the electricity industry and utility executives remain vigilant in their attempts to thwart them.

Don’t miss the following in the Defending the grid track:

• Monday, February 4 @ 7:00 AM – Best practices in utility cybersecurity: presented by Protect Our Power

• Tuesday, February 5 @ 1:00 PM – Incident Response: lessons from the trenches

• Wednesday, February 6 @ 2 PM in one of our four new Knowledge Hubs (Booth 11456) – Cyber, systems, software, switching and scares

Reliability: Delivering reliable, affordable electricity service has always been a top priority for utilities but with more devasting disasters like wildfires, blizzards, tornadoes and hurricanes, utilities are finding it increasingly difficult to keep the lights on after a significant weather event. Innovative technologies like big data, analytics, drones and robots are helping utilities meet these challenges in ever-innovative ways.

Don’t miss the following in the Reliability, resiliency and response track:

• Monday, February 4 @ 8 AM

– Utility University Course: the future of outage management systems

• Tuesday, February 5 @ 1:00 PM – Preparing the grid for the unexpected: innovative approaches to grid resiliency

• Wednesday, February 6 @ 3 PM in our new Knowledge Hub (Booth 323)– Drone Symposium: how drones are helping utilities reach new heights • Thursday, February 6 @ 11:30 AM – How PSEG embraced the outage data initiative to share data with comcast Distributed energy resources: The price of a residential solar system has plummeted in the past decade, falling 80% since 2008. Experts think it could fall another 50% over the next decade.

As more homeowners opt to generate their own clean energy, becoming prosumers, utilities are left trying to figure out how to manage this increasing amount of distributed energy being fed into their grids.

Is energy storage a solution? If utilities can quickly understand how to incorporate storage into the grid and use distributed batteries as one large virtual battery, it could be. But if the battery price falls as quickly as the solar price does, utility customers might just opt to buy both and disconnect from the grid all together. And what about other DER challenges and opportunities such as electric vehicles and demand response? DER has so many implications for utilities today that DTECH offers multiple tracks, tours, talks and networking events devoted to just this one important topic. Don’t miss the following:

• Monday, February 4 @ 1 PM

– A Utility University Course on Implementing distributed energy resources management systems (DERMS) to meet the challenges of distributed resources integration • Monday, February 4 @ 9 AM, 12 PM or 2:30 PM and Thursday, February 7 @ 1 PM – Solar and storage tour of Entergy’s 1-MW solar and battery pilot plus an update on its utility-owned DER generation programme

• Tuesday, February 5 @ 1 PM

– Mega session: DER roadmap strategies

• Wednesday, February 6 @ 1:30 PM – Why the time is now for electric vehicles and how utilities should prepare for them

• Thursday, February 7 @ 8:45 – Blockchain, CCA, smart home devices and more: disruptions and opportunities for forward-thinking utilities

• Thursday, February 7 @ 11 AM in our Knowledge Hub (Booth 12031)

– Why a personal touch helps maximise behaviour demand response success

FOMO (fear of missing out): If you’re not up-to-date on how blockchain could disrupt the utility industry, how utilities are using artificial intelligence to manage electric vehicle adoption with V2G technology, how augmented reality and robot-driven drones are changing operations and maintenance for utilities and how connected homes and smart cities are making your customers’ lives oh so much easier, then you are … normal.

Because who can keep up with all of the new technologies out there? Don’t suffer from FOMO, just be sure to check in with the following sessions and events at DTECH 2019:

• Monday, February 5 @ 8 AM

– A Utility University Course on upgrading to smart grid 2.0: what you need to know about communications infrastructure • Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the Exhibit Hall

– Initiate! DistribuTECH’s newest exhibit hall arena that showcases energy start-ups. Booth (12559) • Wednesday, February 6 @ 7:30 AM – Breakfast Roundtables, including blockchain, electric vehicles, the utility of the future and 20 additional topics • Thursday, February 7 @ 8:45 AM – How GIS technology + artificial intelligence can greatly improve asset management

The utility industry is changing and so is DistribuTECH. We’re under new management as Clarion Events has taken the helm and is helping us by investing in better and more content for our attendees and a more beneficial experience for our exhibitors. We hope you’ll enjoy our four knowledge hubs packed with informative educational sessions open to any attendee regardless of what type of badge you have. Our keynotes, now on both Tuesday and Wednesday at 9:30 AM, offer high-level overviews of big trends in the industry as seen from high-level executives. Our networking events will be fun and fruitful as always. See you there! — JMR SEI

Written by Jennifer Runyon, Advisory Chair, DistribuTECH