Regulation, environment and technology top industry issues, survey finds


New York, NY, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — May 19, 2010 – Regulatory issues, the environment and technology are the three most important issues facing the electricity and natural gas industries today, according to the latest annual Platts/Capgemini utilities executive study.

An increase in focus on these three areas has occurred over the last year and this is expected to continue, with the focus increasing the most around governmental/regulatory affairs.

The survey, which was conducted among more than 100 executives within the U.S. and Canadian electric and natural gas industries, is aimed at giving a snapshot on the current and future directions of the industry and measuring the steps utility companies are taking to prepare for the future.

Seventy-five percent of the respondents felt that regulatory uncertainty is a key issue facing the industry, while 47 percent highlighted automated metering infrastructure and 43 percent smart grid technology as key issues. However, while 48 percent see increased utility use of the technology, for example for demand side management and smart grid, in the future, only 32 percent see a growing trend toward customer control of electricity use via in-home devices.

Other key issues are maintaining customer satisfaction, cited by 64 percent, and cost recovery, by 60 percent, while 44 percent cited the need to increase the talent pool in the workforce and 42 percent increasing energy efficiency and conservation programs and  building generation and transmission for renewables.

Looking to the future most of the executives expect an increase in electricity prices for end- users (70 percent) and increasing environmental regulation (63 percent). But only 19 percent see a growing role for distributed generation or an increased end-user focus on power quality and energy reliability.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the participants’ companies operate in regulated jurisdictions and 66 percent described their organization as an investor owned utility. Over one third currently has full implementation of smart meters (37 percent) and AMI (35 percent), and 45 percent indicated they already have a smart grid strategy in place while 52 percent said one is under development. The leading focus within smart grid projects surrounds upgrading security and the deployment of intelligent electronic devices (IEDs).

Another finding of the survey was that 80 percent of the participants were dissatisfied with the U.S. government’s energy policy performance following the one-year anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration and amid a slowly rebounding economy.

“While utility industry executives are generally pleased that the Obama administration has stimulated conversation around energy and sustainability, and that they have invested in a number of initiatives through the economic recovery package, there is considerable dissatisfaction in the lack of tangible and actionable policy and legislation,” said John Christens, vice president, Smart Energy Services, Capgemini. “Specific concerns included a lack of movement on CO2 legislation and action, regulations which will increase the cost of power without addressing the root issue of atmospheric carbon, and overly idealistic policies without adequate consideration to overall economic impact.”