Smart meters and other technologies top utility executive concerns


Boulder, CO, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — April 8, 2008 – Technology in general, and smart meters and automated metering infrastructure (AMI) as well as clean-coal technology in particular, are seen as critical elements for helping to meet the utility industry’s current challenges, according to Platts/Capgemini’s latest utilities executive study released today

In the study involving nearly 100 high level executives from the North American electric and natural gas industry, 27 percent rated smart meters and 25 percent rated AMI as “very important” for the industry. Asked about their current level of involvement in AMI, among other areas, more than a quarter had fully implemented AMI and 19 percent had fully implemented smart meters, while more than half were in partial implementation, piloting, or testing of AMI (55 percent), smart meters (62 percent), and smart grid technologies (52 percent).

In addition to the utilization of new technology the other top critical issues facing the energy industry were found to be the environment, regulation, workforce management and building new infrastructure. More than three-quarters of participants surveyed highlighted the environment – including such issues as global warming, climate change, and emissions/carbon requirements – as a top challenge, and 95 percent said that the industry’s focus on the environment in 2007 against that of 2006 had increased.

Participants strongly agreed that over the next five to 10 years, there will be increased environmental regulation as the focus on energy and conservation increases. Primary concerns cited by the executives relate to the costs associated with building new plants and retrofitting existing plants to meet environmental regulations, as well as the costs associated with incorporating renewable resources into the fuel mix. These increased costs will likely impact monthly bills for end-users, adding to the concerns executives face dealing with public opinion.

The most pressing workforce management issue is continuity as the workforce ages raising the equally important elements of knowledge capture and transfer. A new element to workforce management is increased competition for talent, both locally and globally, as industry demand increases to maintain a strong knowledgeable workforce in order to build, maintain and operate North American utilities.

As with the environment, the focus on infrastructure has increased dramatically relative to 2006. Almost three-quarters of the executives reported that new or aging infrastructure is one of the top three issues facing the industry today. Concerns surround cost recovery for new generation construction and new transmission, with doubt that solutions will be resolved in the near future.

Looking to the future the respondents expect that the energy industry will face increased environmental regulation, increased focus on conservation and energy efficiency, increased inclusion of renewables and nuclear energy in the fuel mix, and continued volatility in natural gas prices. However, they do not expect increased industry consolidation, an increase in outsourcing of non-core functions, increased collaboration among industry leaders, or significant movement away from deregulation.