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Black & Veatch has issued a new report that examines challenges experienced by both critical infrastructure providers and their commercial and industrial customers as they strive to achieve resilience, reliability and sustainability goals.

According to the report, 2020 Strategic Directions: Megatrends, the three key factors are data management, sustainability and renewable energy.

Sustainability: Increasing concerns over climate change are setting off alarms about the future of water and power supplies, and fuelling new scrutiny of the mechanics, cost and return on investment of sustainability solutions. The report frames the conflict bluntly: “Aligning the triple bottom line principles of people, planet and profit may sound idealistic, but are those things inherently in conflict?”

Renewable energy: Today’s electric utilities, those historic keepers of a reliable and resilient grid, are being tested in their ability to align with growing clean energy and decarbonisation mandates. The report cautions that without significant utility commitments to green energy, power-hungry industrial clients with growing sustainability goals may turn to renewables or distributed generation resources of their own.

Data’s risk-reward: The proliferation of smart devices that measure everything from consumption habits to asset management and system health continue to create new opportunities to collect and embrace actionable data. But to embrace data invites risk: With every new remote sensor, drone, iPad or other IoT tool deployed on our systems, the more vulnerable we become to hackers and network intrusion.

From many, one: As powerful storms and wildfires raise questions about the reliability of traditional utility services, the rollout of projects to enhance resilience and improve operational efficiency continues. Advances in information technology, operational technology and artificial intelligence blur the lines between traditional organisation silos. Yet, survey data shows that integrated planning is far from a high priority, signalling potential trouble for utilities in areas that are prone to nature’s worst.

Steve Edwards, CEO of Black & Veatch, said: “For years our Strategic Directions series has taken the pulse of the industries we serve and focused sharply on megatrends before they take hold, to keep clients a step ahead.

“Against a backdrop of a changing climate, changing business models and changing customer expectation, this new report raises the stakes by examining the critical resource and infrastructure megatrends that will set the agenda for 2020 and beyond.”

The study was conducted over a period of two years and includes water, power and telecommunications company representatives and commercial and industrial customers.

The study is available for download here

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