NASHVILLE - Utilities must get nimble and be prepared to reimagine their businesses around a coming avalanche of connected devices, a panel of technology company chiefs told a national gathering of state utility regulators.
“The utilities will be perceived by customers as a cloud,” said Eric Dresselhuys, executive vice president of global development, Silver Spring Networks.
Huge amounts of customer and electric grid infrastructure will be wirelessly connected to utilities, ushering in a new era of services and unimaginable efficiencies, a panel of data experts told state regulators from around the country at the summer meeting of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.
The most important issue confronting utilities in the next decade will be preparing for an industrial Internet, said Tim Healy, chief executive officer and co-founder, EnerNOC.
“What is the operating system, and what will utilities need to do to enable that trend?” Healy said.
Alex Laskey, president and founder of Opower, recently acquired by Oracle, said, “I am very excited about a world where there are more distributed resources at the edge of the grid.”
Brien Sheehan, chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission, said, “We are on the verge of the fourth industrial revolution that blends the digital and physical world. The Internet of Things will consist of tens of billions of network connected devices.”
Dresselhuys said, “The number and variety of data sources are growing rapidly.”
ComEd, the utility serving Chicago and beyond, is monthly deploying 55,000 IoT devices, primarily smart meters and monitoring units, he said.
In the next few years, “it is easy to imagine” each customer will have eight IoT connected devices feeding data back to ComEd, he said.
The challenge for state regulators will be to be to enable utilities to embrace new business models to advance a new era of energy services to customers, he said.
“Technology always outruns regulation,” Dresselhuys said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The future of the utility business model will be front and center at the Energy Times’ Empowering Customers and Cities event in Chicago November 1-2, featuring Jeremy Rifkin. The IoT revolution will be explored at a co-located IoT Emerge conference November 2-4. The former event was launched in 2015, and the later is newly launched by Penton.