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2019 Insights for the Intelligent Utility

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Over the next five years, distribution utilities are going to increasingly evolve into distribution system operators. The trend will be driven in part by the deployment of 5G which will contribute to the proliferation of connected devices. These 5G-connected devices will reside both in front of the meter, such as distributed back-up generation and batteries, as well as behind the meter, such as smart home devices, commercial ice makers, and more batteries in the form of electric vehicles. All of these devices will increase a distribution utility’s ability to store and release energy on their grids at precise locations and with fine time resolution. The result will be that distribution utilities with the right set of technical and organizational capabilities will be able to better control their procurement costs and to transact multiple energy market products in parallel, thereby operating their grids with a higher economic efficiency. They will also be able to deliver enhanced customer service and to offer service choices beyond than the commodity sale.

To prepare for this future, distribution utilities need to up their game in data analytics. Many of those that have deployed smart meters have not made full use of the data they already have, in fact do not leverage their data assets beyond simple billing applications. As smart meter data is increasingly used for locational load forecasting, smart meters will become the gate keepers of the automated distribution grid, reconciling the activity of the controllable devices behind them with the utility’s engineering operations. To prepare for this future, distribution utilities will need to better leverage their existing assets, both data, physical, and human, to optimize the programs they currently operate. Failing to do so puts them at risk of falling further behind when the next generation of distributed devices arrives.

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