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2019 Will be Memorable for US Utilities. Here are 5 Reasons Why.

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After a century of relatively smooth sailing and incremental change, the US utility industry has seen radical change, even upheaval, over the last decade. Don’t look for things to slow down in 2019. Here is a glimpse into five issues that will continue to drive and change the landscape of the US utility industry over the coming year.

The US generation mix will continue to evolve, and renewables will (again) not be the prime mover. While growth in renewables continues to capture many of the headlines and show growth, the use of natural gas for power generation has been the big mover; this will continue in 2019 and beyond. Check out the EIA statistics on this sometime. They really tell the story about the generation mix in the US.

While other industries continue to jump in headfirst, utilities will continue to be laggards in moving IT, data, and analytics to the cloud. This is not a knock on utility leaders. Many of the security and capabilities anxieties have been overcome – after all, if financial services and retailers are transacting trillions of dollars of business in the cloud it can’t be all bad, right? – but either the accounting rules or the utility business model that rewards CapEx over OpEx must change for cloud enablement to really take off in utilities.

Having heard this from a number of really smart people in our industry I can’t take credit for this prognostication, but I do believe that DERMS and ADMS solutions will begin to morph into a single solution in 2019. If one looks at the purpose for each of these systems, it only makes sense that vendors start offering a single operational platform for these functions that will grow in importance as DERs, storage, EVs, and microgrids become more pervasive.

Analytics will turn the corner from siloed “skunks works” to an enterprise platform that will deliver on the promise of that growing mountain of data. The last 8 – 10 years have seen the application of analytics in utilities grow in capabilities and in relevance for utility leaders that need to deliver value in a very fluid, challenging business environment. A robust platform that can ingest massive volumes of complex data, leverage multiple analytic models, and deliver results to end users ranging from the hard core data scientist to the executive suite will become a business requirement, not a “nice to have.”

And finally, PG&E will not be recognizable one year from today. With its deepening trough of financial, operational, and legal challenges, and a customer base that is growing weary and resentful, California’s new big-government-loving governor will be dearly tempted to put his stamp on “solving” the PG&E “problem.” Look for some combination of restructuring, splitting up the business, or heavy government oversight at PG&E. The degree to which any of this will improve the safety and reliability of energy delivery in northern California is almost beside the point in an era where there is a clamor for “someone to do something.”

2019 will surely be an exciting, and possibly pivotal, year for the US utility industry. Let’s all hold on and enjoy the ride!

Mike can be reached at mikef.smith@sas.com.

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Thank Mike for the Post!

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