Ninety-Two percent of Power Companies Plan to Invest in Digital Grids in 2017

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Digital grid is becoming a primary focus area for the global power and utilities sector, with 92% of companies surveyed planning to invest in the next 12 months, according to a new EY report, Digital grid: powering the future of utilities. In the next 5 to 7 years, investment in digital grid is expected to be in the region of US$500b.

The report highlights innovative approaches undertaken by utilities to manage disruption from new entrants, including developing a virtual power plant based on battery storage, promoting a “bring your own battery” business model and testing Blockchain for electric vehicle charging.

Forty-six percent of respondents confirmed that digital grid – the digitization of electricity, gas and water networks – is a top strategic program or a target for investment over the next year. Growth in renewables (72%), improvement in infrastructure operations and performance (72%) and cybersecurity risks (60%) were cited as the primary drivers for investment in this area.

Paul Micallef, EY Global Power & Utilities, Digital Grid Leader, said:

“Today’s power-hungry world demands more resilience and flexibility from the grid. Digital grid will serve as the backbone for smarter, more reliable future energy systems – and that fact is not lost on utilities. The acceleration of renewables, connected homes and devices, competition from new entrants and other disruptive forces are compelling utilities to prioritize digital grid. And we’re seeing that reflected in large-scale, widespread investment programs.”

Utilities cite three primary barriers to digital grid adoption

An equal number of survey respondents (48%) identified difficulty making a business case, immature technologies and supplier inexperience, and a lack of understanding of the implications as the top barriers to digital grid adoption.

Micallef added:

“These barriers are not unexpected given the rate of change in the utilities sector, the level of disruptive innovation and pressure on the international supply chain to keep up and service global concurrent demand.”

Non-traditional utility entrants increase pressure to adopt digital grid

Fifty-six percent of respondents agree that non-traditional utility entrants will completely transform the sector. These new competitors – from telecommunication and technology companies to energy aggregators and energy service companies – are investing in offerings that have the potential to erode traditional utilities’ returns on digital grid investment. This includes connected home products, home energy management solutions and off-grid solutions among other products.

Micallef stated:

“Competition from new entrants is proving particularly disruptive to utilities, which are traditionally averse to risk and encumbered by regulation. Our survey results indicate that digital grids may be falling victim to this disruption, with 24% of utilities citing competition from non-utility entrants as a top three risk. While it is clear that utilities are feeling the pressure, some are grabbing the bull by the horns and investing in innovative solutions to meet changing customer expectations, drive growth and move toward the digital grid era.”

“The utility of the future will need to operate in a new value chain, augmented and interconnected by digital technologies, where power and information flows in both directions. Digital grid is crucial to achieving this future state but, in a sector that is still struggling to define exactly what a digital grid is, there is a long journey ahead to unlock its full value. Utilities can lay the foundation for value creation by defining clear objectives and identifying the true scope of the business change required to make digital grid a reality.”

About Richard Kastelein

Founder of industry publication Blockchain News, partner at ICO services collective CryptoAsset Design Group (helped raise over $200m+), director of education company Blockchain Partners (Oracle Partner) and ICO event organiser at leading industry event  CryptoFinancing (first ICO event in Europe) - Richard Kastelein is an award-winning publisher, innovation executive and entrepreneur. He sits on the advisory boards of half a dozen Blockchain startups and has written over 1200 articles on Blockchain technology and startups at Blockchain News and has also published pioneering articles on ICOs in Harvard Business Review and Venturebeat.
 
Kastelein has spoken (keynotes & panels) on Blockchain technology in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Barcelona, Beijing, Brussels, Bucharest, Dubai, Eindhoven, Gdansk, Groningen, the Hague, Helsinki, London, Manchester, Minsk, Nairobi, Nanchang, San Mateo, Shanghai,Tel Aviv and Venice. His network is global and extensive.
 
He is a Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Métis) whose writing career has ranged from the Canadian Native Press (Arctic) to the Caribbean & Europe. He's written occasionally for Harvard Business Review, Wired, Venturebeat, The Guardian and Virgin.com and his work and ideas have been translated into Dutch, Greek, Polish, German and French.
 
A journalist by trade, an entrepreneur and adventurer at heart, Kastelein's professional career has ranged from political publishing to TV technology, boatbuilding to judging startups, skippering yachts to marketing and more as he's travelled for nearly 30 years as a Canadian expatriate living around the world.
 
In his 20s, he sailed around the world on small yachts and wrote a series of travel articles called, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Seas' travelling by hitching rides on yachts (1989) in major travel and yachting publications. He currently lives in Groningen, Netherlands where he's raising three teenage daughters with his wife and sailing partner, Wieke Beenen.

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