The utilities sector has undergone change and transition to new forms of working and meeting national and international energy demands. For those in the sector who though that 2021 was rocky, the signs are that 2022 will be even more disruptive.
This is the message from Ty Roberts, VP of Networked Solutions (Itron), as he tells Digital Journal. Roberts unpicks the main utility sector trends that stand a good chance of occurring as 2022 progresses.
Labor and Supply Constraints will hamper the launch of Infrastructure Initiatives
A shortage of employee skills and the availability of suitable numbers is something that has plagued a number of industries. This includes the utility sector. Here Roberts notes: “The demand for specialized labor will escalate in 2022 as new projects are launched following the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. From construction to IT infrastructure, utilities will be in fierce competition with other industries to resource these projects both from a material (i.e. semiconductors, etc.) and labor perspective. It will become a strategic imperative to identify and engage with the right partners early on to drive these initiatives forward.”
Distributed Energy Intelligence adoption at scale will accelerate in 2022
A further imperative of importance is with the rise and increased adoption of distributed energy resources, say Deitrich. By this, energy sources like solar and wind power are important. Robert finds that renewable energy sources “will create new opportunities for utilities to realign grid management for greater resiliency and reliability as well as improving the services for their customers. This shift will motivate them to begin making the necessary investments in distributed intelligence for greater visibility and control of their networks at the edge (including their low voltage grid). This will allow them to better identify deficiencies in the network, outages (and where to route power), etc.”
Renewable energy adoption will create new opportunities to safeguard the grid
Further with renewable energy options, Roberts sees the application of alternative energy sources are essential for future growth and development. He states: “As electrical utilities begin to make renewable energy a larger part of their overall energy mix/portfolio, they will begin to embed generation and storage capabilities closer to where the energy load is being managed to improve resiliency. By ‘sectionalizing’ the grid in this way, they will be better able to address and isolate critical issues on a localized level (i.e. cyber-attacks, outages, etc.), allowing the broader network to continue operating. This, too, will drive increased adoption of distributed intelligence to enable real-time low voltage grid management capabilities.”
Natural Gas will fight to demonstrate its viability as a clean energy source
Due to environmental concerns, Roberts says that more countries and cities across the world will begin to cut access to natural gas hookups in order to meet new lower carbon/zero emission standards.
Gas companies are attempting to stem the down swing. Roberts says: “In response, natural gas providers are incorporating hydrogen blending into their strategic plans and will work more closely with regulators to demonstrate their own efforts to become carbon neutral to avoid a potential energy crisis.” This may not please all within the environmental movement.
Rural municipal utilities will make significant strides in advanced services following broadband investments
Technology is gradually being edged to remote communities and this in itself will trigger changes, says Roberts. Taking telecommunications as an example, Roberts finds: “Investments in rural broadband in 2022 will create new opportunities for be leveraged by municipalities to improve their ability to offer advanced services to customers including smart power and water metering. For smaller municipalities, we will see a continued rise in co-ops as well as collaborations with larger service providers to share industrial IoT infrastructure to expand advanced services and cost savings to their customer bases.”