In response to a growing population and rising prosperity, the demand for energy continues to steadily climb. In developing countries, global energy demand is expected to reach about 660 quadrillion Btu in 2050. To provide some context, that number is about 15% higher than in 2021. In order to not only stay profitable but also satisfy ongoing increases, providers are getting creative.
The ability to successfully drive innovation is what will likely keep the most competent energy providers on top. Aside from being the best of the best, they have a plan in place. Here are a few of the ways we see that happening now and into the future.
It’s no secret that much of the country’s utility infrastructure is aging. In fact, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), some components are more than a century old and “far past their 50-year life expectancy.” Further, ASCE reports 70% of T&D lines are “well into the second half of their lifespans.” To overcome some of these built-in inadequacies, energy providers would be wise to upgrade technology in areas where they can.
While the easy answer here is to replace old and outdated infrastructure with modern pieces, that’s easier said than done. Usually due to budgetary limitations. But that doesn’t mean innovative technology can’t be used in other areas. Reasonably priced software solutions that improve and enhance operations should be at the top of the list. These types of solutions, though not directly tied to energy delivery, can have a substantial impact. Specifically on reliability and customer service.
One of the more tech-forward innovations enabling energy providers to deliver a more reliable experience is by using “digital twins.” A digital twin is an exact virtual replica of an asset like a plant or a grid that is used to predict how the physical asset will perform. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the digital twin market is exploding in a variety of sectors, including utilities, with one estimate projecting a compound annual growth rate of 39.1% from 2022 to 2030.
There are several different types of digital twins, including component twins, asset twins, system twins, and process twins. While the names of each type offer context clues about their focus areas, the advantages of all of them are similar. Because the physical asset is outfitted with sensors that deliver data to the digital twin, energy providers can have real-time insights at their fingertips. In addition, providers can use that data to run simulations to predict asset performance and even how long assets might last.
Consumers are what keep the energy provider afloat, but could prosumers begin to carry that mantle? Energy prosumers are customers who generate their own power after investing in distributed energy resources, or DERs, like solar and wind. What makes this customer a prosumer is a willingness and ability to sell excess energy they have created but don’t need to a large-scale energy provider.
The benefits of cultivating relationships with prosumers are astounding. First, it helps take some of the strain off that aging infrastructure and create a more resilient grid. Though it may seem counterintuitive to purchase energy from a residential or commercial prosumer—only to spin it off to end customers later—if done at the right price, it could also become a new revenue stream for the provider.
Looking for some other ways to improve your operations and innovate in ways that will make your energy utility better? EnSight+ is a field service management software solution that utilities can use to improve efficiencies and better serve their customers. To learn more, book your demo today.
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