Distributed and Customer-Based Energy Future
Traditionally the production and distribution of power have been the responsibility of a select few large corporations, but with the rise of affordable renewables and mounting pressure to be more environmentally friendly, the business structures and practices that have been in place pretty much since the late 1800s are destined to go through a major overhaul.
Until recently, customers had little to no choice over how to manage their energy demand, but no longer. As the industry goes through the transition from being vertically integrated to a more distributed energy generation, the focus has turned from high carbon to lower or no carbon and from asset-based to a more service and customer based.
From Asset-Based to Service-Based
Industry accustomed to having rigid, fixed roles for generation, distribution, and retail is faced with the challenge of adapting amid breakthroughs in energy storage and energy-efficient technologies.
The energy companies need to rethink their whole business models to accommodate a new approach to customer engagement and the demand for entirely new energy-related product and service offerings. On top of the old responsibilities like safety and reliability, the power companies are expected to enable more service specialists and provide expanded customer choices over controlling the energy use, sources, and cost.
The quickly rising number of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), like the solar panels on top of a residential building, are catalyzing the demand to find ways to integrate, manage and optimize DER usage inside the power grid. To accomplish this, a new distributed and dynamic energy lifecycle management is needed.
From Top-Down to Distributed Energy Lifecycle
Key steps in transforming the energy lifecycle begin and end with customer interaction; connect new homes and buildings, automate operations and control through smart meters, and provide service as well as maintenance.
Elevated customer interaction and the surge in the number of DERs and related internet-based applications create high volumes of complex data. Correct handling of this data can make systems more intelligent and interactive and offer new ways to extract value for all the grid participants, such as help with forecasting capacity demand, planning for outages, and risk analysis.
The distributed energy lifecycle becomes complete when the data circles back to the customer for continuing engagement between the cooperating grid participants in the search for a distributed and efficient energy future.
We have entered an era in which the technology-powered push and the customer-driven pull have beneficially coincided to create new global trends in the energy market. In a new era, the capability to fluidly update company protocols and production lines will be the new requisite for being successful or risk being left behind.
A major industry going through such a significant transformation creates a lot of new business and value creation opportunities. They need to be identified and acted upon together with the policymakers to ensure a more distributed and environmentally friendly energy future.