Electric utilities are changing. A powerful confluence of architectural, technological, and socio-economic forces is transforming the U.S. electricity market. These trends and developments are placing tremendous pressure on utilities triggering changes in electricity production, transmission, and consumption. These pressures include the potential for a dramatic increase in the amount of renewable energy, burgeoning environmental regulation, aging infrastructure, changing fuel and generation economics, growing cybersecurity demands and, reduced or flat load growth. To address these challenges, utilities have to balance between deploying capital at an accelerated rate while simultaneously being deprived of customer load growth—their engine of earnings. Increased democratized choice over energy usage, for instance, is empowering consumers to take key actions such as peak shaving, flexible loading, and installation of grid automation and intelligence solutions.
This research thrust investigates the benefits of these “Utility 2.0” concepts: the distributed grid, innovations in electricity market design, real-time automated monitoring and verification, deployment of microgrids, increased uptake of ‘smart meters and smarter’ grids, and investment in data analytics in order to incentivize efficient market design and electric grid flexibility. The focus of this thrust is the application of the “solar cities” strategy, smart cities, and urban policy development in major U.S., European and Asian cities to examine the role of infrastructure network, revenue models, customer interface, business model resilience, organizational logic and mandate, risk management, and value proposition in improving communication with customers and operational boundary of utilities in the new utility business model regime.