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Electric Utilities Must Prepare for New Roles in the Smart City Transformation

Electric utilities are facing a need and opportunity to transform their business due to the bidirectional nature of distributed generation and energy storage. This is just one of several fundamental changes that the smart cities movement is driving to reshape how fundamental services are delivered and managed.

“We’re now using the grid system in a different way – it’s more diverse and more complex,” said Fred Ellermeier, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Smart Integrated Infrastructure for Black & Veatch. “Now you’ve got bidirectional flow from renewable energy, from energy storage and from the proliferation of electric vehicles.”

Rick Azer, Vice President of Black & Veatch’s Growth Accelerator, said a time is coming – and it’s not that far off – when distributed generation will outgrow conventional utility plant generation, in certain regions.

“Maybe five years from now, we’ll see situations where the amount of distributed generation could grow beyond the amount of conventional, centralized generation,” Azer said. “The amount of data and information needed from the systems is only going to become more and more relevant over time.”

Ellermeier said increasing connectivity will be the driver that continues to push the smart city evolution.

“Connectivity between systems will be critical in harmonizing how electric vehicles, distributed generation, energy storage and conventional generation all work together to match energy supply to demand and provide needed system resiliency,” Ellermeier noted.