Renewables, Regulation, and Consumer Tech As Critical Electric Industry Challenges | Black & Veatch

Renewables, Regulation, and Consumer Tech As Critical Electric Industry Challenges

New Black & Veatch Strategic Directions report highlights industry uncertainty as regulatory model trails innovation

Overland Park, Kansas (4 August 2015) – Black & Veatch today released its ninth annual Strategic Directions: U.S. Electric Industry Report. The 2015 report measures the electric industry’s response to the rise of renewable energy and distributed generation as well as the growing role of natural gas in the power market. It also highlights the increasing uncertainty utility executives feel concerning the pace of regulation in the face of new technology.

“Today’s policies are based on a fixed-grid operator selling power to its customers. Times are changing. Customers can now generate their own power and put it back on the grid. At the same time, host utilities must maintain their complex infrastructure to meet government mandates for reliability,” said Dean Oskvig, President of Black & Veatch’s energy business.

“Utilities must continue engaging stakeholders and regulators in ways that harness technology gains and support environmental goals. They must do so while maintaining the reliable grid that consumers rely on.”

Dean Oskvig, President of Black & Veatch’s energy business

Nearly 80 percent of the survey respondents believe that distributed generation is a serious business challenge. Yet, the survey finds that many providers are embracing these technologies. Nearly three-fourths of utilities say they are likely to make distributed generation investments.

The report and Black & Veatch’s analysis examines the industry’s effort to operate on “both sides of the meter.” That is a reference to the traditional infrastructure that sends power to the home as well as the tools customers use to manage power consumption and generate power through renewable technology. The report found 30 percent of respondents were planning investments in behind-the-meter technology such as microgridsenergy storage and distributed generation. More than 40 percent were weighing the value of such investments.

“Now is the time for utility leaders to take a hard look at customer trends, emerging technologies, and the current regulatory framework as they develop a vision for the future,” said John Chevrette, President of Black & Veatch’s management consulting business. “Utilities must understand the services they can still provide to customers who install their own distributed power generation. Utilities also need to address how they can measure and bill for those services.”

Other key findings:

Balanced regulatory treatment between the utility and consumer is ranked as the top rate and regulatory practice required over the next five years.

More than half of utilities said they are ready to address new cybersecurity requirements set to take effect in 2016. More than a quarter of utilities are unsure how they would manage needed cybersecurity solutions.

Utilities increasingly see customers as partners in their operational goals. Customer engagement has become a key industry objective. More than half of survey respondents say they plan to increase their investments in social media during the next five years.

Survey responses suggest the influence of IPPs on new generation capacity in the U.S. is dictated by geography. IPPs are seen as having more influence in markets that have been deregulated and where renewables are gaining momentum. These markets include New England and the West.

On a global scale, Saudi Arabia’s growing population and wealth is raising the demand for power. The country is shifting to renewables and combined cycle power stations. This is to increase capacity and become more efficient. In Indonesiamining operators coping with slumping commodity prices are turning to renewables to become more efficient. In South Africa independent power producers are taking a larger role in meeting that country’s rising electricity demands.

Editor’s Notes:

  • Black & Veatch conducted its ninth annual Electric Industry survey from 14 May through 5 June 2015.
  • 435 respondents participated in the survey. Statistical significance testing reflects precision of at least ±4.6 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
  • The full Black & Veatch report is available for download at no charge via

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