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2020 Strategic Directions:

Smart Utilities Report

Black & Veatch Insights: Smart Utilities 2020 Survey Data

Black & Veatch’s 2020 Strategic Directions: Smart Utilities survey polled more than 625 qualified utility, municipal, commercial and community stakeholders to investigate the issues and complexities of the changing utility landscape. Now, this survey data is being made available to the public.

The responses show that data, analytics and advanced communications systems are increasingly critical to delivering the benefits of advanced distribution networks across the power, water and natural gas sectors.. These technologies offer new levels of convergence, providing utilities with deeper levels of insight while preparing them to meet the challenges and opportunities of increasingly distributed, yet increasingly connected infrastructure systems.

This will push critical human infrastructure in exciting new directions, creating both risk and reward for utilities eager to become more sustainable, efficient, reliable and resilient.

Other key findings include:

  • Two-thirds of respondents see improved reliability as driving distribution modernization efforts, followed by improved operational efficiency (43 percent), concerns about aging infrastructure (43 percent), and increased monitoring, control and automation capabilities (39 percent).
  • 54 percent of survey respondents see budget constraints as a critical inhibitor of modernization, followed by managing competing priorities (38 percent), regulatory hurdles (37 percent) and a lack of resources and expertise (35 percent).
  • One-third of survey respondents plan to spend more than $200 million to modernize their distribution infrastructure over the next three years.
  • A combined 84 percent of utilities are beefing up cybersecurity by implementing active cybersecurity monitoring, while 13 percent plan to do so. 
  • Integrated systems planning will continue to grow, with 80 percent of respondents viewing the integration of its planning functions as “very or extremely important.” 
  • Approximately one in five respondents currently monitor and control third-party-owned DER, while 39 percent only monitor, and 24 percent are in the planning stages.
  • Encouraged by promises of upgraded infrastructure, nearly half of respondents see 5G attachment as an opportunity; but 25 percent see it as a challenge and 27 percent view it simply as a requirement.
  • Respondents ranked OT, IT/communications and security departments as the top three teams to lead distribution automation efforts.
  • When it comes to non-wire alternatives, one in four respondents consider them as part of their standard operating procedures.

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