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2019 STRATEGIC DIRECTIONS:

Electric Report

Repowering the Power Industry

The sweeping survey that underpins Black & Veatch's 2019 Strategic Directions: Electric Report sharpens the focus on a power industry at a pivotal time of change punctuated by increasingly popular, clean renewable energy sources and a murky regulatory climate.

Call it the new normal, and a time for power providers across America to repower themselves with a keener eye toward sustainability and resilience. 

While it continues to deal with decades-old issues involving its graying infrastructure, the power industry is facing an increasingly complex future as its customer base morphs, empowered by distributed energy resources such as microgrids, and renewable options drawing upon the wind and sun. Electric vehicles — everything from cars to buses and trucks — are swelling in numbers, demanding that utilities answer the call for the massive charging infrastructure that such fleets require.

This report – backed by a survey of nearly 900 industry stakeholders, the most ever for this yearly, decades-old assessment – dissects the changing face of power and illustrates the progress being made to modernize as consumers become emboldened by technology and choice.

The quest for energy independence and a cleaner, greener way of keeping the lights on and the machines running truly is under way. Now more than ever, as this report reflects, the electric industry must be nimble — and start planning for necessary upgrades.

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  • Executive Summary: Utilities Must Evolve

    Rising demand for clean and sustainable energy has made this one of the most dynamic and exciting moments in the history of power supply. It's also one of the most vexing: Across diverse geographies, and even more diverse stakeholders, there are both opportunities and deep challenges to meeting the social and economic goals tied to the reliable, resilient supply of quality power.

  • Global Renewables:

    Around the globe, decarbonization goals reliant on the growing integration of renewable energy are gaining traction in helping utilities, governments and corporations become greener as they work to reduce their carbon footprint.

  • Power Transmission:

    As the popularity of renewable energy intensifies, utilities are investing well beyond repairing and replacing their graying infrastructure as they scramble to link renewable energy sources to the grid.

  • Electrified Fleets:

    Fleet and sustainability managers are going greener and cleaner with EVs ranging from cars, transit and school buses and vans to light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks, as well as airport shuttles and freight yard tractors. These incentives help owners capture savings, provide better working conditions for drivers and abide by increasingly stringent emissions standards.

  • Distribution Planning:

    Planning for today’s distribution networks is a little like driving down a foggy road at night. Knowing what’s ahead and having more visibility makes a ride like that easier, but the clarity those two conditions provide is lacking for utilities and other players in the power sector as they travel toward a modernized grid.

  • Finding the Right Power Generation Mix

    As ratepayers continue to seek more renewable energy integration, the electric industry is struggling to create the optimal mix of fuels that will economically meet sustainability goals. Boosted by a slew of factors – including decreasing costs, advancing technologies, new carbon-reduction policies, consumer pressure and regulatory support – renewables show no sign of slowing down. But their ability to provide reliable, consistent baseload power remains firmly in doubt because of the inherent intermittency of wind and solar photovoltaic.

  • Energy as a Service:

    Commercial and industrial customers are narrowing their focus on their source of energy and energy efficiency to lower their carbon footprints. But they may not have the budget or expertise to build and maintain sustainable generation assets. That dilemma is leading many to consider new business models, including subscriptions, pay-for-performance contracts, energy savings performance contracts and power purchase agreements via c (EaaS) providers.

  • The Business of Electricity:

    Imagine customers, third parties and perhaps even utilities participating in a market in which their investments in renewable energy and other forms of DERs could be monetized. The uptake of clean energy would dramatically accelerate, creating new opportunities for innovation and an open, inclusive energy economy.

  • Wholesale Markets: Decentralization Abounds, More Customer Focus Needed

    Utilities traditionally have followed load, investing in assets when demand required it. Today’s wholesale markets are starting to push them in a different direction. Instead of load, utilities are being forced to follow their customers, and load doesn’t always come along with them. That’s leading to a wholesale market that’s becoming as decentralized and disaggregated as generation itself.

  • Utilities Work to Maximize Opportunity, Minimize Vulnerabilities in Cybersecurity

    As advanced technologies and new opportunities continue to improve our operational efficiency, productivity and resiliency across the electric utility sector, electric utility leaders are growing increasingly aware that with heightened opportunities comes heightened risk, particularly when increased connectivity through digitization of operational devices brings new vulnerabilities into play.

  • Between a Rock and a Regulation:

    Few things represent the dynamic and decentralized nature of the power market like DER. These advanced technologies, which generate electricity at or near their point of use, illustrate a major shift in the marketplace as ratepayers scrutinize their consumption habits and accelerate the search for affordable, resilient, and sustainable power.

  • Water Reuse:

    As people become more environmentally conscious and urge industry to do the same, pressure is mounting on the nation’s electric utilities to be on the right side of public opinion beyond simply trying to mitigate what comes out of their smokestacks.

  • Integrated Infrastructure Accelerates Asia Energy Transition:

    Governments across Asia are tapping innovations in generation, transmission and distribution technologies in the power grid to meet increasing energy demand in a sustainable manner. The increased energy demand is a result of rapid population and economic growth in the region. 

  • UK Electricity Market:
    The power generation market is awash with misconceptions. Not the least of which is the misconception about who “invented” electricity — noting, of course, that electricity is a form of energy and it occurs in nature, so technically it was never “invented” but more accurately it was “discovered.”

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