Designing the Modern Utility

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Energy technology to make sure that utilities make decisions that are smarter, help lower costs and improve the performance of the network as a whole. Customers are taking charge Solar power is a small but rapidly growing source of electricity for Canadians. According to the National Energy Board, in 2015, Canada had over 2,100 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity, generating 3 terawatts annually. While this represents only about 0.5 per cent of national electricity generation, solar projects have been developing rapidly, with close to 2,000 MW of capacity added since 2013. T oday's utility has many challenges, one of which is keeping up with rapidly evolving customer expectations. It's easy to become complacent when customers have no choice but to use the electricity you provide. Traditionally, customers are assigned an electricity distributor based on where they live, they receive their monthly bill, pay it, and would never think to look for alternatives. But innovations and changes in consumer attitude have created a new kind of utility customer with different goals and expectations. Customers are taking a more active approach to electricity. These "prosumers"—as they are dubbed in the industry—don't just want to consume electricity, they are now interested in producing it themselves. And as regulators and policy-makers adjust, new competitors are entering the retail energy market on a regular basis, giving utilities a run for their money. This unprecedented degree of customer choice requires a new set of practices and investment into new There are environmental and financial considerations to this. As it relates to utilities, solar power retailers have emerged, offering various net metering options to homeowners with solar projects. This allows households to sell excess electricity back to the power grid. This arrangement is great for retail energy but not necessarily for utilities with a traditional operating mindset. Not only is this a missed opportunity, it puts new types of pressure on the grid. The growth in solar energy adoption cannot be ignored. Another development that electric utilities cannot ignore is electric vehicles. Even though some say mass adoption is many years or even decades away, utilities DESIGNING THE MODERN UTILITY Adapting to the changing demands for power consumption. By Brian Bell To address tomorrow's challenges, utilities will need a more comprehensive network model. Utilities must be prepared to evolve their operations in order to meet growing consumer demand for individual flexibility, allowing them to take ownership over their own energy generation future. 26 ReNew Canada September/October 2019

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