Monday, April 29, 2013

More on the Model: are Utilities Planning for the Future or Hoping it Doesn't Come?

A few weeks ago I posted about threats to the traditional investor owned utility (IOU) business model and I'm still soaking in what EEI and others are saying. Since then, I:
  • Attended a presentation on the future of renewables at MIT given by energy futurist Dr. Eric Martinot. You can download Martinot's full 2013 report HERE and follow his periodic updates HERE
  • Also had a great conversation with another energy futurist, Chris Nelder, after reading his Greentech Media Article titled "Adapt or Die: Private Utilities and the Distributed Energy Juggernaut". Nelder's personal site is HERE
  • Read THIS from Bloomberg, a name not normally associated with wild or starry eyed cleantech visions. Bloomberg analysts are predicting very strong gains with renewables comprising up to 37% of total power produced by 2030
I'm not a self proclaimed futurist, nor do I play one on TV or the Web. And I know if I was on a debate team, I could find plenty of arguments (e.g., low cost natgas, end of renewables subsidies, slow updake of EVs, etc.) for thinking it'll be business as usual for IOUs for decades to come.

But it's not just more renewables coming online over time, but also energy efficiency and increasingly advanced forms of demand management that are putting consistent downward pressure on the amount of electricity consumers are using in the US. And in the current pay plan, less electricity used equals less money flowing to utilities. Every year a little less. Eventually that's a lot less.

With my faux futurist cap on, am thinking on what that means for keeping the famously old and sagging infrastructure up and running, and of course trying to fund, achieve, demonstrate and maintain the higher levels of cybersecurity required these days in that increasingly strained environment.

No answers for now, just questions. But ones well worth pondering I suspect.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

regardless of the futurists predictions the market and IOUs won't move fast enough. Either solar panels get so cheap and easy to install on roofs (one may happen, the other will always be specialized) that they take off as a means for tactical level community microgrids, or you wait for the stuff to take hold, it'll be a slow process in that case. Best bet is watch the retail cost of solar drop, then startup a firm for rooftop installation and private community smart grid solutions. But then if I'm thinking about it, it's already done.