Smart Power: Climate Change, the Smart Grid, and the Future of Electric Utilities, explains the challenges facing the utility industry in entertaining, easily understood prose. It also presents a bold vision for a sustainable power industry for the 21st century -€“ an industry that operates a clean, smart system and places energy efficiency and customer empowerment at the core of its new mission.

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Resources For Industry Transformation

Interest in the “Future of the Utility Industry” discussion has increased steadily since the release of Smart Power. The Future of the Utility Industry is one way of referring to the broad effort across the industry to address challenges that will require significant innovation of the current utility business model.  These challenges include declining sales growth, decarbonization of generation, the growth of renewable resources, disruptive technologies, shifting generation scale from large centralized plants to smaller distributed resources, and threats posed by climate shifts.  Interested stakeholders are studying the impact of these changes on the financial stability of the utility, the interaction between utilities and customers, innovation in the industry, and resiliency of power systems. 

Smart Power was one of the early catalysts for this discussion and continues to serve as a resource for those active in the transition:

  • COURSE ADOPTION: The text has been adopted as a text book by several colleges and universities.
  • EVENTS AND MEDIA: Peter is frequently asked to speak on Smart Power topics at conferences and other events.
  • ARTICLES AND REPORTS: Several of his most recent articles, as well as recent work by other Brattle Group utility experts, delve deeper into these topics.  
  • FUTURE OF THE UTILITY INDUSTRY: Many stakeholders are contributing to the growing body of work on this topic with reports and studies.

Declining sales growth and increasing potential for demand side management are increasingly being accepted as the "new normal for utilities." Many U.S. and European utilities now forecast little or no sales growth and the the U.S. Department of Energy forecasted long term national sales growth of only 0.6%, even with relatively weak energy efficiency policies. Smart meter penetration is nearing fifty percent in the U.S. but there are still few customers on Time of Use rates, representing great potential for demand response potential. In some areas, the loss of sales combined with the growth of customer self-generation and other drivers have risen to the point where changes must begin now.

by Ahmad Faruqui and Eric Shultz,
The Brattle Group

Decarbonization of the utility sector and development of renewable resources have come a long way since the original 2009 Smart Power. Utilities are in the midst of planning responses to the Clean Power Plan as they continue to retool their generation portfolios. Renewable Portfolio Standards have already greatly changed our power supply and further shifts could lead to complete decarbonization of the power industry in the next fifty years. In the oncoming transition, these three critical outcomes - adequacy, reliability, universal affordable service -will be important considerations ofrapid decarbonization. Utilities have already begun to feel the environmental impacts of a changing climate and will manage this transition while also developing stronger physical and operational resiliency to a shifting climate.

Distributed Generation is expanding across the grid at an unprecedented rate due to plummeting solar costs and new vehicles for project financing. While distributed solar is garnering the most attention, DG includes other resources such as microturbines and combined heat and power (CHP).  DG will force the grid to become bidirectional and create many systemwide, but hard-to-measure, cost savings along with many regulatory challenges.  Stakeholders are focused on studying future levels of penetration, grid impacts, technology needs, integration into microgrids, and new roles for utilities.  

William Zarakas
The Bratle Group
Metin Celebi et al.
The Brattle Group


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