Renewables, Distributed Energy Resources Driving Investments in Power Transmission Assets
August 23, 2017
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The influx of renewables and evolving customer demand for green energy and reliability are driving the electric industry to make significant capital investments in power delivery assets. Global engineering and construction company Black & Veatch's just-released 2017 Strategic Directions: Electric Industry Report explores how these transmission and distribution plays reflect the increasing roles of advanced technologies and distributed energy resources in pursuit of an uninterruptable power flow.
Among key findings, the report highlights how electric services providers are continuously adapting to evolving financial and political environments. Changing regulatory landscapes on the state and federal levels and rising consumer interest in green energy are tugging at industry leaders as they simultaneously navigate problems of aging infrastructure and security.
"The entire electric industry is adopting a more flexible approach to finance, strategy development and technology to meet demand and deliver a secure, reliable power supply," said Ed Walsh, President of Black & Veatch's power business. "Investments in transmission and distribution assets are rising sharply, while innovation that speeds the adoption and integration of renewable energy is at a premium."
Changes within the power industry are forcing reconsiderations of conventional planning and delivery models. At the residential level, customer adoption of solar and other behind-the-meter options are challenging business plans of old, the report finds. Even long-held models for power flows to large business or industrial customers are shifting as brick and mortar retail increasingly cedes to online commerce and centralized distribution hubs.
"Innovation will become increasingly important as the industry continues to face seismic shifts that are reshaping the future of power services as we know them," Walsh added.
The report also analyzes the role of integrated planning, and the importance of long-term, holistic strategies for managing new generation sources on the power grid. Utility master planning is essential to accommodating these changes, meeting local and national regulatory requirements and maintaining reliability.
"Change is accelerating across the industry at an unprecedented rate," said John Chevrette, President of Black & Veatch's management consulting business. "Adoption of distributed generation is a common challenge for virtually all utilities, but the tactical solutions will be unique for each. Holistic master planning will be a crucial component that will enable utility leaders to evolve their plans to meet future need."
Other key findings include:
- 60 percent of survey respondents named reliability and aging infrastructure as the top two major drivers of transmission investment.
- Close to half of utilities plan to add a substantial amount of renewable energy (solar photovoltaic and/or wind turbine) generation to their systems in the next five years; only 2 percent plan to add coal-fired generation.
- Cybersecurity (No. 2) and physical security (No. 8) continue to rank high among the industry's top concerns. Technology has introduced vulnerabilities, but utilities are prioritizing risk and resilience mitigation to shore up security gaps.
- More than 45 percent of respondents plan to invest $25+ million in Big Data analytics, smart grid improvements and/or system monitoring over the next two years.
- Utilities are making strides in energy storage; 27 percent are either running or developing an energy storage pilot program, while almost half have it on their technology roadmaps.
The full Black & Veatch report is available for free download at www.bv.com/reports.
Source: Black & Veatch
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