From regulatory complexities to cyber-security risks, the utility industry faces a host of challenges in the modern world. The energy grid is in a state of flux with the ever-increasing demand for more efficiency and sustainable models. Prices are rising, quality seems to be shrinking, and everyone’s looking for more ways to save. For many of the common challenges facing the utility industry today, utility asset tags can reduce or even completely alleviate the problems that arise. Here’s a look at a few of the common challenges utilities face today and how an asset tracking solution can help.
Rising Consumer Demand
Utilities have largely been one area in which consumers don’t have a lot of choice. Only in recent years has some competition arisen among standard public utilities such as electricity – and even this isn’t happening everywhere just yet. But consumers are starting to take advantage of other opportunities to take more control over how much they pay each month.
Solar panels, for instance, are now cost-effective enough that they can be incorporated into standard homes. This isn’t yet widespread and it’s not yet practical for the average home to be powered completely by solar energy, but it still impacts the industry. Consumers want, more than anything, control over costs.
Utility asset tags can’t provide consumers with choice, but they can help you pass savings on to the customer. An asset tracking system allows you to make more efficient use of your existing assets, save time and improve service delivery – all of which impact the bottom line. You can also make better projections to drive smarter decision-making to make even more strides in the realm of efficiency.
This might seem unimportant in an industry where consumers have little choice, but that’s changing. There are alternative fuel methods and alternative energy sources that are gaining more widespread adoption. There’s even pressure on utility companies to make long-term investments that would make the infrastructure more technologically advanced with the promise of lowering costs at some far-distant point in the future. Improving the efficiency of the traditional infrastructure keeps existing consumers happy – and less likely to make large investments in alternative solutions like solar panels to opt out of the grid.
New Technology Makes Utilities Smarter
Technology isn’t always a good thing. In fact, the “smart grid” is named as one of the 10 greatest challenges facing the utility industry today in an article at UtilityDive.com covering the National Town Meeting on Demand Response and Smart Grid in Washington, D.C. from July 9 through July 11th, 2013.
The general consensus is that smart meter compliance requirements are a scary prospect for many utilities, but the availability to opt-out is still pretty strong in most areas. When implemented, the smart grid essentially provides a means to perform the same tasks, but more efficiently, through automation. For example, technological advancements that will enable automatic dispatching will alleviate the current manual practice of making a phone call to request services from third-party service providers and vendors.
With new technologies becoming more prevalent and even required in some instances, asset tracking isn’t an option – it’s a must. For utility companies to keep pace with the technological advancements happening across the industry, it’s critical to have a system in place that’s scale-able and practical for use with automation and other systems. This simply can’t happen if it’s still necessary to manually identify a malfunctioning asset, for example. Asset tracking is absolutely essential to meet increased technology demands.
Distributed Energy Resources
One of the most significant challenges discussed at the National Town Meeting is distributed energy resources. All of this ties in to the changing consumer demands, trends and need for greater efficiency. But not all representatives see the distribution of energy resources as a bad thing. Many representatives mentioned microgrids and alternative energy sources that aren’t necessarily replacing traditional utilities, but integrating with them. The need for load flexibility is one problem that could potentially be resolved with this model – which could have some impact on the constant debate surrounding rate regulation.
Whether integrating alternative utility resources with more traditional systems through some type of joint use configuration or making investments in the microgrid or smart meters, the sheer amount of flexibility and change that will be required over the next several years necessitates asset tracking. In many cases, utility companies are debating over where to invest – and whether they even have the financial resources to invest in new technologies that offer an ROI that’s spread out over the next 50 years.
Utility asset tags, when used collaboratively with an asset management software program, enable the advanced analysis of resource utilization that will be required to determine which investments are financially feasible and even predict the impact those investments will have on the bottom line.
The resounding theme from the 2013 National Town Meeting is that change is happening, and small utility companies must make wise investments in order to keep up. The future of the utility industry will look vastly different from what it does today – and the time is now to start laying the foundation with a system that can carry you through these changes, new business models, new partnerships and new technologies. Asset tracking alone won’t solve all your technological challenges, but you can’t move forward without it.