Itron, a provider of smart networks, software, services, meters and sensors, today released its 2023 Resourcefulness Insight Report that explores the implications of the energy transition — the shift away from a reliance on fossil fuels and the associated influx of distributed energy resources.
The report, Powering the Energy Transition: Insights from Utilities and Commissioners on Creating the Future U.S. Grid, summarizes key findings from 250 U.S. utility executives and 10 state public utility commissioners on topics relating to the energy transition, including the challenges they see coming and how they expect to meet them.
Published at Itron Inspire 2023, the report reveals what both groups think about how the grid is changing, and the work still to be done. The findings indicate that utilities and regulators embrace the transition — with nearly nine in 10 (88%) utility executives saying that the energy transition is extremely or very important and seven in 10 commissioners saying policies are supportive of the energy transition. According to the survey, 45% of utilities are actively implementing plans to address it, 49% are in the planning stages and the remainder have not started planning.
Additional key findings in the report show:
- Public demand is seen as the top driver of the energy transition for utilities at 37%, with cost savings (36%) and environmental concerns (34%) also at the top of the list.
- Utilities’ top technology priorities include infrastructure upgrades and grid modernization, ranking the highest at 48%, while developing renewable energy sources is right behind at 47%.
- 61% of utility executives believe current policies are supportive of transition initiatives, although 20% say they hinder progress.
The report also found that utility executives and commissioners have similar perspectives on the types of challenges utilities will face as the grid transitions:
|Infrastructure upgrades and grid modernization
|Regulatory approval process
Lack of funding for upfront investment
When asked about the most effective ways to overcome these barriers, utility executives say that investing in technology and infrastructure to integrate renewables is the top strategy for overcoming challenges, and it’s also the top activity that they are engaged in today.
At the IEEE Grid Edge conference and expo in San Diego earlier this year, senior energy executives outlined the biggest challenges in front of electric utilities as they navigate the road to a net-zero energy system.
These challenges included the lack of intertia in inverter-based resources; managing the volume of data it will require to maintain the grid; affordability (SDG&E calculated the cost of a fully decarbonized and electrified energy system at $2.7 trillion); and fighting efforts against creating new transmission.
The key technology priorities utilities believe will enable the energy transition are infrastructure upgrades and grid modernization, developing renewable energy sources, and energy storage and managing intermittency, the report said. Over the next five years, utilities plan to invest the most in technologies to manage load monitoring, voltage management, and solar.
Both utilities and commissioners agree that consumers will play an important role in the transition but are concerned that they will add complexity due to their diverse needs and varying acceptance levels of new technologies. According to utilities, there are four key ways that consumers can make a difference:
- Greater understanding of the importance of sustainable energy.
- Higher adoption of energy-efficient appliances and systems.
- More participation in demand response programs.
- Changes in daily consumption behavior to align with grid needs.