I recently attended the ABB Customer World event in Houston, George R. Brown Convention Center, March 4 – 7, 2019. While there, I learned about a new survey conducted by Zpryme, a market research company focused on the utility industry. Zpryme interviewed more than 150 global utilities around their perceptions and their progress towards digitization and digitalization. Based on the survey, Zpryme wrote a report “Building The 21st Century Digital Grid” and created a corresponding interactive infographic that lays out the case for why utilities should be moving towards digitalization. The report found that for utilities to keep up with (1) changing customer expectations, (2) the rapid proliferation of renewable energy, and (3) the changing regulatory landscape; a move towards capturing and sharing data across the business (digitalization) will allow them to be financially successful into the future.
Managing the grid is becoming increasingly challenging as electric vehicles, battery storage, renewable energy, and distributed energy resources are more common. Utilities can modernize to meet these challenges by first digitizing their data from all of their current assets, and software-systems. Once they have captured the data it will be essential to share that information as seamlessly as possible throughout the utility. Zpryme created a helpful maturity model for utilities to measure their progress towards modernization.
During the survey, Zpryme partnered with ABB, a global technology firm that specializes in digital infrastructure transformation. At our interview, Gary Rackliffe, ABB Vice President of Smart Grids and Grid Modernization states that the survey classifies modernization into three stages in what is called the “Digital Maturity Curve”.
The gathering and transferring of information and data from analog to a shareable format that can be processed by a computer.
The transformation of business processes by end-to-end sharing of information across the entire enterprise improving operations and effectiveness of customer delivery.
The optimization of strategic, data-driven decision-making and digital processes to solve business challenges.
Gary continues to say that the goal is to be at Step 3 (above Figure): Enterprise Integration. At this phase of corporate digital maturity, digital data, sensors, AI, analytics, cybersecurity, and more, will all be combined to optimize the grid for maximum customer satisfaction; because a 360-degree view of the grid is provided to participants system wide. Currently all companies are in either step 1 or 2, and none are at step 3. However, that is changing.
Chris Moyer, Zpryme Senior Director Content and Research, says that based on current research, the industry is nearing the end of the digitization stage of modernization, and taking concrete steps towards digitalization. “Enterprise integration is still many years down the road for utilities, but as they become more adapt at capturing data, and use artificial intelligence to analyze that data, they will be in position to realize the true benefits of digitalization: improved business decision making, better customer delivery, and long-term financial success.” He believes that changing market forces make it essential for utilities to accomplish these changes, in the near term, to ensure they can reach the promised benefits.