Utility Week

Utility Week 14 03 14

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UtILItY WEEK | 14th - 20th March 2014 | 25 Operations & Assets Intelligent functions that provide consumers with more accurate and helpful informa- tion are becoming more widely accessible through next genera- tion IT and the implementation of smart gas, electricity and water meters. This coupled with the rollout of smart metering means a significant step change in the way energy and water businesses need to operate. The speed and efficiency of the smart services ramp-up creates an environment where "dumb market" services must ramp down. The demand for dumb market services will reduce to a point where it is no longer efficient to continue to operate these services, a "tip- ping point" where by the unit costs are no longer viable. This creates a major chal- lenge for the supply busi- nesses that incorporates both cost-to-serve as well as service quality. It is imperative that one customer is not perceived to be receiving either preferential or worse service than another. Balancing this challenge with ensuring the full benefit of smart data is critical. To understand this it is essential to consider how the industry itself needs to change in conjunction with each supplier's specific operations. It is clear that supply busi- nesses are planning ahead. They are considering the changes needed for the request and collection of meter read- ings, for example, how key customer-related processes need to change, the number of engineers necessary to com- plete installs, all focusing on changes to the "smart world" services. In conjunction with this, consideration must also be given to how existing services will reduce in demand and adapt to operate in parallel. To address this, under- standing the data origins and volumes that determine the tipping point, clarifying the continued service demands and implementing the appropriate service integration solutions are essential. Business rules and service targets need to be adapted. Smart data advantage is integral to ongoing energy industry efficiency. It provides significant opportunities to streamline or enhance the settlements and dispute process. Cost savings can be achieved by improving industry-specific data items such as the gross correction factor. The cost to serve and consumer experience remain at the core of service delivery throughout smart market ramp up, dumb market ramp down, and the business changes through the Tipping Point. HP is working with suppliers providing solutions with the flexibility and agility required to manage the varied service changes while maintaining high performance customer delivery. Jean Crisp, Energy Solutions Executive, Hewlett-Packard EXPErt VIEW Jean Crisp, Hewlett-paCkard The Tipping Point energy suppliers need to plan now for the migration of their businesses from a world of 'dumb market' services into a future enabled by smart technology calling them kids, it makes me sound like a granddad – the opportunities to change the industry have never been greater." Electricity North West is looking to recruit 14 apprentices this year and there is a healthy interest. They are expecting more than 1,000 people to apply by the 16 March deadline. "We are thankfully attracting some fantastic candidates," says Johnson. In a sector dominated by white men, Johnson admits the diversity figures are still "not good enough". Of this year's appli- cants, just 3.5 per cent are female and 14.4 per cent come from ethnic minorities. To try and widen the pool, Electricity North West is using school outreach programmes to pro- mote science and engineering. The vocational route is not just for 16-year-old school-leavers. As the cost of higher education rises, increasingly 18-year- olds with good A-levels are turning to on-the- job training instead of university. That was the route Johnson took into the sector 30-odd years ago, living proof a trainee can make it to the top. I ask the apprentices which one of them will be in Johnson's office in 30 years. Without missing a beat, Liam Flannery points to Rob Heyne, the tallest of the three at a whopping 6'10". He looks at his feet, modestly. Watch this space. Mind the skills gap The apprenticeship is undergoing some- thing of a renaissance at the moment. For the networks, they are vital to keep- ing up a skilled workforce within the cost constraints imposed by the regulator. "It is very difficult now to get fully competent workers," says Neil Robert- son, chief executive of Energy & Utility Skills, speaking at last month's Networks 2014 conference. The networks face competition for trained staff from other countries (such as Australia) and sectors (such as oil and gas), which he says pay about 30 per cent more. If they fail to invest in training, Rob- ertson warns that networks will be le with an unpalatable choice. Either pay a premium to win back skilled workers, which Ofgem will not readily fund, or bring in labour from overseas, which doesn't tend to go down well politically. Apprenticeships it is, then. Creating local jobs never hurts the public image, either, and Robertson wants to see the sector make more of this. "Jobs are the biggest thing on the prime minister's desk right now and we are not capitalising on it… We have got to get better at telling everybody." THE scalE of THE Task 25,000 Number of techni- cal workers and engineers in Great Britain's electricity transmission and dis- tribution networks. 1 in 5 Proportion of work- force set to retire over the course of the next price control period. 17,000 Number of new ap- pointments needed over the course of the next price control, including 5,000 apprentices. £483m cost of renewing the workforce: £77 mil- lion in transmission and £406 million is in distribution. 36% Percentage of jobs forecast to be filled by trainees in the 2015- 23 price control. In the last price control, this figure was 21 per cent. Source: Energy & Utility Skills THE sToRY BY NUMBERs

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