Utility Week

UTILITY Week 24 10 2014

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12 | 24TH - 30TH OcTOber 2014 | UTILITY WeeK Beyond smart metering Beyond Smart metering T he future of the traditional utility company hangs in the balance," said one energy company leader as we discussed the revolution about to explode in the industry with the arrival in the UK of smart metering, and the consequent evolution of intelligent, connected devices in the home, on the move and embedded in industry infrastructure. It's an apocalyptic sentiment, and one that is shared by many in the energy sector – and across sectors – as a gradual realisa- tion dawns of the true power that comes with access to, and control of, data. Even among proponents of the rollout, it is a challenge that is largely being greeted with excitement and trepidation in equal measure. So, what is this vision of the world aer the smart meter rollout that is causing such a fuss? The crux of the matter is what the roll- out will do to the traditional utility business model, which is based on the simple prem- ise of delivering, power, heat and water to points of use and, in the case of water, get- ting it back again. In a new world rich with data about the ways in which these resources are used, speculation is growing over the potential to move towards service-based business propo- sitions, which place less emphasis on the delivery of utilities, and more emphasis on the lifestyle, social ecosystem or industrial processes they enable. Such a step change could have big impli- cations for utilities, moving them up into a new value bracket and enhancing their abil- ity to compete on more than price and cus- tomer service. Imagine, for instance, a world in which energy companies have the ability to execute domestic tasks for their customers, or offer packages of energy dependent on the appli- ances in the home. Tariffs might be offered to suit different lifestyles or user values, with utilities able to engage with customers based on insights provided by the regular capture of accurate usage data. Energy suppliers – or service providers – will be able to offer time- based, family friendly or green tariffs and incentives. Third party collaborations could provide complementary services or perks. Will the traditional utility business model survive smart metering? THE Topic What about water? As the energy sector attempts to grapple with all the extended operational, business model and economic implications of smart technologies, we ask players in the water sector if they believe they will face similar transformations. "The adoption of smart water technol- ogy in the UK is in somewhat of a flux. There is no clear defi- nition of what 'smart' actually is and how it can be applied to the way the water compa- nies work. There have been some fantastic innovations where individual companies drivers have adopted a particular technology, however the financial return on investment is not always clear." Oliver Grievson, Anglian Water Services, Water Industry Process Automation & Control "Smart water grids are not yet here but the potential is excit- ing. As with energy, it's about seeing pat- terns in stressed or underperforming systems and being able to intervene swiftly. The key to be- ing smart is to collect data and interrogate it to let you make good decisions. We need cheaper reliable sen- sors, smart meters and informed analysis in the water sector on order to reap benefits. We will detect pat- terns, and users will have choices to make, choices which, in time, will reduce leak- age, manage pressure and even respond bet- ter to climate change. Now that is smart." Mike Woolgar, managing director environmental and water management, Atkins "What seems to be in- teresting water com- panies is the potential of smart technologies – and new generation technologies – to help them take control of their energy needs. But another way in which smart technolo- gies might allow water companies to play a new role is through micro-grids and com- munity projects. Here, local projects may see the rise of multi-utility services connecting heat, electricity and water systems." Colin Henry, business development manager, Siemens Smart Grids division Where energy blazes a trail, others Will folloW "

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