In a new survey from Accenture more than two-thirds of utilities executives believe that the benefits of smart grids and smart meter deployments – which include improved customer service, reliability and outage response – will exceed original industry forecasts.

Further, for the 54 utilities executives in 13 countries (more than half in North America and a third in Europe), in 98% of the utilities represented, the smart grid is a natural extension of the ongoing upgrades to the electricity network – confirming that smart grid technology has become a core part of their investment strategy.

“Our research confirms that executives expect smart grid solutions to reduce the cost of grid maintenance and upgrades and improve the reliability of the grid, while allowing it to support new technologies,” commented Jack Azagury, global managing director of Accenture Smart Grid Services, on the survey.

Some other findings:

  • Analytics solutions will be the highest priority smart grid investment in the coming years for almost two-thirds of the executives and three-quarters in North America
  • For a representative North American utility, an investment in smart grid analytics can result, conservatively, in an estimated $40 to $70 in savings per electric meter per year – with asset management analytics provide the greatest value, followed by grid operations analytics, revenue protection analytics and outage analytics
  • Access to the right IT skills is the most critical factor to managing and integrating the increasingly large volumes of data – however, only a quarter of the executives feel they are currently very well positioned to compete for analytic skills in the market
  • Current analytic capabilities such as data governance, data integration and analysis toolsets need some or significant improvement, most of the executives believe.

The survey also looked to the future with the majority of the executives surveyed expecting the industry’s competitive landscape to change in the next five years, with more new entrants in the areas of energy efficiency and demand response, data services and distributed power generation. However, they were evenly divided as to whether the technologies will drive up revenues or cannibalize the current business model, and only 14% saw no impact.

By Jonathan Spencer Jones