Emerging energy sources are having a disruption effect in the utilities industry. With a shift away from traditional energy sources, new methods of harnessing energy allow people to have power and water via new and innovative means.

Innovations in Energy are at a Crossroads with Public Utilities

The Powerwall, which was recently released by Tesla Motors, is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that not only aids homeowners in reducing their energy bills but also completely reinvents the wheel with the capacity to detach from the utility companies’ power grid completely.

The Powerwall is designed to store energy at a residential level for load-shifting, backup power and self-consumption of solar power generation. CNNMoney reported the new battery could reduce consumers’ electric bills by 25%, if coupled with solar power. In addition, the battery can soak up power during the hours when utility rates are lowest and then store it for later use—another approach to cutting the electric bill.

Tesla’s venture into batteries for the home isn’t the only solution changing how individuals and the public sector views the utilities industry. Across the Midwest, for example, gigantic rotors turn slowly, tapping the wind’s energy. Innovators have developed rooftop solar panels and smart home energy management technology.

As identified in Onvia’s Project Center, the city issued a request for proposals in July 2014 for design/contractor teams to provide the design, materials and construction as the city plans to convert to solar energy for the City Community Center, Veterans Park Community Building and Camp Little Bear Community Building. The contractor would have to furnish all design plans, specifications, equipment, materials, supplies, personnel, management and other items.

Rethinking Utility Regulations

The financial infrastructure of utility companies, operating appropriately in a regulatory environment, oppose the newest, promising energy innovations, as reported by David Roberts in a Vox article about changing times in the energy world. The higher the demand for energy, the more revenue utility companies take in and innovations in the industry could threaten those revenues.

However, some states, such as New York and Minnesota, are starting to grasp the importance of energy innovations and thus reform how their utilities work.

“The goal is to realign the incentives facing utilities so that they can profit from, and benefit from accelerating, the spread of new clean, distributed energy technologies,” David Roberts wrote in Vox.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, or REV, is pushing for clean energy. The state’s Public Service Commission is working to rearrange markets and the regulatory setup. The commission is looking for new opportunities for energy savings, local power generation and enhanced reliability to provide safe, clean and affordable electric service. In the end, New York wants to promote services, such as wind and solar power and more “distributed” energy sources. The initiative is also giving customers more energy choices while encouraging the state to invest in innovative energy sources. The state wants greater use of micro-grids, roof-top solar and other on-site power supplies, and storage. REV is expected to gear markets toward the use of advanced energy management products in order to enhance demand flexibilities and efficiencies.

Other states and municipalities have taken on the challenge. One approach is “decoupling.” It’s a tactic to cut ties between a utility company’s commodity sales and its revenues. When the two are linked, companies prefer greater electricity usages while minimizing cutting-edge, alternative approaches that allow people and companies to use less power. Minnesota and Washington State, along with New York, have pushed to “decouple” sales and revenues, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported.

As identified in Onvia’s Spending Forecast Center, the utility agency proposed in its Fiscal Year 2016-2017 General Managers Recommended Multi-Year Budget Proposed Bay-Delta Conservation Project an in-depth review the Metropolitan Water District Program’s (WMD) budget, rates and financial policies using consulting services. The MWD and the California governor proposed “decoupling.”
Released an RFP in July 2014 in search of a technical consultant to provide planning and policy support. The consultant would help the EERMC in its review and oversight of the energy efficiency and system reliability programs and initiatives, which are proposed and administered by the electric and gas utility distribution company.

compact of mayors

Utilities Reforms Will Have a Broad Impact

Reform initiatives by a number of states, as well as any nudges from the federal government, will have a ripple effect, hitting numerous industries.

Solar power and other types of renewable energy sources will grow in their role as clean power suppliers, opening opportunities for architecture and engineering, construction and building, and operations and maintenance work for a broad range of government contractors. State and local agencies and public commissions will also need the help of consultants as they make plans.

Never forget the role of technology in these changes. More houses and buildings than ever before have systems for gathering information on energy usage. Information technology hardware, software and services, and information systems consulting have an important role in keeping and tracking that data.