The U.S. Electricity Industry Continues a Sweeping Transition
by Bob Shively, Enerdynamics President and Lead Facilitator
Each year, Black & Veatch surveys power sector stakeholders to determine their primary challenges and opportunities. As a major engineering, procurement, consulting, and construction company with over 100 years of industry experience, Black & Veatch must remain keenly aware of what is driving the industry. The 2021-2022 report, a result of surveying nearly 500 U.S. power stakeholders, describes “a clear picture of a power sector repowering itself and modernizing with new technologies and improved concepts to keep the power flowing to industry, businesses and homes.”
Here is Enerdynamics’ take on the top 10 findings:
1) The most challenging issues facing the industry are renewable integration, cybersecurity, and aging infrastructure, but challenges such as planning uncertainty, workforce issues, environmental regulations, reliability, distribution system modernization, and distributed energy are also important.
2) The movement to renewable supply coupled with batteries dominates new supply investment, with distributed energy resources also getting strong support.
3) Government policy, shareholder pressure, and customer demand are all driving investments in renewables.
4) The supply transition is causing concerns about the ability to adapt the delivery grid to the new resources.
5) Decarbonization is important to a large majority of power companies. Nearly 80% of respondents state their companies are committed to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. This includes 57% who are doing this independently from any regulatory mandate.
6) Renewables, batteries, and natural gas generation are key strategies for reducing carbon emissions.
7) The importance of system hardening in response to extreme weather is increasing as 85% of companies answered that asset hardening techniques are much more or somewhat more important today than in previous years. Hardening techniques (in order of being selected in the survey) are vegetation management, smart grid improvements, structural T&D upgrades such as poles and towers, undergrounding, backup power, span or wire changes, heat tracing, and flood hardening.
8) Digitalization of the grid carries numerous challenges, topped by cybersecurity.
9) The majority of power companies consider themselves in the middle stage of being prepared to serve electric vehicle loads but still have work to do; 50.4% described themselves in the middle stage with some charging stations deployed while only 5% said charging stations are widely available in their market. Only 21.5% said they are ready to enable new EV loads today.
10) Utilities are prepared to take advantage of the government incentives for transitioning, but the cost of commodities and covid impacts on supply chains are also gaining lots of attention.
Given these results, it is clear that we are well on our way to a dramatic transition of the energy industry. The rapid implementation of renewables, storage, distributed resources, and digital technologies is here, but it raising challenges including integration, cybersecurity issues, the need to replace and upgrade infrastructure, uncertainty in forecasting, and a requirement to continually develop the workforce. Clearly, the upcoming years will be a time of continuing adaptation and growth for the electric industry.
If you need help preparing your workforce for energy transition, Enerdynamics offers a variety of courses designed for workforce training. Visit enerdynamics.com for our menu of live, virtual and online classes, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 866-765-5432 ext. 700.
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