Smart grids and smart networks have the power to transform the utility industry, but what progress is being made by utilities? What are leading utilities doing to drive change?

The Utility Innovation Series Reports are designed to keep utilities informed of how their peers are approaching this quickly evolving space. Zpryme produces comprehensive annual research reports based on survey findings from hundreds of utilities. Reports in this series include:

In this report Zpryme completed a survey of 110 U.S. investor-owned utilities (IOUs) and found that regulatory approval and cyber security are the most significant challenges for smart grid initiatives. Despite these challenges, many IOUs are embracing next-generation technologies, particularly distribution automation/grid optimization, demand response, and data analytics.

Key Takeaways

  • Nearly all IOUs have some sort of smart grid effort. Many are at the stage of deploying multiple applications (23%) or large-scale deployment (22%). Pilot projects are underway at 23% of utilities surveyed.
  • IOUs are still working on reaching their customers with smart meters—only 32% of them reach half of their customers. Within the next three years that percentage will grow to 57%, in the next five years, 95% of the utilities surveyed expect that smart meters will reach most of their customers.
  • With renewables, 17% of IOUs have not taken them on yet. Of utilities that have, 26% cover both centralized and distributed generation, and storage.
  • Smart grid also includes customer engagement tools. IOUs use mobile apps the most (48%), followed by emails (33%), then texts and voice recognition.
  • IOUs are spending on smart grid efforts. In the next 12 months, 35% are spending $5 million or more. In the next 24 months, 60% are spending $5 million or more. In 36 months, 70% are spending $5 million or more.