“The customer is already digital today,” said Robert Denda, Head of Network Technologies and Innovation at Enel Global Infrastructure and Networks at European Utility Week 2018. “People want to have connectivity, want to know exactly what is happening and have an active role.”
The future scenario of the grid includes that increasingly digital customer but also decentralized generation, a digital city and a digital worker, too—basically the electrification and connection of just about everything.
We’ve been talking about a lot of powerful new innovation possibilities during European Utility Week 2018, but perhaps the most interesting is blockchain—a concept with lots of opportunities and excitement but few practical projects currently available to keep an eye on.
The “Blockchain – Democratising Energy” panel attempted to make both the positives and problems of this new concept practical and real, moving us past the “what is this” chat that has dominated just about every conversation about blockchain since we started thinking about its energy options.
The tech is in place. We’re all evolving quickly there. We’ve making things smarter, more interconnected and more tied into the Internet (of all things). And why are we doing these things? Because of our growing number of digitally engaged (and even digitally obsessed) customers for every utility, whether it’s in Denver, Dublin or Dubai.
While we, as an industry, are experienced in solving issues with technology and research, with architecting and engineering, we are less comfortable with solving the more complex, more emotional, more personal dynamic of our future grid.
So, here are the hard questions we’ll all have to ask ourselves to find the right way to approach the demands of our digital citizens (courtesy of the digitalization track of European Utility Week 2018).
We’ve been talking about the aging workforce and the loss of experiential knowledge in the utilities industry for years—since I started writing about the energy business nearly two decades ago. But, as the industry evolves, so does that particular employee discussion.
When we chat about workforce needs today, we’re not discussing so often the loss of experience with engineers aging out. Now, we’re talking about new skillsets that center around the concept of innovation.
Makes sense, right? If the utility industry is evolving, so must those people we see as the “next-gen” utility worker.
We’re all focused on innovation and digitalization in this industry. A number of tracks and sessions at EUW covered these concepts so extensively I could like write a full book about it—perhaps a true tome, the "War & Peace" of utility transformation.
Likely, though, that book isn’t going to happen anytime soon. And, if you didn’t have the time (or budget) to get over here and make those personal connections about all this amazing, fascinating, deep-dive stuff, we’ve got you covered—and in a much shorter version than "War & Peace."
Adnan Z. Amin, the Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (more commonly known as IRENA), openedEUW in Amsterdam today with insights into growth, clean energy, generation and Europe’s role in the global metamorphosis in the energy business.
“The transitions we’re seeing are truly an event in the European setting and driving change worldwide,” he said. “It’s exciting. There are immense opportunities with this growth of transformation and a new face taking us toward a sustainable future.”