Electricity Companies

DistribuTECH 2018 – Hot Topics from Electric Utility Heaven

Did you miss DistribuTECH this year? No worries, we’ll go over some of the highlights of one of the industry’s biggest events. San Antonio was abuzz and flooded with throngs of participants from the electric utility industry. Not only distribution companies themselves (326 of them, to be exact), but also those in the prosumer space, be that for commercial, industrial, or household markets. There was a wide variety of industry leaders, expert speakers, instructors, authors, analysts, journalists, and, of course, myriad vendors of every conceivable variety—industry giants and up-and-comers alike. Everyone was sporting their A-game for utilities and utility customers.

Both the exhibition (520 exhibitors) and the conference (84 sessions) were stuffed and offered no shortage of breadth or depth. As usual with an event like this, it’s best to have a plan for what you want to learn and who you want to meet. But if you couldn’t make it, here’s a quick overview of what you missed.

An inspiring keynote kicked off the show. Though 2017 presented a variety of disasters that challenged utility operations everywhere, their ability to respond is getting better. And although improvement in that area is clear, the focus now is on how to deliver more value.

And to deliver that value in the face of substantial disruption and sea change in the energy industry, utilities are finding opportunities in those changes and new technologies. The key ingredients and main topics included grid resilience, avoiding network stress (peak management), customer engagement, grid modernization, microgrids, multi-energy systems, energy communities, and new business models (I warned you about the breadth).

Another common thread across the conference’s discussions included the role of data and how they add value for utilities, especially the data coming from meters. While smart meter data management remained a strong topic, there was lots of conversation and coverage about how smart and connected thermostats can play a big role in the relationship between consumer/prosumers and utilities.

Certain other fundamental subjects continued to underlie and permeate many conversations, panel discussions, presentations, and demonstrations:

  • Grid flexibility
  • Prosumer centricity
  • The utility as a digital energy manager
  • Standardized platforms
  • The digital and decentralized renewable revolutions
  • Data centricity and cybersecurity
  • Sustainability, efficiency, and decarbonization
  • Proactive and predictive approaches
  • People- and customer-centric attitudes and ways of doing business
  • Microgrids
  • Geospatial technologies for advanced asset and network management
  • Storage as a central component of future systems
  • The value of partnerships

Next year the show takes place in New Orleans. Should you get the chance, surely the prospect of hanging out with 13,000+ of your closest industry buddies in this unique gem of a city is too enticing to turn down. See you there!

In the meantime, why not learn more about modern strategies for leveraging smart grid tools that will help meet some of the challenges utilities face today. Get our free white paper: Smart Distribution Utility Strategies that Maximize Grid Efficiency.


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