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39 Things That Should Keep Up Every Utility Executive At Night

Posted in Disruptive Technology, Energy, Future, Future Proof, Futurist, Nanotechnology, Solar, Utility

From the outside, the utility industry may appear to slow, cumbersome and resistant to change. These characterizations may or may not be fair, but I do know the industry is poised for extraordinary change in the years ahead and that what has served the industry well in the past won’t be sufficient for remaining competitive in the future.

As a professional futurist and forecaster, here are 39 technological advances—plus a few rouge threats and issues—that must be on the radar screen of every executive in the utility industry if they hope to successfully future-proof their organizations:

1. Do-It-Yourself home energy producers
2. Cyber-Terrorism
3. High-power circuit breakers might lead to highly efficient DC power grids
4. Solid-state transistors could lead to the bi-directional flow of electrons and a super-smart grid
5. Better designed and more efficient wind turbines
6. Crazy advances in synthetic biology that could make natural gas look expensive
7. New carbon capture technologies
8. Radical advances in nuclear waste storage
9. New designs for nucelar reactors such as SMR’s and the AP1000
10. Clean incinerators that make trash a viable energy source
11. A massive solar storm capable of frying the grid
12. New water-saving gas-fired plants
13. Significantly more efficient and cheaper solar panels
14. New cosmetic solar panels
15. Solar windows and solar microgrids
16. Breakthroughs in affordable and efficient fuel cells such as Redox and Bloom Box
17. Big Data and a New Electric Demand Paradigm
18. Microgrids
19. Cleaner Coal Plants
20. Super-efficient and cheap LED lightbulbs
21. New business models from Sun Run and Solar City that lower the cost of installing solar panels
22. Advances in robotics that bring down both the cost of solar installation and sensor installation
23. The Internet of Everything
24. But the Internet of Everything could lead to additional cyber-risks
25. Breakthroughs in battery storage capacity
26. Net-Zero energy homes and office buildings
27. “Negawatt” power could shutdown scores of old power plants
28. Compressed air energy storage
29. Local bioenergy initiatives cooperatives
30. Radical breakthroughs in nanotechnology and supercapacitors could make electric vehicles radically more efficient …
31. But electrical vehicles could threaten the grid
32. Advances in supercomputers could lead to cheaper renewables
33. Perovskites might make solar “dirt” cheap
34. Itemized Utility bills
35. Smarter homes and new non-utility competitors
36. Smarter customers
37. Tidal power may grow faster than wind power in coastal areas
38. Even more compelling evidence on role of the industry in climate change … which
39. Could lead to more government regulation.

If you have additional items that should be added to the list, I’d love to hear from you.

Jack Uldrich is a professional futurist and forecaster and has worked with a number of companies and dozens of trade associations in the utility industry including Southern Company, SDG&E, SMUD, Eaton, BP, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Missouri River Energy, Northwest Energy, Idaho Power and the Northeast and Northwest Public Power Associations.

Interested in some other utility-related posts by Jack Uldrich? Check out these past articles:

Five Future Trends for the Utility Industry
The Future is Green (As In the Color of Money)
A Window into the Future
Shifting Power: The Future of Electricity



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