Redefining resourcefulness in 2019 and beyond

Jan. 15, 2019

How are utilities delivering energy and water in the digital era? 

Around the world, utilities are tasked with safely and reliably delivering valuable

Itron's Marina Donovan

resources like electricity, gas and water. Utility organizations have become stewards for ensuring resourcefulness. As climate, consumer expectations and usage patterns have changed over time, utility companies have had to keep up—all while maintaining profitability and the reliable, safe delivery of resources.

The 2018 Itron Resourcefulness Report detailed the results of a survey of consumers’ and utility executives’ perceptions of how utilities deliver energy and water, and how we use them. Here find four takeaways from the survey that help illustrate our notion of the evolution of resourcefulness:

Utilities and consumers will share the responsibility of creating a more resourceful world

Utilities and consumers have a shared responsibility when it comes to resourcefulness. In fact, the report found that 58% of consumers are seriously concerned about their impact on the environment. Although consumers say utilities should be responsible for improving resourcefulness, utilities are placing the responsibility on consumers, too.

While price is a key motivator to consumer utilization of resources, we now have a benchmark for what success looks like, according to global consumers: 61% of consumers would act more resourcefully if they could save 5-20% on their utility bills. And this is already underway—consider the rise of programmable thermostats and solar panels.

Interest in renewables will continue to grow

The integration of renewables in a resourceful future is a shared priority, not only based on consumer and utility responses, but also by regulators, as evidenced by recent legislation approvals. This goal is the number one change consumers want to see utilities make. In fact, according to consumers, the lack of traction made on integrating renewables to date is the leading cause of inefficiencies and waste, according to our survey.

Legislators are helping address this, working on ways to invest in infrastructure modernization to support the growth of renewables and committing their efforts toward clean energy. In September, California passed Senate Bill 100 into law, which sets a target of 100% renewable electricity for the state by 2045. Also, city lawmakers in the District of Columbia recently voted to move a bill that would set a 100% renewable-energy mandate by 2032 and require all public transportation and fleet vehicles in the city be zero-emission by 2045.

Public/private alliances and partnerships will proliferate

Having allies in the journey toward a resourceful future will be an important way to overcome these challenges and invest in important initiatives. Utilities must look at changing their approach to getting consumers on board with altering their energy-consumption behaviors. Collaborative utility programs can reduce energy consumption and costs, which benefits utilities and consumers alike.

A collaborative in Charlotte, North Carolina is a great example of how effective these partnerships can be, as we shared in our report. A public-private collaborative called Envision Charlotte worked with a local utility, Duke Energy, to decrease energy consumption in the biggest energy users in the town—61 commercial buildings of more than 10,000 square feet in size. This program saved $25.7 million in energy costs and decreased carbon emissions to levels equal to taking 11,000 vehicles off the road.

Mesh networks will enable smart cities at scale

Connected infrastructure is key to making resourcefulness happen. With connected infrastructure, utilities can enable smart-city applications, integrate renewables and much more. According to our report, seven out of 10 consumers say connected energy systems are a top priority in their country, while eight out of every 10 utility executives identify a lack of infrastructure investment as a growing or urgent concern. This is why mesh networks are necessary to enable the smart-city technology that consumers and utilities want.

Mesh networking is flexible and enables utilities to integrate smart-city technology at scale. Organizations such as the Wi-SUN Alliance simplify the integration of IIoT devices via a standards-based approach; mesh technology will be the ingredient to help smart cities scale quickly, securely and cost-effectively.

Utilities and consumers have the same goal in mind: creating a more resourceful future. They want safer, less wasteful, more efficient and sustainable communities. And they want easy access to renewable-energy sources. Consumers and utilities view themselves—and each other—as the catalysts for transformative change.

The actions both parties take to use resources more responsibly can redefine what resourcefulness means for generations to come. There are several benefits to smart technologies, and as utilities and cities align their initiatives with citizens’ priorities, they will be strongly positioned to create a more resourceful future.

Marina Donovan is the vice president, global marketing and public affairs at Itron.