Is There Anything New in Electric Utility?

By Special Guest
Bill Brehm, Managing Director, James Brehm and Associates
January 19, 2018

I grew up around the electric utility industry and it has intrigued me for years. Lately I have been bouncing something new around in my head.  As I look at the internet, I see it as an electrical network. While I will admit that it is a new kind of electrical network, it is still just a network.  The current electrical grid is also just a network.  When I look at what I currently see, the electrical grid remains relatively unchanged from what I saw my father work with 50 years ago.

I ask myself why?

From a network standpoint, the Utilities whether they are a Municipality, Investor Owned, or a COOP all try to maintain a private network.  The Utility controls it all. Utilities tend to believe they are the best at building, maintaining, and running their network, and to be honest they do a pretty good job. But when you compare that to the new networks being installed around the internet today, there seems to be a large technology disparity. 

Unlike the internet network providers, these grid operators really don’t have to fight for profits.  They are protected monopolies in their designated areas and are relatively unaffected by external market pressure.  They don’t daily have to battle each other to be the best or the most innovative to keep customers. They only really fight with the Electric Utilities Commission to get a rate increase every few years, and in their hubris, believe they are taking care of the end user.  It seems that electric utilities are unwilling to look to AT&T, Verizon, and other major players that seem to be better at developing, installing, and operating a network than they are.

Is that keeping us in the stone age?

James Brehm from James Brehm & Associates recently stated during a conference panel “If Tesla walked into a room today, he would understand how to turn on a light switch. But Alexander Graham Bell would not understand or be able to navigate an iPhone.”  If you look at the power pole, transformer, light switch, or outlet today they look just like the ones you saw when you were a kid.  The rates of development are not even close when you compare network types. 

What will the future hold?  I am not sure, but the Electric Utilities may need to look to the internet to see the future and how to provide the best service and newest technology to the customer.

To hear more from James Brehm and associates, please join us at the IoT Evolution Expo, taking place next week, January 22 to 25 at the Disney Contemporary Resort in Orlando, Florida. 

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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