The “smart money” will be on grid investments next year: Forty-four percent of North American public utility professionals who responded to a recent poll said that completing their existing smart grid deployments will be their top spending priority in 2013.
The survey was executed by Raleigh, North Carolina-based Tantalus, a provider of smart grid communications systems, at its Users Conference in November, where representatives of more than 40 public power utilities shared best practices and learned about new products and services.
Asked to address their major business concerns and investment priorities for 2013, the second-largest group of respondents (34 percent) named add-on applications as the focus of their investment. Specifically, voltage reduction (46 percent) and direct load control (35 percent) – both of which are advanced applications that decrease loads and rates – are the top two smart grid applications on the utilities’ wish lists.
Munis and Coops Are Committed to Constituents
Customer education was the third-most popular spending choice for utilities – above security enhancements and billing solutions. What’s more, the municipal and cooperative utility professionals cited consumer/ratepayer concerns (42 percent) as the number one issue they need to address in 2013.
The results illustrate a key factor that drives decisions in the public power market – munis and co-ops answer to their local governments and communities, unlike investor-owned-utilities (IOU), which cater to regulators and investors that seek quick return on investments.
Consequently, munis and co-ops are dedicated to working closely with their constituents while adopting applications that promote cost-effective and efficient service with minimal impact on customers.
Other key survey findings
Only 8 percent of respondents believed that future strain – from such sources as electric vehicles, and solar and other forms of distributed energy – on the grid will be a top concern for utilities in 2013.
Of the utilities that indicated they are planning to hire in 2013, the majority are seeking to fill positions in meter support, in order to support completion of deployments.
“This survey demonstrates what we already know from our experience working with public power utilities for more than a decade – that they are dedicated first and foremost to serving their customers with reliable, cost-effective power,” said Eric Murray, president and CEO at Tantalus. “By adopting energy-saving applications that keep rates down, utilities not only show their commitment to their customers, but they also invest in a cleaner, smarter grid."
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