If not such as wild ride as the oil & gas sector, the global Utilities industry witnessed its own share of volatility in 2021. The pandemic caused resource shortages and price hikes that affected residential and industrial customers alike, and it’s likely this environment will continue well into 2022. In response, we’ll see utility companies work hard to extend the life of existing assets and deploy new assets on time and on budget, while working to keep risk as low as reasonably achievable.
The U.K. provides a frightening example of how Covid-19 has affected the Utilities sector. The rise in resource prices has resulted in some 30 energy companies ceasing trading, leaving more than 2 million customers dependent on regulators. In the U.S., according to the EIA, average electricity prices as of September 2021 increased more than 6% year-over-year for all customers.
So how will the role that Information Management plays in the Utilities industry change in 2022 to accommodate these trends? Here are my top predictions.
Continued acceleration of cloud adoption
Many utilities have already embarked on their journey to cloud, but the pandemic has added impetus as companies look to improve operations and better serve customers. The benefits are substantial. Accenture reports nearly all Utilities industry leaders surveyed have implemented a wide range of cloud solutions, while less than 50% of lower performing utilities have taken advantage of cloud. Research shows 74% of Utilities plan to spend more on cloud technologies in the next 3-5 years to break down information silos and give team members and suppliers have the right information at the right time to ensure sufficient energy supplies and service levels.
Continued integration of content management systems
Content is king in this sector. As Utilities seek to change business models and embrace sustainability and clean energy they are collaborating with a more diverse range of suppliers, partners and customers. The integration of Content Management platforms, such as Content Cloud for Energy from OpenTextTM, enables easy and relevant access to information to boost the productivity of field and office staff as well as contractors.
Supplier Optimization with EDI
As new Covid variants continue to degrade economic activity, Utility enterprises will focus on optimizing supply chains and reducing risk so that electric grids and utility infrastructure are not compromised. Forbes suggests that collaborating and sharing data across digital ecosystems of partners is a large part of building that supply chain resilience for utility companies. Using EDI, companies can increase supply chain efficiency by automating order and invoice processing.
Asset optimization with IIoT
In 2022, the secure exchange of IIoT sensor data with external equipment and field-service vendors will rise. This is already being done today for critical equipment like power generation assets from GE Power. Utility enterprises will look to their equipment and field-service vendors to help increase asset uptime. Look for companies to implement secure IIoT networks to share real-time and contextual sensor information and apply advanced AI and analytics to derive actionable insights at scale and in real time.
Digital worker enablement
This was a top 10 utilities trend in Gartner’s 2021 report and I see this continuing into 2022. As a former field-service engineer who performed operations in remote and offline environments, this trend resonates a lot with me. The people closest to the assets need the right information at the right time to ensure new assets are deployed on time and existing ones operate as expected. As more mobile devices approved for hazardous areas are deployed, field and plant personnel will rely on tools such as Remote Access for Energy from OpenText to ensure they have instant access to the information they need.
I’ve written about the impending energy transition in previous blogs and it’s interesting to note that, while the sector has faced challenges, renewable electricity generation was on track to grow 8%, the fastest year on record, and is projected to continue high growth trends through 2050. With time, consumers will have more choices of where they purchase their energy from. Utilities will continue to make investments to create personalized experiences for consumers in effort to lower support costs and create lasting relationships.
Learn more about OpenText solutions for the Utilities sector.