August 8, 2016
Reliability and cybersecurity ranked as the two most important issues currently confronting the electric industry, according to surveys completed by 672 qualified utility, municipal, commercial, and community stakeholders for Black & Veatch’s “2016 Strategic Directions: Electric Industry Report.”
It’s not particularly surprising to see reliability rank at the top of the list.
“Reliability has always been—I’m sure always will be—a cornerstone of owner-operators,” said Ed Walsh, president of Black & Veatch’s power business, during an interview with POWER. Walsh noted that maintaining 24/7/365 service is paramount to preserving customers’ confidence.
New Challenges Emerge
Yet, while maintaining reliability has remained a consistent challenge, a lot of other things have changed since Black & Veatch began conducting its annual electric industry survey 10 years ago. Back then, coal was king, physical security ranked last on the list of issues, few people had faith in the emergence of renewable energy, natural gas prices were increasing, and a nuclear renaissance seemed inevitable.
This year’s report identified several reliability enhancing trends, including an increase in microgrids and distributed generation, but it also suggested that many utilities have not fully bought into the economics of distributed energy projects. Some survey respondents expressed anxiety about the pace at which wind and solar power are expanding. The trend toward more renewable generation is expected to affect business models and has forced some utilities to invest in transmission and distribution upgrades so they can take on more distributed energy.