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There is all the glitter – the gleaming transmission widgets, the towering consultants’ tents. Tons of wall-to-wall eye candy for engineers was on display at the annual DistribuTECH trade show last week in San Antonio.

Also, an impressive bank of industry knowledge was walking the floor.

True, some vendors were quite open about their view that utility decision makers – executives - were nowhere to be seen. But insights were offered up by some wise observers.

Notes that I jotted down include the following:

Integrating demand response – that represents huge growth potential for utilities and the software vendors serving them.

Why should a utility pay an outside company to help orchestrate their load – and shed demand in times of shortage? That could be handled at less cost by utilities with newly available software tools. Utilities can and will get more sophisticated about operating their assets in new and newly profitable ways.

Next up – smart grid marries renewables.

With the smart grid being built out, look for utilities and others to get more interested in lacing renewable generation into the mix. That includes increased willingness to look at rooftop solar, fuel cells, electric vehicle fleets and more. More intelligence will create new business platforms for utilities smart enough to seize their smart assets - or new market entrants will do it for them.

Cyber-threats abound

A software firm in the business of helping utilities harden their IT assets against outside assault briefed me on some of the many known attacks that have been mounted recently. More can be done and should be done to limit utilities' vulnerability. 

During a lull at Distributech, I ducked out to quarterback a national webcast - a fascinating dialog with

  • Kelly Gallant – Accenture Utilities Industry Group, North American managing director
  • Mark Gabriel – Black & Veatch, senior vice president strategy and business process
  • Branko Terzic – Deloitte Services regulatory policy leader

Our discussion focused on disruptive government policies and their possible impact on coal, nuclear, gas and renewables generation, transmission deployment and smart grid. In essence, the conversation raised key themes to be addressed at the EnergyBiz Leadership Forum in Washington, March 19-21.

To listen in to our wide-ranging dialog, click here.




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