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Author's profile photo James McClelland

Blurring the Boundaries Between Industries with Digital Disruption

Ten billion people – that’s the global population projected by 2050. As billions of people join the digital economy, some experts say the demand for electricity, natural gas, and water will double or triple. They also predict the use of energy and water will grow while vehicles and mass transit go electric. One thing is clear – the digital economy needs clean, dependable, and affordable water and energy.

This should be a great outlook for energy and water suppliers, distributors, and retailers. Yet, decarbonization, deregulation, and decentralization are disrupting the century-old utilities hierarchy. We see a digital energy network emerging that reflects new structures of distributed generation, water supply, transmission, distribution, and retail. The digital energy network will foster new business models and processes. It will transform work in a competitive and collaborative digital economy.

The consequences are dramatic. Proven utilities business models based on trillions of dollars worth of infrastructure collapse. New market entrants, such as Google, Amazon, and Tesla, disrupt the value chain. Rapid technical and social innovation puts new capital investments at risk. Consumers, communities, and companies go off the grid with new wind, solar, water, and storage technology.

The industry is currently balancing the efficient operations of its existing infrastructure with the need to adapt to the volatile market environment. Leading utilities are reevaluating their physical assets and customer relationships to:

  • Reimagine business models to find new revenue and profit sources. This can be achieved by offering innovative supply, load balancing, and smart home and business energy services.
  • Reimagine business processes and use of digital technology to optimize business outcomes. This can be achieved by converging information and operational technologies.
  • Reimagine the role and structure of the workforce to support future business. This can be achieved by incorporating wearable technology, blockchain, 3D printers, and geospatial technologies.
  • In today’s new energy marketplace new market entrants will act as competitors as well as partners in becoming energy providers. This includes companies representing telecommunications delivering smart energy data, automotive with electric vehicles and mobile energy storage, consumer products with smart energy appliances, high tech with smart energy devices and construction with energy efficient buildings.

At the 2017 Sapphire, join a discussion on how the boundaries between industries is blurring due to the digital disruption in our industries. The session (IN43951) will take place on Wednesday May 17 @ 4:00-4:40pm at campus area IN127.

See you in Orlando.

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