A survey of European utilities by Cosmo Tech has revealed what decision makers in the sector believe their most pressing challenges to be. Based on data gathered from utilities across the continent, the results of the survey suggest that some issues are far more likely to be keeping utility decision makers up at night than others.

“If there is one issue above all others that concerns utility decision makers its distributed energy,” said Cosmo Tech Solutions Consultant Sotiris Prokopiou. “The emergence of so-called DERs and the need to respond to the impacts of these new energy resources on the wider grid was the clear standout issue for the utilities we spoke to.”

Unlike conventional and largely fossil-fuel and nuclear powered electricity generation, DERs often do not require the transmission of power over long distances being generated close to consumers. Distributed energy resources are more often limited in capacity in comparison to conventionally generated electricity but are also more flexible and quicker to deploy than conventional generation alternatives.

Other issues identified as particularly pressing by utilities include an aging workforce and asset stock, increasingly stringent regulations, and a general lack of best practices and benchmarks for asset maintenance and management.

The Cosmo Tech survey also quizzed utilities on the biggest constraints that they felt were impacting on their decision making. Once again, there was consistency across utilities in identifying the most onerous constraint.

“Utilities across the board recognise that addressing their problems in silos instead of taking a broader, whole-system approach is a significant constraint on effective action,” explained Prokopiou. “While human resources and risk aversion were also identified as significant constraints by respondents, the problem of siloed-thinking was clearly identified as the biggest barrier to reaching KPIs.”

When it came to the use cases that utility decision makers found most pressing and most compelling, more than 1 in 4 respondents nominated asset investment planning and optimization, and the associated tariff negotiations, as the most pressing, with the integration of DERs a close second. Both represent challenges to utilities that are difficult to address without adopting the holistic approach that allows a utility to consider their system as a whole, rather than in silos.

Results of the survey have been shared with the participating utilities, and headline results are available in the infographic below.

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