Strengthening economies through the resourceful use of energy and water

Wed, 2015-02-04 06:00 -- SCC Staff

By Sharelynn Moore, Itron

Today, populations continue to grow rapidly within the world’s urban areas. For the first time ever, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities. This growth, coupled with aging infrastructure is putting increasing strains on energy and water resources ‒ the two resources that are integral to prosperous and sustainable cities. This means city leaders and utilities must find ways work together to create smart, sustainable cities that offer high-quality services.

Itron has a long history of building smart energy and water systems and aims to convene city leaders, utilities, businesses and citizens to change the way they understand and optimize the world’s energy and water resources.

Raising awareness
To raise awareness of key global energy and water challenges, Itron just launched its second annual Itron Resourcefulness Index, which highlights the need for industry-wide transformation and calls for visionary leadership from utilities around the world to help usher in a more resourceful age. Committing to strengthening resourcefulness can help utilities be successful and have a positive impact, both on national economies and local communities.

The report serves as a benchmark for resourcefulness around the world.  The study measured the opinions of global electric, gas and water utility executives and consumers to:

    • Gauge how resourceful they think the industry is today
    • Identify perceived barriers to progress
    • Identify solutions for a more resourceful future.

The survey polled more than 900 executives and 900 informed consumers from 16 different countries around the world.

Key findings
Key findings from the report include:

    • The utility industry must continue to modernize infrastructure. The need for transformation and infrastructure investment in the industry remains widely recognized, with 83% of utility executives agreeing that transformation is needed. Additionally, 55%  of utility executives believe the industry is not running efficiently and 21% believe the state of the infrastructure will be worse in five years. Utility companies’ investment in modernizing infrastructure can serve as the foundation for smarter cities, as utilities deploy networks across their territories.  These multi-purpose networks can be used to connect millions of devices, and not just smart grid technology.
    • Technology and software tools are key to transformation. Nearly one-third of utility executives reported that business intelligence and analytics would be at the top of their investment wish list. Technology is a key aspect of achieving resourcefulness, especially in countries that have well-established infrastructure and therefore stand to reap the most gains in resourcefulness through investments in technology. Investing in tools to manage big data is crucial for modernizing infrastructure, according to 80% of all utility executives. In fact, 80% say “without big data, you can’t have smart cities.”
    • Educating the public should be a priority for utility executives. Nearly half of informed consumers believe utilities should focus on educating consumers about consumption and conservation. However, utility executives surveyed put consumer education and conservation programs at the bottom of their investment wish list. In addition, more than half of utility executives believe that the changing workforce and knowledge sharing gap is a growing or urgent concern.
    • Utilities should begin laying the groundwork for a future-proof business model. For example, more than 60% of consumers surveyed would like the utility industry to focus on renewable integration. Utility executives agree that integrating renewables is an unmet need of the industry today.
    • Barriers to achieving resourcefulness remain. As with last year, utility executives and consumers agree that new or potentially new government regulations are a concern. However, there was also a significant increase in barriers that are less frequently cited. Specifically, utility executives cited a lack of private funding as a barrier to infrastructure investment, rising 17%  from last year, and the need for more time rose 14%.

Germany and Australia lead
The 2015 Resourcefulness Index also includes two new indices ‒ the Energy Resourcefulness Index and the Water Resourcefulness Index ‒ designed to reflect a broader assessment of the relationship between resourcefulness and economic health and global competitiveness by layering in economic data from third party sources. This expanded analysis provides greater understanding and compelling insights into the ties between energy and water resourcefulness and social and economic growth for key global economies and the utilities that help power them.

In the Energy Index, the top five performing countries ‒ of the 16 countries surveyed  ‒ were Germany, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Spain and the United States. From high-quality electric supply to investment in innovation, these countries succeed by excelling within different areas of resourcefulness.

The top five performing countries in the Water Index were Australia, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany. These countries tended to have high levels of water meter penetration and low levels of non-revenue water.

A call to action
The insights from the Itron Resourcefulness Index can lay the groundwork for the roles utilities, cities, citizens and governments will play in managing and conserving energy and water. These stakeholders have the opportunity to take action based on the findings and take a leading role in a new era of resourcefulness.  This will lead to greater social and economic opportunities and a more resourceful future for us all.

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Download the Itron Resourcefulness Index >>                                               

Sharelynn Moore is vice president of corporate marketing and public affairs at Itron, a Council Lead Partner. She has more than 17 years of experience in the energy and technology sectors. In her role, Moore is responsible for all global marketing and public affairs activities for Itron, including development of strategic marketing objectives, oversight of internal and external communications and management of external affairs including community investment and government relations.