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Water Supply Impact on Utility Operations At a national level, the industry is evenly split regarding overall concern for water supply risks. Utility executives around the world are watching the rise of distributed energy systems and trying to determine the best ways to react to this challenge to their traditional businesses.
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To thrive in this new dynamic, utility executives will need to understand the value chain of distributed energy and related business opportunities.
Unlike centralized power generation—that is, large power plants (coal, gas, nuclear) transmitting power through a grid to the end customer—DE relies on smaller networks of power generation, consumed on-site or distributed locally through a low- or medium-voltage community network.
The opportunities in this part of the value chain include planning, building, installing and operating the physical assets, as well as the commercial opportunities in financing and managing risk. Energy prices, environmental concerns and regulatory pressures contribute to the rising popularity of DE across markets (see Figure 3). In the UK, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) pays generators for heat they produce themselves, creating attractive economics for running small boilers (less than 200 kWh) with biomass fuel rather than oil.
In developing economies such as India, distributed energy is an option to expand the electrical system into locations that are not on the grid, or for whom the grid is not a reliable source of power.
The rise of distributed energy represents a significant disruption for large utilities, one that will put their current business models under severe pressure.
Distributed energy holds the promise of delivering efficient, reliable and, in many cases, renewable energy to customers around the world. Companies and investors interested in global expansion in the power sector must consider a range of opportunities and risks.
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InternationalInternational energy information, including overviews, rankings, data, and analyses. Ten Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) operate bulk electric power systems across much of North America. RTOs first developed in the 1990's to accommodate the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) policy to encourage competitive generation through requiring open access to transmission. RTOs dispatch power by feeding both day-ahead and real-time bids from both generators and load-serving entities into complex optimization software, along with other information like unit characteristics. Those interested in more information about RTOs can follow the links below to RTOs' websites and look at the FERC daily summaries of RTO day-ahead and real-time prices. If you require further details regarding the transaction data, please contact the supplier directly.

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The rise of distributed energy (DE)—smaller power-generation systems for homes, businesses and communities—is a response to environmental concerns, rising power prices and regulatory pressures and incentives. Some of their most profitable customers will reduce their regular power consumption from the central grid in favor of locally produced power. They may need to develop or acquire new capabilities, as well as secure regulatory support, as they move from a focus on centralized generation to models that rely on more customer interaction, commercial and energy services, and information management. We see three main opportunities for utilities in DE: helping customers generate their own energy supply, managing end-user demand for energy and controlling the distribution and consumption of energy within a DE network (see Figure 1). For example, in the US, Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) is able to include capital expenditures for certain solar programs in its rate base, generating regulated rates of return. We also see opportunities in working with industrial and commercial clients to reduce their power consumption (overall and peak) and related expenses through more efficient heating and cooling systems, better building insulation and smarter electric drives in automated equipment. Some integrated utilities already have this capability, given their experience managing their own networks.
In the US, environmental concerns and financial incentives like tax credits and net metering, which gives credit to residential customers for electricity that they generate and send back into the grid, have encouraged distributed generation. India's massive power outage in July 2012, which left 670 million people without grid electricity, reinforced the need for commercial and industrial clients that rely on their own on-site, gas-fueled power plants to secure power and steam. Some already feel the impact on profitability as these systems reduce their revenue from usage-based rates. A well-balanced approach can ensure that existing capabilities support current operations while allowing players to expand into DE businesses. While utilities continue to manage their large centralized power systems, they can rely on their current capabilities to begin to move toward new business models. Utilities can begin to take "no regret" decisions that will put them in a better position to make the most of new opportunities.
One option is integrated contracting, where the utility offers services such as planning, installation, operations and maintenance, load management or demand management.
Build up other required DE capabilities through partnerships, joint ventures and acquisitions.
As a result, customers will draw less power from the central grid and may unplug altogether. RTOs are independent, membership-based, non-profit organizations that ensure reliability and optimize supply and demand bids for wholesale electric power. In the Northeast, the RTOs evolved from power pools that had coordinated utility operations for many decades. They post voluminous price data for thousands of locations on the system at time intervals as short as five minutes.
Water-scarce regions such as the Southwest and Northwest (east of the Cascade Mountains) had a significantly higher percentage of respondents who selected moderate or significant levels of concern. With severe drought impacting much of the country in 2012, it was expected that the overall level of concern would be higher. In some European countries, the amount of power generated by intermittent sources like wind and photovoltaic (PV) cells also leads major energy consumers to explore on-site generation as a backup solution and to cap costs. These customers may still depend on the central grid for their emergency or peak use, so utilities will have to maintain their costly infrastructure and power-generating capabilities even as revenues from consumption decline. While PSE&G's situation is unique, many companies are exploring contractor models in which they buy, install and maintain equipment, leasing the supply of electricity to customers. Demand managers can also help customers smooth energy consumption curves by shifting demand into off-peak times with lower prices.
In this part of the business, utilities manage a distributed energy network in real time, via a control center that monitors generation capacity from various sources and distributes it according to demand. Energy prices there have risen 60% over the past decade by some accounts, due to taxes and levies on power consumption, making it advantageous to produce one's own power and heat. Another incentive in India is that local or on-site generation means the source lies close to the demand, so customers don't need to rely on national or state grids with their high rates of loss in transmission and distribution.
Consider the risk in Germany, where the new opportunities are large, but not large enough to cover losses in traditional businesses.

The clearest possibility here will be in managing the supply and demand balance of DE systems through sophisticated control techniques. Foremost among these is improving customer loyalty and getting to know customers' needs and preferences better—skills increasingly critical in their traditional business of supplying power, but even more so in managing DE, where meeting customer needs must happen in real time. For example, utilities could act as a contractor to manage the energy efficiency of residential buildings, hotels, hospitals or industrial facilities.
Partnerships and JVs allow for staged investments along the DE value chain, and they let utilities tap into the entrepreneurial activity in this area.
The sooner utilities identify the opportunities inherent in this growing movement, the more likely they are to capture the profits available to them.
Elsewhere (the Midwest, California and Texas), RTOs grew up to meet both State and federal policies on competitive generation and open transmission access. Regions that have recently or are currently experiencing drought also indicated higher levels of concern such as the Midwest. Just last year, utilities operating in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) rated water supply as the greatest environmental concern – even more so than carbon legislation. In the US, the leasing model, coupled with net metering and tax subsidies, has fueled adoption of distributed solar for residential customers. In many markets, utilities are working with regulators to adapt to this structural change by promoting a pricing model based more on connectivity and capacity and less on usage.
To date, managing these assets has delivered the lion's share of profits in distributed energy (see Figure 2).
Boston-based EnerNOC, for example, installs controllers in factories and manages electricity demand online and via a wireless network. Analysis of data over time allows the controller to predict usage and balance loads in order to reduce overall investment in power generation. Germany has committed to deriving 80% of its power from renewable sources by 2050; many of those sources are likely to be distributed. Other core capabilities that should help utilities succeed in the DE value chain include their experience and competence managing large engineering projects, as well as their expertise optimizing the use of operational assets, at the local, regional and even international levels.
Contractors often share in the savings from the energy conservation measures they put in place. In less developed countries, such as India, diesel generators provide electricity to small towns or villages that cannot count on the country's unreliable power grid.
For example, in Berlin, the Swedish utility Vattenfall combines distributed small CHPPs and heat pumps with its own power sources (such as large CHPPs and onshore wind around the city) to create a "virtual power plant." Vattenfall's central controllers, connected by wire- less communication to sources and customers, balance generation with consumption, depending on demand. Additionally, some communities in Germany (and in other countries like Sweden) have a long tradition of operating their own district heating.
We estimate that centralized generation will decline by 20% through 2020 as distributed generation rises and takes market share, resulting in a profit loss of about one-third, or €2.5 billion.
Dalkia and GETEC Energie offer these kinds of services, and some larger utilities are entering these high-growth businesses, too.
In other parts of the country, electricity systems are operated by individual utilities or utility holding companies. The overall level of impact resulting from the curtailment of power plants in 2012 likely was inconsequential as a result of excess reserve generation capacity. For example, Vaxjo, Sweden, has relied on biomass-fueled district heating for several decades.
Distributed energy profits may account for €3 billion to €4 billion by 2020, but large utilities are likely to capture only a part of that, with the rest going to smaller energy service companies. By rule, Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) and Independent System Operators (ISOs) are required to maintain a minimum of 15 percent reserve margins within their operating areas.
Today, most regions are operating with reserve margins approaching or surpassing 20 percent as a result of the 2008 recession and the slow recovery of overall energy demand. This means that water constraints could have far greater impacts to the industry and customers in the not-so-distant future.

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