Smart Grid / Smart Energy

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Discussing the Utility of the Future

By Jill Feblowitz

What does the utility of the future look like anyway? The discussion topic is not a new one. Over the last twenty-five years, we have seen the era of deregulation, renewable portfolio standards and the investment in utility-scale renewables, the build out of the smart grid and retirement of coal fired plants. With the development of shale gas, the decline in consumption, the need to invest in infrastructure and the rise in distributed energy resources (DER), the discussions have evolved. There are a limited number of venues where utilities can come together to discuss the outlook for the industry. The Utility of the Future Leadership Forum sponsored by DNV KEMA has discovered the formula for lively, honest and informed discussions in an intimate setting.

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Last week I attended Realcomm's second annual smart building conference, IBCon, in Orlando. This year's event was bigger than last and the conversations echoed the rapid progress in development of the smart buildings market in the last 12 months. The message was clear, the future of smart buildings lies in the future of information technologies; and these solutions will transform how commercial and industrial facilities are built and operated.

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Last week I attended the annual Schneider Electric Analyst event co-located with the DC Xperience Efficiency 2013 customer conference. The message was clear: Schneider wants to be defined as a tech company with a cohesive vision for sustainability and innovation…so, what does this mean?

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The 6th Annual Smart Utilities Central & Eastern Europe (CEE) conference and exhibition was held on May 14–15, 2013, in Prague. This year, more than 200 delegates (utility professionals, smart meter vendors, and telecommunications providers) gathered to share their experiences and discuss the challenges that need to be tackled to drive smart energy projects forward. With IDC Energy Insights being a proud Knowledge Partner of the Synergy-organized conference, I had the opportunity to chair an afternoon track on innovations and developments in smart energy infrastructure, and participate in sometimes heated discussions with this year's attendees during the two days.

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This week I had the great pleasure of attending for a fifth time, Eurelectric's Annual Convention & Conference, hosted by Italian utility Enel in Bologna, Italy. The title of the conference was "Innovative Investments: Re-Energizing Europe," but the theme of innovation went way beyond investments, into markets, business models, customers, and technologies really capturing the notion of "re-energizing". With just a tidbit of partiality, this year's event was definitely my favorite for myriad reasons, but foremost because the industry is rallying against outside forces, which have so intrinsically altered its reality, in just a few short years. How things have changed since I began working in this industry. From being a solid unquestionable financial performer, the economic downturn, unclear regulatory framework, and intrusive and uncoordinated market interventions have made this industry, in the words of outgoing Eurelectric President Fulvio Conti (CEO of Enel) "UNINVESTABLE"!

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