What energy companies of the future are working on today

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good: Electric industry must adapt to succeed

Everyone has seen the incredible disruption to businesses wrought by rapidly changing technology. In fact, history is like a beach littered with shipwrecked companies that either ignored or missed the winds of change.

Successful companies, on the other hand, recognize the evolving landscape, innovate and adapt to new realities. My guess is that when you think “innovative” or “tech-savvy,” your local utility doesn’t come to mind. But, the transformational change the electric industry is undergoing is surprisingly intense.

The smart players in our industry know that technology is developing at a rapid pace – causing customer expectations to change just as rapidly. Today’s consumer technologies allow us to control more and more of our personal world with the touch of a button. Customers now crave that same control and convenience from every service provider. The bar has been raised, and the electric industry is no exception.

Adapting to meet higher customer expectations is an invigorating challenge. We have to ask ourselves hard questions and make tough decisions. But it opens the door to a world of possibilities that few in our industry envisioned just a few short years ago. 

Finding new experiences for customers

Imagine the possibilities if your personal electronics could communicate with the electric grid. You could know precisely how much it costs to power each one or receive an alert before your heating unit fails. A sensor in your car could signal your thermostat to warm up the house as you approach home.

My guess is that when you think “innovative” or “tech-savvy,” your local utility doesn’t come to mind. But, the transformational change the electric industry is undergoing is surprisingly intense.

At Duke Energy we’re exploring how the Internet of Things and other advancements could make these types of applications possible, and enabling consumers to customize their energy experience in unprecedented ways.

Evolving what happens behind the scenes

We’re also exploring the possibilities these technologies hold for how our company operates. For example, we’re testing the use of drones to inspect hard-to-reach places like a 40-foot high transmission line or a 500-acre solar farm. More conceptually, the electric industry is considering ideas such as apps that turn smartphones into infrared cameras to find trouble spots on a power line or using smart glasses to let technicians view 3-D wiring schematics as they work.

Technologies like these would make the job of providing electricity smarter and more flexible.

Also, it’s clear that many customers want more of their electricity generated from renewable energy sources. The industry has responded. Duke Energy alone has put more than 2,000 megawatts of wind and solar in operation. But bringing significantly more renewable energy onto the system requires the industry to innovate in areas such as battery storage. We’re already piloting this technology. In fact, Duke Energy owns nearly 15 percent of the grid-connected battery storage capacity in the country.

Bringing it to life

To bring these ideas to life, the industry has to adapt and evolve faster than ever before. It won’t be easy. On the other side of your electrical outlets, there’s a highly complex system of power plants, transformers and other equipment. There’s no app update that can transform this vast, interconnected system. It takes vision and a long-term, customer-focused strategy.

I often get asked the question, “Are you innovating fast enough?” The answer is more complicated than yes or no. A company can’t chase every new, shiny object. I have to provide reliable energy to 23 million people every day. You have to be disciplined and thoughtful about setting priorities and allocating resources. Once you do, run toward your goal – fast. 

New technologies are coming. The key is prioritizing the ones that will deliver the greatest value to our customers. At Duke Energy, we’re preparing for the future. We’ve invested more than $10 billion to modernize our energy system, with much more planned.  And, we have teams of people specifically dedicated to uncovering and understanding the potential of emerging technologies.  

We’re committed to connecting our customers with cleaner, smarter energy solutions. As long as their expectations keep changing, we plan to do the same.


This article first appeared on LinkedIn. LinkedIn members can read, like, share and comment on Good's posts.