The Future of Utilities is in Data and Digitalisation

The Future of Utilities Summit, held in late June in London, was packed with new information, trends, and ideas. The agenda centred around resiliency, the energy market’s future, renewable energy, and network digitalisation. DTN participated in a fireside chat with Deputy Director of Energy UK Charles Wood on how adapting the grid through digitisation and blended data can build operational and delivery resilience — especially as weather events increasingly put added pressure on utilities to keep the power on. The conversation and questions on the topic echoed what we experienced throughout the event. Transformation of the utility industry has ignited, and innovation and collaboration were top of mind for attendees.

Here are our key takeaways from the 2023 Future of Utilities Summit.


Data, data, data

From customer service to grid resilience and renewable energy, data is driving nearly every initiative and every conversation.British mathematician Lord Kelvin was right. He once said, “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.”

Even now — nearly a century and a half later — we are still seeking more satisfactory information. From customer service to grid resilience and renewable energy, data is driving nearly every initiative and every conversation. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) report in late 2021 found that “the digital transformation of the U.K. energy sector will require greater access to data, and combining of datasets collected by different stakeholders.”

Consequently, references to double-digit investments in the millions for data and analytics were no surprise at the conference. These conversations were frequently coupled with system updates and uncovering of fresh insights. “Utilities have a treasure trove of information from just looking at their own data,” commented DTN VP Global Commercial Renny Vandewege, who spoke during the fireside chat. “When you take that and combine it with other data sources, there’s tremendous power to quickly improve operational agility and customer service.” The sessions that emphasised collaboration and innovation tended to centre around how data and digitalisation can better facilitate both.

Renny at Future of Utilities Summit

DTN VP Global Commercial Renny Vandewege speaks during the fireside chat.


Digitalization is critical

By 2050, improved energy system flexibility through digitalisation could reduce the overall U.K. energy system costs by up to £10 billion annually.The same BEIS briefing estimates that by 2050, improved energy system flexibility through digitalisation could reduce the overall U.K. energy system costs by up to £10 billion annually — and create up to 24,000 jobs. Nearly every utility is at a different place on the digital maturity curve. There were many diverse perspectives and some lively dialogues about how to advance digitalisation, but all agreed that more than just the energy sector needs to be involved to succeed. Innovative solutions are on the horizon and were displayed in the exhibit hall, but utilities must be system-ready to capitalise on the potential.

Discussions around the Storm Risk suite of solutions from DTN sparked several conversations about using hyperlocal data to better anticipate and prepare for extreme weather and potential weather-related disruptions to power and water delivery. Participants also considered the benefits of using long-range weather data to update and train customer service teams to respond to potential weather impacts, such as customer concerns around periods of extraordinary heat during summer. The ability to partner with organisations offering systems that ingest new data, connect and maintain additional green power sources, like solar and wind, and implement innovative solutions will be critical to the digitalisation success of U.K. power and water companies.

There is an abundance of evidence that transformation in the U.K. power and water industries is energising. It’s real, required, and happening now. The Future of Utilities Summit was a great place to learn, connect with our customers, and collaborate towards the future. Utility companies have an unprecedented mandate and opportunity to reimagine and reassess. As a trusted partner for utilities around the globe, DTN data and technology teams are digging into the learnings and conversations from the conference to continue bringing data intelligence and innovation into the utility sector.

Watch DTN Expert Renny Vandewege’s Q&A session on digitalisation and its critical role in enhancing resiliency, efficiency, and flexibility — especially around incident response.