Engineering firm Black & Veatch has released its second annual 2021 Strategic Directions: Megatrends Report analysing survey data from more than 1,000 professionals across the power, water, telecommunications and natural gas utility sectors and the C&I and manufacturing industries to identify consistent trends. 

The immense challenges of 2020 have amplified the need for reliable and resilient critical infrastructure. COVID-19 has made power, water, natural gas and telecommunications services more essential than ever, while catastrophic wildfire and hurricane seasons have underscored the growing impacts of climate change, according to the study.

The report examines three megatrends that are setting the stage for utility transformation over the next decade:

  1. C-Suite Influence on Sustainability: Utilities have long had an eye towards more efficient and sustainable operations, but the era of climate change is creating new challenges by forcing utilities to adapt faster than ever, even as they remain constrained by increasingly extreme weather events and regulatory structures that trail market shifts. Yet, utilities continue to announce ambitious decarbonisation goals outside of regulatory directives, illustrating how non-traditional market drivers are leading this transition.
  2. Next-Level Reliability Through Resilience: Reliable service is core to every utility’s mandate, but achieving it is becoming more complex in the face of aging infrastructure and climate events. Electric utilities struggled with extended outages from storms and wildfires, while water utilities continue to face more extreme, less predictable supply challenges. How can more integrated approaches to planning pave the way to a more resilient future?
  3. Turning Data into Action: Leveraging smart infrastructure to enable data-driven operations remains a work in progress, as only a few early adopters have truly operationalised data in a significant way. Bolstered by new solutions from third-party vendors, a growing number of large investor-owned utilities are making major commitments to using data to transform their operations, even as they remain challenged by budget constraints, competing priorities and regulatory hurdles.

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Steve Edwards, the CEO of Black & Veatch, said: “With more than half of survey respondents pursuing sustainability goals separate from a regulatory mandate, this year’s report reflects the rising impact of non-regulatory factors in driving operational decisions to achieve sustainability, resilience and reliability.

“By leveraging technology and data, this will allow utilities to execute on increasingly aggressive decarbonisation plans and respond to emergencies quicker and more effectively.”

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Read more about the report.