ATLANTA—Some three-quarters of large utility companies, or utilities serving 500,000 or more customers, will transfer at least a portion of their purchasing activity online over the next year according to research by Chartwell Inc., an information services firm serving the retail energy industry. In addition, Web-based monitoring and reporting of field devices is set to double—from being in place at about 10 percent of all utilities now, to about 20 percent by 2002, Chartwell’s findings show.

Just as the Internet is changing energy companies’ approach to customers, it is impacting the internal processes of every department at virtually every energy provider. Shifting processes like purchasing, field management, human resources, document management—and practically everything else—to the Web boosts productivity by removing steps, expediting the chain of events, making information more accessible, and giving employees more control. Vendors are almost frantically developing new versions of software based on Internet technology to take advantage of these rewards, and utilities are rushing to “e-enable” their business processes.

These are among the many findings detailed in The Chartwell E-Operations Report, a newly released book based on independent surveys of 100 energy companies and dozens of additional, more-in-depth interviews with other leading energy providers and consultants. Projects bringing many day-to-day utility operations online must be done quickly to take advantage of today’s fast-changing technology. In fact, 94 percent of utilities surveyed said such projects were implemented in less than 12 months’ time.

Budgets for these projects are across the board. Of large utilities, 63 percent spend more than $1 million on bringing their internal operational functions to the Web.