Utilities brace for “perfect storm” as demand disruption deepens
Utility business was never glamorous or exciting – but you could normally count on predictable sales and revenue growth. As everything gradually gets more efficient and as mature economies slowly move away from energy-intensive industries, however, electricity demand growth is slowing, or in some cases actually falling, which – assuming all else remains constant – leads to flat or declining revenues. Many believe that US electricity demand has already peaked (graph below).
This would bad enough, but there are indications that things can get even worse because a growing number of customers can generate a large portion of their energy service needs through distributed self-generation, be it solar panels on the roof, a micro-generator or fuel cell in the garage or an arrangement with another customer who has excess power to spare. There are examples of semi-independent networks or micro-grids that virtually produce as much energy as they consume. Moreover, as buildings move towards zero net energy (ZNE), they buy relatively little or none from the grid.