CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (March 2, 2015) - As the energy industry undergoes a period of unprecedented transformation, energy companies must maintain their focus on meeting customers' basic energy needs even as utilities adapt to market changes, Exelon said Saturday.
In a keynote address at the 2015 MIT Energy Conference, Exelon Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer William A. Von Hoene, Jr. said that as major trends - such as natural gas fracking, the push to reduce carbon emissions and water scarcity -reshape the utility landscape, utilities must invest and plan properly to continue to meet their customer obligations.
"The utility of the future must embrace these technological shifts we're observing," Von Hoene said. "Even as they do, customers will still need, and want, energy that is first and foremost reliable and affordable, and increasingly clean. These fundamental energy needs are far too important to ignore."
Rapid technological advancements present new and exciting opportunities for energy companies, Von Hoene said. Citing recent Exelon investments in innovative fuel cells, intelligent grid networks and new combined-cycle gas turbine technology, he said utilities should embrace technology to meet changing customer expectations and lay the groundwork for a modern, integrated grid.
"The old way of doing business will not work in this new landscape. The utility of the future must be forward looking, and not just reactive, to succeed," he said. "The energy industry of the past looked at new technologies as â€˜disruptive,' but to create the grid of tomorrow, we must look at these technologies as â€˜enabling.'"
Von Hoene cautioned energy companies against trying to evolve too quickly, saying that industrywide change, though far-reaching, will also need to be gradual if the nation is to strike the right balance between emerging technology and markets and serving basic energy needs.
"The transformation to the utility of the future will not happen with the proverbial flip of a switch," Von Hoene said. "It's more like gradually raising a dimmer switch. This evolution of the industry will be measured in decades, not months or years."
Among the key trends Von Hoene identified were the rapid growth of renewable energy, especially distributed energy such as rooftop solar, and customers' increasing energy efficiency. He said that these shifts have clear benefits for customers, society and the environment, but will not replace the reliable and resilient centralized grid soon.
"As a strong advocate of competition, we support customers' right to choose from a variety clean energy products and services, including distributed generation and efficiency," Von Hoene said. "That said, we believe the centralized grid must coexist with renewables, distributed generation and efficiency for at least the next 10 years. Providing efficient and reliable service to customers will require a well-functioning distribution grid that can balance both central station and distributed resources."
Von Hoene's prepared remarks are available at www.exeloncorp.com/Newsroom/speeches.