The Future of the Utility Industry and the Role of Energy Efficiency

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The energy utility industry is facing many challenges, with sales stagnating, use of distributed generation growing, infrastructure aging, and environmental regulations tightening. In the past utilities, could make money by serving growing loads and earning returns on the large capital investments they make to serve those loads. Now, with loads barely growing, they will likely need new strategies to meet their fiduciary obligation to provide returns to shareholders.

This study estimates future electric sales under several scenarios, concluding that in the coming two decades sales will either be level, increase modestly or decrease modestly. Even under the most extreme case examined we find that a “death spiral” is unlikely. This study also reviews more than 50 studies and papers on the future role of utilities, identifying 19 options for the future and describing and evaluating each of them. Based on this review we make recommendations for the short, medium and long-terms including on the role of energy efficiency in the utility of the future.

 

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