Power utility businesses around the world are finally, and rapidly, waking up to the enormous changes taking place in the global energy market. That is what we have been noticing here in Australia, and that is the major message from the latest PwC global power & utilities report.
The report, released on Wednesday, shows that over two-thirds (70 per cent) of senior energy industry executives they surveyed (and they surveyed 73 of them, from 70 different companies and across 50 different countries) expected significant or very significant market model change by 2030 – a huge increase of awareness, or acceptance, from 2014, when less that half of survey respondents (41 per cent) said utility business models would be ‘completely transformed’ by then.
But how? What shape will future utilities and energy markets take? PwC asked their energy executives a variety of questions about this, and the answers – illustrated in the chart below – are pretty illuminating.
While a disappointing 38 per cent of respondents rated large-scale renewables as important to their business in 2015, more than three-quarters – 77 per cent – told PwC that large-scale, centralised renewable energy generation would be the most important operational strategy for their company in 2030, while less than half (49 per cent) thought utility-scale fossil fuel generation would still play a major role in energy generation.
The perceived importance of distributed generation – both owned by the utility, and by third parties – also increased dramatically, with just 5-8 per cent considering it important now, compared to 41-48 per cent rating it of key importance in 2030.
Just over half of respondents (55%) thought electric vehicles and the electrification of other types of transportation would – or should – be a major component of the utility business in 2030; and 62 per cent thought smart grid/smart city/smart home infrastructure and technology would play a key role in the future delivery of electricity.
Certainly, this has been one of the more interesting turn-ups of the recent Jekyll and Hyde transformation of AGL Energy. As we reported here last week, the addition of a “connected mobility specialist” to the new look AGL management team strongly suggests the gentailer is taking the issue of EVs seriously.
Even off-grid energy solutions – the bane of centralised generation models and still dismissed as science fiction (or crazy) by many – rated a mention in the PwC survey, with more than 37 per cent of utilities surveyed acknowledging their role in the energy markets of 2030.