The utility 2.0: unattainable utopia or simple challenge?

Throughout my assignments with utilities to assist them in redesigning their strategy or in the management of their digitization project, this question appeared to me to be at the heart of the concerns of my clients.

First, watching and describing the current market for European utilities, looks like reviewing the numerous ruptures that are impacting this market. They are often very different: I have made a habit of classifying them in technological breakthroughs, those that focus much energy and attention, in sociological ruptures, those probably that have the most profound impact, topological ruptures, systemic ruptures, that concern the whole energy ecosystem, and finally in ruptures affecting the chains of actors. They are more than thirty to affect most utilities.

This simple figure explains why it is so difficult to imagine the evolution of the market globally, why utilities unfortunately focus on a few ruptures they consider to be predominant.

A complete picture of the market also leads to become even more conscious of the difficult political and economic conditions in which utilities operate. In the past, fewer and smaller changes in market such as telecommunications, have caused major difficulties to the great leaders in their field. The context of the present utilities’ business can scare their most farseeing leaders.

I see very often a tendency to downplay the upheaval of the utilities market, which makes relevant, traditional solutions just remodelled and allows a chilly innovation.

In fact, the challenge is to lead, with humility, utilities in the path of a sometimes radical reform. Change orientations and guidelines can be described, specified and deployed within each utility. At first glance, they may seem insurmountable and the utility of the future, the utility 2.0, can easily seem like an unattainable utopia and be a profoundly inhibiting concept.

I am convinced otherwise. This is the message that I recently delivered at several conferences on the subject, to utilities’ boards of directors and management teams or students. This message is easily understood when listeners understand the market in its subtlest details. Utilities’ strategic analysis does not allow them today a superficial approach to the market.

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