The Day after Tomorrow- Future-Proofing the Power Sector

News Article

Last week’s Digitopia conference brought together power sector innovation front-runners and strategists to discuss the digital future of electricity. Expectations are high and the technology is there, but the electricity industry is finding it hard to reconcile its traditional responsibilities with the risks to system reliability brought on by new technologies. 

Dealing with the inherited problems of the past, the power sector still struggles to find sufficient time to think of the day after tomorrow, as the author of “The Network Always Wins” Peter Hinssen put it in his provocative key note speech. Eurelectric’s latest publications on blockchain in the electricity sector, released on 3 May, show in detail how this holds true for a promising, but still developing technology. 

The word digitalisation is often used interchangeably with the term digitisation. Yet, the two differ significantly. Digitisation ensures the development of the infrastructure needed for a thoroughly deep digital transformation of life around us enabling access and fair distribution of benefits – efficient systems, a smartened interaction between actors, but also a smartened value proposition to consumers. The full day of debates and presentations mapped out the promise of digitalisation across the electricity value chain, as well as the key tasks for industry, policy makers, regulators and start-ups which ensure the awaited digital transformation rolls out successfully.

A key requirement for this is understanding that digitalisation is a tool, not an objective in itself. By regarding it as a tool, industries and the power sector in particular should focus not on generating data (of which today only 2-3% percent is analysed in detail), but on what data is needed for customers to feel the benefit of their data being employed by their service providers. This cultural change should also feature organisational improvements, favouring less risk-averse innovation strategies and talent scouting beyond traditional engineer profiles. With technology maturing, the success of the digital transformation of the electricity sector would not be technology dependent, but rather a function of a successful cultural transformation: the sector’s ability to partner with external stakeholders and learn to experiment and if need be fail only to start again.

To understand the complexity and depth of discussions that took place during the Digitopia event, check out our twitter feed by using the hashtag Digitopia. You can also view an interview with our Secretary General Kristian Ruby on the main takeaways of the event.