Another successful DISTRIBUTECH event is in the books and it certainly delivered on its promise to provide insights into where the energy industry is headed and uncover the potential challenges we must prepare for in the future. Across the show floor, the main stage and Knowledge Hubs, I heard a lot of buzz about key issues and opportunities facing our industry, including consumer engagement, grid modernization, distributed energy management and resiliency.

Kicking things off at the DISTRIBUTECH opening general session, CPS Energy’s Paula Gold-Williams shared CPS Energy’s “People First” approach whereby it is evolving its efforts to create and deliver value to its customers, community and employees in a new age of energy solutions. Acknowledging that indeed CPS Energy is in the wires business, it is also very much in the people business, where it is committed to creating and delivering value every day for its customers, community and employees. As part of that value, CPS Energy is creating a flexible path to reduce its carbon footprint. Currently serving about 1.9 million residents, it is looking toward the future and how renewables will make up a share of its power mix. CPS Energy is on an ambitious path, and we’re delighted to be one of its technology partners as it continues to lead the industry.

Consumers are Ready to Engage
Research from the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative
(SECC), which was revealed at the show, uncovered that consumers are ready – more than ever – to engage with utility providers on smart energy programs. They care about adoption of things such as smart thermostats, rooftop solar and electric vehicles. SECC also discovered that consumers self-reported their need for more education, underscoring that the industry needs to invest in more knowledge building.

Grid Modernization in the Era of IoT
Grid modernization, innovation and willingness among cities and utilities to experiment with disruptive technologies was discussed in a panel with CPS Energy’s Cris Eugster, EPIcenter’s Kimberly Britton, Utilicast’s Tim Taylor, Pepco Holding’s Jason Tucker and Itron’s Sharelynn Moore. The discussions on this panel made it clear that industrial IoT is playing a foundational role for smart grid, distribution automation, demand response and smart city use cases.

Leveraging the Network to Create a Safer, More Reliable Grid
In the face of natural disasters and cybersecurity challenges, utilities are pressed to have a framework that can solve problems and deploy solutions that deliver value and minimize costs, all while creating a safer and more reliable grid. In a panel featuring Con Edison’s Kevin Wasserman and Tony Zhu, and Exelon Utilities’ Philip Nevels, innovative examples were provided on what technology can make utilities and cities smarter, such as Con Edison’s deployment of methane gas detectors.

News from the Show Floor
Aside from all of the activity happening in the Itron Experience at our booth, Itron made news beyond the show floor. We announced details behind two new collaborations with Innowatts and Bidgely. We’ve teamed with Innowatts, combining its powerful software with detailed data from our Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) solution, enabling electric utilities to achieve the full value from their AMI investments. With Bidgely, we’re equipping utilities with precise insights into energy usage, down to the appliance level, to encourage energy efficiency and drive customer engagement in utility-sponsored demand management programs.

Itron’s Smart Community Challenge was also introduced with the call for hardware and software vendors to submit their products and solutions that can tackle the challenges of electric vehicle charging and resiliency. Working with Avista and Liberty Utilities, technology providers are invited to use Itron’s standards-based developer tools to integrate their solutions with Itron’s IoT platform. It’s an exciting challenge that unfolds later in the year to reveal breakthrough solutions to obstacles that utilities face.

With CPS Energy, Itron announced a new online resource, Smart Energy Education, to improve energy-water literacy through interactive educational resources and materials for students, educators, industry professionals and communities around the globe. Itron’s partnership with CPS Energy on STEM initiatives is a natural collaboration, given our shared passion for education focusing on resourcefulness.

DISTRIBUTECH 2020 may have just concluded, but we’re already excited about the 2021 show and evaluating how far the industry will have come in a year – with additional opportunities for us all to collaborate and create a more resourceful world.

Marina Donovan
Vice President, Global Marketing and Public Affairs - Itron
Marina Donovan has more than 20 years of global technology marketing and public relations experience with a background in data security, networking and mobile. She joined Itron as vice president of global marketing and public affairs in January 2018. Prior to joining Itron, she was vice president of marketing for Silver Spring Networks.