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Utility companies have long been the pillars of our communities, linked with the prosperity of nations, serving as an engine of commerce and enabling significant quality of life improvements. Now, more than ever, utilities are at the forefront of a modernization movement to provide safe and reliable electricity, gas and water to a growing population. They are leading this change at a time when governments are mandating lower carbon emissions; consumers are demanding greener alternatives and control over costs; and utilities increasingly need to update infrastructure to detect and correct lost water and energy.

In light of this, now is the perfect time to take the next step in optimizing how we manage and use energy and water. Utilities can be equipped to eliminate wasted energy and water as well as empower people to conserve these resources and save money. Such awareness is a major step in the important journey toward creating a more resourceful world.

Today, Itron launched the 2016 Itron Resourcefulness Index, a global survey and index benchmarking energy and water resources management. Now in its third year, the report’s year-over-year data demonstrates that there continues to be agreement that the industry is in need of transformation, and utility executives are increasingly turning to technology to help drive the next generation of industry change. We talk smart – smart metering, smart cities and smart grids. Smart technologies are used to improve efficiency and reliability, while empowering consumers to better manage resources. Yet, we are on the cusp of the next wave of innovation for extending beyond today’s smart grid—moving to the active grid. The current systems do a fine job of providing two-way communications and automating meter reading, but as we all know, utilities need deeper insight into what is happening throughout their distribution systems and they need to be able to take action based on grid conditions. With technology, we can get there.

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Additionally, our industry is facing new challenges, including growing populations that want information in real time; a more complex mix of energy sources and storage which requires new systems; a change in dynamics with consumers who can generate power and interact with their utility company in new ways. The challenges are real and require that – beyond innovation – utilities rethink the how their current infrastructure can support the shifting utility landscape.

Based on the findings from the Itron Resourcefulness Index, it is clear that utilities are in a position to usher in more connected and active systems for energy and water. Across electricity, gas and water utility executives, they aim to adopt technologies to integrate new energy sources. In fact, 79 percent of utility executives say their country needs an integrated energy system, including gas, solar and wind renewables.

As utilities look to lead in the age of IoT and smart cities, they are investing in technologies to help address the evolving utility business model. According to the report, deploying and enabling smart meters ranks as the top investment priority for gas and electricity utility executives across the globe, and installing leak detection technology, closely followed by smart metering technology, were the top investment priorities for water utilities. These investments coupled with a standards-based communications network serve as the foundation for smart cities. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Division-D-Banners-25-percentThe Itron Resourcefulness Index also found that a large portion of consumers are looking to utilities for direction and solutions. But as consumers look to utilities to lead, utilities are also looking to consumers to do their part. In fact, nearly half (41 percent) of utility executives surveyed believe that consumers play a pivotal role in improving resourcefulness. However, utilities need to empower consumers to do this by providing more information about water conservation and energy efficiency as more than half of all consumers want this information

Utilities face a growing disconnect with consumers, who want faster and more comprehensive information, but do not fully understand what utilities are doing or why. Therefore, utilities have an opportunity to take the lead in communicating the progress of new innovative technologies, solutions and approaches while telling a compelling story about the positive environmental and economic impacts new technologies will offer.

There is tremendous opportunity ahead for utilities to drive a real shift in how energy and water are managed and used globally. Both utility executives and consumers agree that the industry is in need of transformation. Utilities are uniquely poised to lead this change through the adoption of new technologies to reduce waste, and through the creation of a more efficient and connected system that supports the growing availability of renewable sources. Everyone has a part to play in creating a resourceful world and utilities can help lead the way.