How to Make Your Distribution Plan More Sustainable

There has been a huge rise in demand for sustainable energy amongst consumers – and this demand inevitably impacts utility companies. There are many factors at play that contributed to making sustainability more popular, and the bigger demand can leave many utilities concerned about how to adapt and keep up with sustainability expectations. 

Is your utility operation prepared for a sustainable future? Keep reading this blog to learn about different options available for utility companies to become more sustainable and contribute to a carbon neutral future. 

Prepare for challenges

The first step is to plan for decarbonization. Before you start thinking you need a quick fix, remember that decarbonization will be a journey, not an overnight solution.

Here are a few key points to keep in mind when moving towards decarbonization:

  • Consider any long-term contracts. These types of contracts, like fuel contracts, may need a plan for transition over a longer period of time.
  • Think about location. Some geographical areas offer more options for renewable energy or reduced carbon footprints – for example, some geographical locations have more water, others have more sunlight, etc.
  • Double check with regulators and investors. Some energy regulators and/or investors may be tied to fuel sources for historical or economic reasons.


Understand energy consumption on your grid

Consider using smart sensors and advanced analytics to monitor and gather data about your grid. New solutions are available that help utilities figure out what and how energy is consumed on a network. You can then look at associated costs and how they may change using sustainable energy.


Support technology and program solutions

Although utilities may not be able to mandate technology adoptions for consumers, utility companies (and often state or regional regulators) can still take part or run conservation and/or energy efficiency programs. These programs can be run effectively by providing consumers with incentives to purchase energy efficient products and rebates for energy efficient renovations. As a utility company, you can support and encourage consumers to adopt efficient tech solutions, while also helping to promote and deliver efficiency programs.

Sustainability program solutions can include
  • In Canada, Ontario operates the Save On Energy program, managed by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO). The program is designed to support consumers, businesses and industries to improve their energy efficiency, offering helpful resources and incentives that help make efficiency projects more achievable and affordable.
  • In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports local utility companies with energy efficiency programs and program sponsors. Local governments can collaborate with utility companies to design and run energy efficiency programs for residential consumers and commercial consumers, and also to improve the efficiency of their own facilities. 
Sustainability technology solutions can include:
  • Energy efficient options like smart devices or LED light bulbs
  • Building construction and/or renovation development, like HVAC systems, insulation, and smart windows 
  • DER options (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal) and grid technology (microgrids, smart meters, storage)


Decide your position in microgeneration

  • Will you be installing, leasing or owning distributed generation and storage?
  • Will you be collaborating with a group of partners?
  • Will you be a market/program operator, allowing consumers and businesses to buy/sell energy through your grid?

No matter which option you choose above, each has its own unique business model to consider.


Talk to regulators

If sustainable energy is important to your consumers and your company, consider reaching out to regulators to discuss rate impacts and potential models. Use these discussions to understand the level of support for decarbonization, and use that to inform your next move.


The future is sustainable

There’s no doubt that sustainable energy is the future of energy consumption. As a utility company, it’s important to remember that sustainable solutions are achievable. By considering the options above you can help contribute towards regional carbon neutrality targets, while keeping spending down knowing that capital costs continue to lower as demand increases.