I just got back from the 26th year of DistribuTECH, the largest annual Electric Utility Industry conference. The theme was “Focused on the Future” and the industry met to participate in sessions on working through the challenges of increasing the amount of power from renewable resources, managing the deployment of Distributed Energy Resources, and understanding the changes in managing and securing the grid.


We heard 5 themes across the conference:

The impact of distributed generation & microgrids

Distributed generation, in the form of rooftop solar, continues to be controversial and seen by some as being the potential death spiral of the traditional utility company. Some solar advocates see the industry as trying to obstruct this rapidly growing trend, while utility companies are struggling with managing the integration of solar panels and being held responsible for providing reliability.


Renewables and integration

Grid modernization is centered around improving efficiency and having more power come from renewable resources, with the goal of having them become the major source of electric power. This presents huge engineering challenges since grid architecture and grid control systems were designed for one-way flows of power from central generation. Storage is widely viewed as being key to having high percentages of renewable power, especially renewable power at the edge of the grid.

Change in customer behavior and expectations

Customers have an elevated sense of customer service from e-commerce companies like Amazon, Uber and Airbnb, and utility companies must learn how to craft a customer relationship and better customer experience. There is now more pressure to do so as competitive energy providers bombard customers with advertisements seeking to shape how customers buy and manage energy.

Woman holding tablet pc and credit card , Internet Shopping Concept

Utility companies are looking for new ways to deliver value

Electricity sales are facing decline from increased efficiency and increasing amounts of distributed generation. Even if companies build a business model for operating and maintaining the grid, the utility economic model will shrink. Utilities need new ways to deliver value to customers to increase revenue and customer satisfaction. They need to find a business and regulatory model where customers understand and value the infrastructure and services that utilities can provide.

IoT: wearables and augmented reality

50% of the technical workforce will retire over the next 5 to 10 years. Augmented reality can help combat the substantial loss of knowledge and experience by coaching workers involved in almost any task. Collaboration tools like remote experts can provide oversight from anywhere in the world to solve problems.

We can help!

We’ve served the utility industry for many years by providing expertise and resources for scalable, high performance, secure communications. Cisco is a world leader in cybersecurity, supply chain security, and a secure product lifecycle. We look forward to continuing to provide that value, together with our partners and realize the goal of a renewable, secure energy future.

Video from the Youtube Cisco Energy Channel

For more info on what we shared at DistribuTECH, view last week’s blog. Let us know in the comments section what other themes you heard at the conference.


Rick Geiger

Executive Director

Utilities and Smart Grid