Itron report reveals heightened need for “resilient and reliable grid” in the face of climate disruption

One in four utility executives say pandemic is delaying upgrades yet natural disasters, renewables and electric vehicles demand modern infrastructure, Itron report finds.

Itron has released its 2021 Resourcefulness Insight Report detailing why modernising energy infrastructure is the path to achieving a “resilient and reliable grid” that successfully mitigates the impacts of climate disruption, minimises interruptions from natural disasters, integrated renewables and prepares for the increased adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). The report, entitled Preparing for the Unexpected and the Inevitable: An Itron Resourfulness Report, summarises key findings from surveys of 500 utility executives and 500 informed consumers from across five countries – the US, Australia, France, Germany and Indonesia – on key challenges, barriers and concerns facing utilities in the next five years.

The report dives deep into the differing options of consumers and utility executives related to resilience planning for an innovative grid. Across the surveyed countries, integrating renewables and modernising aging grid infrastructure are the top two biggest challenges. The findings indicate that in the next five years, utility executives see EV demands becoming the biggest challenge for the grid.

Additional key findings in the report show:

  • Consumers agree with the top priorities of integrating and upgrading infrastructures. However, they are more concerned about natural disasters than EVs at 20% and 16%, respectively.
  • Utility executives are concerned about the grid and the impact of disasters at 88%, followed by demand from EVs at 85%, integrating renewables at 86%, and complying with environmental mandate at 90%.
  • Consumers are less concerned than utility executives about the impact of disasters and EVs on the grid. However, they are also less confident in how prepared utilities are to manage these situations with 84% of utilities stating they are ready, compared to 47% of consumers.

Marina Donovan, vice-president of global marketing and public affairs, commented: “In looking at these results, there is agreement on the need for grid modernisation, but utility executives and consumers have different concerns and priorities. We see that utilities are looking to the future to plana and prepare for what is coming, while consumers indicated more immediate concerns.

“Consumers remain concerned about how climate disruption – and the resulting rise in natural disasters – are impacting their lives, yet they are less aware or even unaware of the impact of EVs and renewables on the grid.”

According to the survey, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed technology investments across all the countries. Yet, the technology is critical to create a more resilient infrastructure. The report notes that advanced metering infrastructure and distribution automation are high priorities for EVs, distributed energy resources (DER) deployments, and disaster response. And sensors are the highest priority technology for grid resiliency in the face of disasters.

“In America, the US Senate passed a US$1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is currently being debated in the House of Representatives, that will be critical to driving grid modernisation. Replacing aging electrical infrastructure is paramount to making the grid more resilient and reliable in the face of extreme weather conditions and climate disruption. This federal investment is needed to protect and prepare for disasters as well as sustainable growth,” Donovan concluded.