Sustainability, data management and renewable energy drive 2020 ‘Megatrends’ report

Shared challenges and solutions across critical infrastructure show industries have more in common than they think.

Their customers are varied and their business models distinct. But leaders in seemingly separate markets — from power and water utilities to commercial and industrial companies – have more in common than they think, in a time when customers are demanding clean resources, cost-efficient delivery and, above all else, reliability.

Black & Veatch has released a new report that examines the shared challenges among critical infrastructure providers and their commercial and industrial customers as they each push for resilience, reliability and sustainability.

Black & Veatch’s 2020 Strategic Directions: Megatrends report – available as a free download – marks the company’s inaugural mining of its cross-sector data to gain deeper insights into the future of the world’s most important resources. The report’s authors, recruited from across the company’s diverse businesses, analysed two years of survey data collected from water, power, telecommunications and commercial and industrial respondents via the company’s market-leading Strategic Directions Report series. The high-altitude look at the data explores:

  • Sustainability: Increasing concerns over climate change are setting off alarms about the future of our water and power supplies, and fuelling new scrutiny of the mechanics, cost and ROI of sustainability solutions. The report frames the conflict bluntly: “Aligning the triple bottom line principles of people, planet and profit may sound idealistic, but are those things inherently in conflict?”
  • Renewable energy: Today’s electric utilities, those historic keepers of a reliable and resilient grid, are being tested in their ability to align with growing clean energy and decarbonisation mandates. The report cautions that without significant utility commitments to green energy, power-hungry industrial clients with growing sustainability goals may turn to renewables or distributed generation resources of their own.
  • Data’s risk-reward: The proliferation of smart devices that measure everything from consumption habits to asset management and system health continue to create new opportunities to collect and embrace actionable data. But to embrace data invites risk: With every new remote sensor, drone, iPad or other IoT tool deployed on our systems, the more vulnerable we become to hackers and network intrusion.
  • From many, one: As powerful storms and wildfires raise questions about the reliability of traditional utility services, the rollout of projects to enhance resilience and improve operational efficiency continues. Advances in information technology, operational technology and artificial intelligence blur the lines between traditional organisation silos. Yet, survey data shows that integrated planning is far from a high priority, signalling potential trouble for utilities in areas that are prone to nature’s worst.

“For years our Strategic Directions series has taken the pulse of the industries we serve and focused sharply on trends before they take hold, to keep clients a step ahead,” said Steve Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of Black & Veatch. “Against a backdrop of a changing climate, changing business models and changing customer expectation, this new report raises the stakes by examining the critical resource and infrastructure megatrends that will set the agenda for 2020 and beyond.”