Five Utility Challenges of Electrification


Growing population, technological change and public interest are all among the reasons that electricity is taking on an accelerating share of power use. Innovations in transportation, manufacturing, heating for building air and water – and more – are making greater use of grid-based electricity.

Electric power utilities are interested in meeting the increased demand, but what challenges does this new “surge” present?

  1. New Conversations. As consumers (both residential and commercial) become interested in equipment and functions previously powered by non-electric energy, they have questions. Utilities will need to bone up on their knowledge of the growing array of applications new to electricity and develop resources to help customers make the transition successfully.

  2. New Positioning. In a landscape where electricity is experiencing renewed interest, utilities should be strategic in how they frame and message their willingness to assist with greater use of electricity. In many cases, switching to electricity is good for all stakeholders, but not in all cases. Utilities should resist the temptation to promote the notion that electricity is always the better option. Rather than being pushers, utilities should position themselves as advisors and provide guidance that is helpful and objective, promoting beneficial electrification, when and only when it is truly beneficial.

  3. New Partners. Electrifying cars, heaters and other machines will introduce many utilities to companies and organizations new to their circle of friends. Outward-facing utility personnel may need to dust off the Dale Carnegie books and refresh their skills in how to quickly and joyfully make new connections in industries about which they know little. This work may include new conferences, new trade organizations and basic homework to discover companies that would make good partners.

  4. New Knowledge. Electric utilities understand electricity inside and out. But some applications are so new to electricity that there is still a learning curve to understand the needs of the equipment, industries and users who want to plug in. Utilities should be investing in various kinds of research to understand the technologies, markets and business sectors that are often unsure themselves about how or if to switch to electricity for a given purpose.

  5. New Relationships. Utilities that haven’t done the real work of building strong relationships with customers will have double the work when it comes to electrification. There is quite a bit of discovery that needs to be done to really understand customers and their businesses to even talk about electrification opportunities. Utilities may discover that interactions with customers they have known for a long time are entering a new period of revelation, where comfortable assumptions are no longer part of the equation.

As your utility considers how to make the most of this period of accelerated interest in electricity, being aware of these challenges will help you convert them to opportunities and allow you to find your footing sooner.    

Holly Baird
Holly Baird