The future of energy: what the smart grid means for senior talent acquisition
Terry Noble, Consultant in Odgers Interim’s Energy and Utilities Practice, explains how the evolution of the smart grid will impact senior recruitment and resourcing across the energy sector
In the near future you can expect to drive home, plug your car in to a personal charging point and have it automatically charge from one until four in the morning. Your laptops, phones and other devices will charge before that, from eleven until one. Likewise, your washing machine will start automatically but later in the morning, perhaps from four until six. The time at which you generally put your kettle on to boil will also be monitored, so that additional energy can be transferred as needed. Calendar management – driven by artificial intelligence (AI) – will make life easier whatever your routine and with the evolution of the smart grid, energy use in homes will become highly efficient to the point where unmanageable national peaks and troughs become a thing of the past.
Service stations on the other hand, will become destinations. As the need to wait 20 to 30 minutes to charge a car becomes increasingly commonplace, forecourts will become centres of entertainment, shopping and eateries. Energy companies will partner and acquire forecourt companies, whilst specific utilities providers will offer discounts at the shops and restaurants. The bill for charging your car and any shopping or food you buy at the station will also appear on your monthly utilities statement.
This future is just one aspect of an increasing drive towards joined-up and highly localised energy generation and distribution. A growing number of businesses now source power from their own micro-grids and housing developments will soon incorporate shared energy generation and battery storage. Many of these micro-grids are and will be renewably-driven. For example, new housing developments are likely to have solar panels built into roofs that make up a shared micro-grid that can be ‘tapped into’. Home owners will be able to sell surplus energy generated during sunnier weather back to the grid, and in the next five years (with the development of new batteries) we will be storing harvested renewable energy in our homes.
As utilities companies gather more data on these sources, they will be able to feed it into artificial intelligence (AI) systems that can then map, coordinate and ultimately incorporate centralised and decentralised energy generation into a single smart grid of the future. For example, an AI-enabled smart grid would also be able to account for the impact of a weather event on specific stations, assess local micro-grid energy resilience and then proactively decide how much additional power individual homes would need and where it would come from. Crucially, AI driven systems could also flag older pumps that are operating at reduced effectiveness and therefore limit the possibility of unanticipated energy shortages.
From a product perspective, it will provide utilities with a greater suite of services to offer customers. For example, this might include a recued tariffs option that incorporates forecasted energy drops that would mean the customer had limited access to energy at say between, one and five in the morning. As this would be a cheaper tariff and during predetermined periods, it is likely to appeal to a number of customers.
The evolution of the smart-grid and the direction in which it will take the utilities industry will place new demands on senior level recruitment and resourcing across the energy sector. The role of the CIO, CDO and CTO will become more prominent. As data sourced from homes connected to the smart grid increases, so too will the insights it can provide marketeers and product designers. The highly technical positions on the c-suite will be closely aligned to chief product officers, as data drives decisions around the types of tariffs and energy products sold.
As the electric vehicle space increasingly overlaps with the energy sector, senior executives will move freely from car manufacturers to utility companies, and vice-versa. In fact this is already becoming a well-trodden path, with both automotive and energy companies looking for senior level expertise that caters to a future in which energy distribution and use is increasingly diasporic. For executives currently in either of these sectors there is a growing opportunity for broader horizons and collaboration.
With the utilities space expanding into neighbouring sectors such as retail, automotive and forecourts, the M&A and joint venture landscape will grow, creating opportunities for executives with skillsets in these areas. It also means that the backgrounds from which the sector draws its talent will become increasingly agnostic. That is not to say that core roles in the energy sector are going to disappear, simply that commercial enterprises are just as likely to look for people from outside of the industry, as they are from within. The energy sector isn’t going to have a Kodak or big band moment. However, we’re in a period of change and disruption; in ten years’ time, this space will look entirely different.
For more information, please contact Terry Noble.