The power and utilities industries face countless challenges: the transition to renewable energy, aging infrastructure, cybersecurity, regulations, resilience, storage, decentralization, and the aging workforce, just to name a few. But with the right combination of technology and strategies businesses can face these hurdles head on. Let’s explore just a few in more depth today.
The Energy Transition
Perhaps one of the biggest is this transition to renewable energy. Laurent Boinot, senior digital architect, worldwide power & utility sector, Microsoft, recently told me on The Peggy Smedley Show that all industries are having to adapt in terms of sustainability and what it means for how they will do their business going forward, but utilities will be at the center of this.
The starting point here will be having a clear overall strategic vision for managing the impact of climate change and the evolving regulation landscape.
The next step here will be leveraging technology, but it goes a bit deeper than that. Companies need to work with clean data, figure out where things are, how to classify them, and who has access to what. Boinot says, “So, both from a security standpoint and an operational standpoint, really doing a great job on your data estate is absolutely key for everything.”
The reality is companies make big decisions based on all this data. With the rise of AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning, and generative AI, data becomes central to literally everything, but it is only valuable if it is clean.
The Aging Workforce
Once a company has a clear strategic vision and data cleaned up and some IT structure in place, Boinot says there are still a lot of other management challenges to deal with. Chiefly: the aging workforce, which currently has two main hurdles that need to be addressed.
The first challenge with the workforce is recruitment and finding the right workers for the job, Boinot says. The second challenge is retainment and keeping the workforce in a job and ensuring they adapt to the changing landscape.
With that last point, some companies can make a technology change and move too quickly, which can be daunting for some employees. But at the same time, especially with generative AI, companies can do a lot of very powerful, technical things.
The Rise of Technology
In fact, Boinot points to an interesting example: chess and checkers. Who do you think would win in a match: a human, a computer, or a human plus a computer? Boinot answers, “The best possible player is not a computer. The best possible player is a human plus a computer.”
As Microsoft itself, its customers, and its vendors continue on their own journey to become carbon neutral, technology will certainly be at the center of all of it. Collaboration will be key as we continue to move toward clean power and leverage all the exciting capabilities that AI has to offer, but of course this journey starts with that clean data.
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