Utilities Need Data To Combat Climate Change Says IBM


The IT specialist is unsurprisingly touting sophisticated IT as a cure for the climate change woes of power companies

Power companies face a turbulent future from the impact of climate change and the only way to respond to power outages, higher costs and changing demands is to have sophisticated metrics on how these events will impact their businesses, according to IBM.

A report released this week by risk consultancy Acclimatise, and backed by IBM, warns that a growing demand for power from electric vehicles for example, combined with an increasing number of severe weather incidents, could put unprecedented pressure on utility companies.

The report, “Global Electric Utilities – The Adaption Challenge”, also supported by environmental intelligence organisation, the Carbon Disclosure Project, states that unless power generation companies take action to analyse and predict the future impact of climate change on their businesses, the could face unprecedented operational and capital costs and their overall financial performance.

“Risk management and adaptation planning are crucial to business success as climate change is directly affecting the generation, transmission and consumption of electricity,” said Graham Butler, utilities sector lead, IBM Global Business Services UK & Ireland, “The smart electricity company of the future needs to have a fully integrated approach to building resilience and business leaders will need the ability to gather and mine vast amounts of operational information to make accurate, smarter decisions to face climate change successfully and profitably.”

Obviously, given the fact that IBM develops exactly the kind of systems for measuring the impact of climate change on businesses, the company has a vested interest in playing up the potential disruption. But according to the Acclimatise and Carbon Disclosure Project, although many organisations are considering the impact of climate change – not enough are doing anything about “adapting” their businesses to respond or even take advantage of it.

“While responding companies seem to have incorporated climate change in general into their governance structures, only a few electric utilities (6 percent) refer to adaptation directly as an integrated element of their governance, reporting and lobbying practices,” the report stated.

Google is also developing technology to improve the efficiency of utilities and consumers power demands. Google’s PowerMeter gadget, which draws information from a home “smart meter” to show customers their energy consumption, is being tested by an expanding number of utility companies, the company claims.

IBM and Cisco recently announced a plan to team up on a project to bring smart electricity grid technology to Amsterdam with the aim of helping consumers and businesses take more control of their energy usage and hopefully improve efficiencies.

The UK government is pushing ahead with plans to roll out smart meters to every household in the UK. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), said that Britain will be first country in the world to deploy smart meters in such numbers.

Earlier this year, as part of the Recovery Act funds, the US Department of Energy earmarked $3.3 billion (£2bn) for the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program and $615 million for smart grid demonstration projects. The DOE announced on 25 June the agency is ready to solicit applications for $3.9 billion in grants to support efforts to modernise the electric grid. The money is part of the Recovery Act funds approved by Congress earlier this year.