So last week was the big event for regulated utilities and their suppliers. The opportunity to showcase new technology and the solution sets available to transform network businesses to support the low carbon agenda were there for all to see. It was without doubt, a very professionally orchestrated event, the stands and the detail with which exhibits had been put together was light years ahead of what regulated utilities would and could do in the emerging years from nationalised industry days. Also significant is the resource available to transform the sector. When I first exercised the notion of innovation funding in regulated network businesses, in my wildest dreams – I could not have imagined the capability that has been ignited.
Technology solutions are a plenty, suppliers are lining up to resolve industry challenges and indeed many have been resolved. You only need to witness some of the system performance improvements or the flexible connection arrangements that are available to realise a lot has been achieved. Yet my overall sense was one of stagnation. As DNOs muse over the development plans for the transition to DSOs, there was a sense that LCNI was very much about showcasing to each other and elements of the supply base, indeed some large suppliers to the sector were not present. These comments are not criticism, they are recognition of where the sector is and where it is headed. The industry is poised for a radical paradigm shift. The question is what will drive that shift – will the sector players self -stimulate leadership and transition or will the regulator drive a new wave of competitive tension through this regulated sector. In some ways the sector can quote self stimulated projects in the DSO arena, as have been permitted through the innovation funding mechanisms. I would suggest, given the technology capability and readiness this is not enough alone.
Regulated businesses always react and perform to the regulatory drivers. As monopoly based businesses this is a critical component of their business models. The time is coming where policy changes and reflective regulated interventions will and must stimulate a new wave of regulated business competition. Ultimately, this will put the end customer more in charge, through new and different market mechanisms. As in the past policy and regulation must stimulate and drive the paradigm shift with new market models and commercial frameworks. The technology solutions are available, new market entrants are ready and regulated businesses will respond to this stimulation. The pace of change will give rise to future LCNI events illustrating transformational technology deployment enabling customer empowerment.
One big reflection for the future from Telford is that in years to come the perhaps ill described stagnation will be seen as the watershed event where policy makers woke up to the tremendous opportunity ahead for the UK in leading the world with a clean, low cost and secure energy construct.