A short diversion today from the mechanics and problems of the actual utility transformation. It is important to think about how we plan utility transformation. We can’t just “let it happen”. There will be far too much disruption in electricity supplies, unacceptable to our economy and our lifestyle. So planning is fundamentally critical, non-trivial, and difficult. Let’s explore a couple of analogues from outside the utility world for planning complex situations with many unknowns.
Right, this has nothing to do with utility planning, but it has everything to do with “charting a course” through an enormous number of variables. It was not long ago that this was considered far too complex a problem to solve, but now, I simply enter my current location and where I want to go. It then calculates a few million routes (depending on distance) and charts the “best” route for me.
A friend recently told me that internally what happens in any mapping software is that the program figures out the “cost” of each route (how many discrete node points are touched along the route, with each point of lesser or greater “value” based on derived factors). Then the least “cost” route is provided. Of course, you need to know where you’re going in order to get a map. But we all have had the experience of navigating to “somewhere close” to where we want to go. We believe that as we get closer, we will gather new information and then be able to refine our end point. Such is true for utilities. As I indicated in the last post, I believe the end point is “100% renewable energy, focus on distributed generation”. But perhaps a utility puts in some “way-points” such as 50% and 80% to help guide them.
Or, as I put it, looking at the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the WTF. Much more traditionally used in business, the goal is to craft a business plan which allows progress on the chosen path while protecting against the less favorable external factors. Again, a utility needs to have an overall direction, a long term goal of what it wants to be. The goal does not need to be a final stage, but needs to be far enough along a path as to create optionality.