3 Questions: The future of the electric utility

Friday, July 14, 2017 - 15:52 in Physics & Chemistry

Francis O’Sullivan, director of research for the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), recently led discussions about the future of the electric grid and clean energy technologies with leaders in industry, government, and academia at MITEI’s Associate Member Symposium. In the wake of the symposium, O’Sullivan reflects on several of its main themes: current trends in the industry, changes in customer behavior, and innovative potential responses to the challenges facing the utility industry today. Q: There’s been a lot of talk about three current megatrends in energy: decentralization, digitalization, and decarbonization. Can you address briefly what each of these entails, and what’s driving this movement? A: These three megatrends are deeply connected. First, broadly, people appreciate that decarbonization is critical if we are to address climate change in a meaningful way, and electricity is the sector that can be decarbonized most rapidly. Today, ever-improving economics are driving a secular expansion in the use of clean energy technologies, particularly...

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