Rolling the clock back a bit, the Microsoft Worldwide Utilities Group released our Smart Energy Reference Architecture in October 2009, in the expectation that utilities needed all the help they could get with the detailed planning necessary to implement new, very complicated systems for the smart grid era.Capture

Our second survey of worldwide utility executives, released today in conjunction with events at CERA Week 2011, indicate that our hunch was right, that utilities need a clear path before they dare to move forward in their implementation plans. Why do we say this? In our question concerning “What are the major information technology obstacles to smart grid development at your company?”,  project complexity jumped from next to last in 2010 to first in 2011. To us this demonstrates that the rubber is hitting the road for smart grid implementations as Utilities are getting their hands dirty with implementations and are finding some challenges.  We suspect that some of the issues around project complexity are due to the lack of an enterprise-wide information and technology architecture as over 63% of the respondents are still in the process of considering an architecture or do not have one at all.

Considering these challenges it’s no wonder our survey also revealed that utilities know they need more money to complete their planning and implementation. The results indicated that 73 percent of respondents acknowledged that the budgets dedicated to the smart grid are increasing. We can surmise that the more the utilities think about their smart grid the more they realize that it is going to require more money. But obviously the ROI is becoming clearer to them, or otherwise they wouldn’t be increasing their budgets. It is this dynamic which indicates smart grid is more than a passing fad, despite the difficulties.

We are busy with CERA Week activities, where Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke last night, but I’d encourage our readers to see the press release about our survey here. We’ll be looking at the results more closely and offering additional thoughts in coming days and weeks. – Jon C. Arnold