Research

Utility of the Future

Addressing emerging issues in the electric power sector

The Utility of the Future study brought together a diverse consortium of leading international companies to address emerging issues in the electric power sector while providing a neutral framework within which to evaluate the economic, regulatory, and technological impacts of the ongoing evolution of the power sector worldwide. The study team from MIT and IIT-Comillas combined a breadth of skills in quantitative economic and engineering modeling, with a sophisticated understanding of the complex interactions in the electric power industry. The team included faculty members with decades of experience in advising governments, corporations, and institutions on regulation and market design. The consortium members—industry stakeholders and other market participants—brought valuable real-world expertise and experience to the study. The comprehensive, multi-year study culminated in the publication of the team’s recommendations and findings in the 2016 report The Utility of the Future.

The study addressed the technology, policy, and business models shaping the evolution of the delivery of electricity services. It examined several possible scenarios of the future of the electricity sector in order to inform utilities, regulators, policy makers, and new market actors attempting to navigate a rapidly changing industry.

The team’s objective was to evaluate new and emerging technologies and combinations of these technologies, such as rooftop solar photovoltaics, distributed generation, and demand response implemented in the distribution sector. In addition, the team looked at how the distributed and the centralized power systems will be coordinated in the delivery of energy services.

Over the course of the study, the team sought to answer key questions such as:

Research, modeling tools, and findings from this study led to the establishment of the MITEI Low-Carbon Energy Center for Electric Power Systems, through which industry members work with MITEI researchers to address questions and develop analyses and technological solutions to issues around the dynamic transformation of the power system.