Ideas and Insights

More from Utilities

  • Growing Pains

    Growing Pains

    Oil and Gas Investor, 20 November 2012

    The North American gas market will grow more stable and predictable E&P players diversify and demand-side investments are better managed.


  • Capital Management: A High-Wire Balancing Act

    Capital Management: A High-Wire Balancing Act

    The value of good capital management is almost priceless, especially in high-spend industries such as telecommunications and utilities.

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    Managing multibillion-dollar capital expenditures (capex) is a balancing act where it is easy to lose sight of the basics due to the intricacies of the allocation process, the internal politics, or the complexity of the business case. This last distraction is almost always dealt with by quantifying every aspect of the business case, which may give the impression of "managing all the details" but in reality often results in at least three symptoms of poor capital management. The first symptom is failure to prioritize—when capital investments are not linked to corporate strategy and financial targets, it is almost impossible to capture the required level of returns across the portfolio. The second symptom is loss of accountability—when accountabilities are not clearly defined, followed, or enforced, and reviews are not conducted, no one owns the outcome. The third symptom is poor visibility—without a corporate-wide reporting structure there is limited visibility into spending and even less control of the investment portfolio. As cost overruns mount and projects slow down, the economics of the original investment case are often lost. Any one of these symptoms can lead to poor returns. However, four principles can lessen the chance of a fall.

  • Building Nuclear on Time and on Budget

    Building Nuclear on Time and on Budget

    Electric Perspectives, November/December 2010

    Budget and schedules are critical to the business case for building new nuclear capacity.


  • Improving Construction Cost and Schedule Performance Through Risk-Based Estimating and Contracting

    Improving Construction Cost and Schedule Performance Through Risk-Based Estimating and Contracting

    Nuclear Power International, December 2010

    How can the nuclear industry prepare for uncertainty?


  • Cross-Industry Project Management Practices

    Cross-Industry Project Management Practices

    Renewable Energy World, May/June 2011

    Managing new construction projects on budget and on time is critical for determining the cost competitiveness of renewable energy.


  • How to Create an Entirely Different(iated) Customer Experience

    How to Create an Entirely Different(iated) Customer Experience

    It is not at all difficult to turn customer dissatisfaction or even mere indifference into pure delight.

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    Creating a unique customer experience is one of the best ways to achieve sustainable growth, particularly in industries that are stagnating. If a telco, a utility, or an insurance company can create a highly differentiated customer experience that turns dissatisfaction or indifference into delight, it will recruit an army of vocal advocates online and offline, gain market share, and generate revenue growth.

    Sound simple? It isn't, especially in sectors where the core product or service is difficult to differentiate. But it is doable, as Disney, IKEA, and ArcelorMittal have demonstrated. These firms are among the 15 Summer Champions identified by A.T. Kearney from an initial list of 500 as companies that outgrew their markets consistently over a five-year period despite being the largest players in their sectors.

  • (re)Building a Post-Earthquake Japan

    (re)Building a Post-Earthquake Japan

    From the devastation of March 11, 2011, may come a new birth for Fukushima and Japan.

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    On the Richter scale, the quake is 9.0, the most powerful ever to strike Japan. Even as the aftershocks rumble, none of us imagines the approaching tsunami traveling behind the quake, across the Pacific, toward Japan's eastern coast. When the waves break, the news is immediately horrifying, and only grows more so. More than 20,000 people are dead or missing.

    The catastrophe is not over. Three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant flood and suffer core meltdowns. Radiation levels rise. An estimated 150,000 people move out or are evacuated while municipal officials impose a 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the power station. Around the world Fukushima becomes a household name for the worst possible reasons.

  • Energy Management: Can Utilities Seize the Opportunity?

    Energy Management: Can Utilities Seize the Opportunity?

    Energy management is generating a powerful buzz. But only when market trends shake out and partnerships are developed will it deliver its promise.

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    To many observers of the utilities industry, the wave of the future is energy management, the field in which energy providers help customers control home energy costs and usage. With smart meters, time-based electricity pricing, and customer rewards programs among the major initiatives already making an impact, energy management seems to hold significant promise as a source of growth in the business-to-consumer (B2C) market.

    Beyond this enthusiasm, however, just how much potential does energy management hold for utilities? Our examination of the energy management market finds a hazy picture for utilities, one marked by market uncertainty and fierce competition both inside and outside of the industry. While there are many potential benefits in energy management for utilities, capturing all of them may require partnerships with strong companies from other industries.

    This paper looks at the future of energy management for utilities, both in terms of its immediate impact and longer-term growth advantage.
  • Reaching Peak O&M Performance in Power Generation

    Reaching Peak O&M Performance in Power Generation

    Major changes are hitting the power generation market. The focus now is on improving operational performance.

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    The power generation market in Europe is evolving rapidly. CO2-trading regulations have ramped up pressure on generators' cost and cash positions, and a massive expansion of renewable energy sources—mainly wind and photovoltaic solar—has increased the need for flexibility. New technologies and a change in customer behavior will push carbon-neutral technologies and foster decentralized power generation. The supply-demand dynamics of oil and gas will contribute to a price decoupling between both and lead to more volatility in power prices. Indeed, a shift from energy pricing to capacity-based pricing seems likely. With these in mind, power generators are beginning to focus on operational excellence—to improve the availability, flexibility, and efficiency of their plants.

    A.T. Kearney has a framework to help improve operational performance in the power industry. Built on eight modules, we address all possible moves to improve operations and maintenance (O&M). By following a pre-defined roadmap and taking all relevant steps, we have helped our clients achieve immediate O&M cost improvements of 15 to 25 percent, plus 5 percent in savings when considering a slightly increased risk level regarding plant availability.

    This paper offers a detailed discussion of all eight modules—each representing different stages in the quest to reach peak O&M performance in power generation.

  • Renewable Energy Markets

    Renewable Energy Markets

    How does the boom in renewable energy compare to other recent technology booms?

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  • Excellence in Capital Projects

    Excellence in Capital Projects

    With demand for capital projects increasingly globally and less funding available, organizations are seeking a better approach to capital investment.

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  • Achieving the Vision of Smart Grids

    Achieving the Vision of Smart Grids

    With expectations high and sustainability a pressing concern, can Europe realize smart grids' full potential?

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  • Pulling the Capex Lever

    Pulling the Capex Lever

    How much money a company spends and where it is spent are questions that must be answered in radically different ways.

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    Capital expenditures are never far from a CFO's agenda, but the issue has received more attention than usual these days, as global capex spending has risen to $10 trillion per year. Using a comprehensive long-term approach, CFOs can "pull the capex lever" to determine how much to spend, where it should be spent and how that spending translates to real returns.

  • Tapping the Sun: Solar Energy in the Middle East

    Tapping the Sun: Solar Energy in the Middle East

    The Middle East is not immune to the negative impact of fluctuating oil prices. A solution, however, is right overhead: the sun. 

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