Innovation in challenging times – how today’s utilities are modernising

As water and energy industry leaders gathered recently for the Utility Week Forum, several themes emerged as crucial to the integrity of both industries. Discussions focused on how utility organisations can guarantee clean, affordable and reliable energy and water, safeguard customers, while also digitising effectively and putting sustainability at the heart of operations. With all of these questions in mind, many leaders in the sector are looking to explore innovative, future-proofed methods of supplying energy and water and better serve their customers.

Security of supply

The UK utility industry is no stranger to challenges brought about by change. Despite an unprecedented year, the rate of innovation with technology is already offering huge benefits. For example, the adoption of machine learning in the water space has led to reduced pumping station failures following recent floods, and less pollution in seas and rivers as a direct result. Likewise, the uptick  of machine learning tools in the wind energy space has provided businesses with a better understanding of turbine performance, and increased ability to predict wind speeds up to two days ahead of weather. In the short term, this means an increased electricity supply and, importantly, increased confidence in the wind sector for future investment.

Customer safeguarding

As more of the UK’s population identifies as financially and/or physically vulnerable, how can utilities better serve the needs of this at-risk population? Better sharing of data and data governance practices to enable utilities to more effectively safeguard customers in their respective regions, and offer them more tailored services, are being trialled. This also includes more proactive outreach to customers who may not yet have made themselves known to their utility provider. During the Utility Week Forum, utility leaders and Google Cloud shared their experiences in this area, focusing on a customer safeguarding platform Google Cloud is building with key stakeholders in the industry. This platform allows multiple utilities to identify customers who need protection in their service areas, providing a better level of service to those who need help the most.


As both water and energy industries in the UK are forced to modernise due to the immense pressures they’re currently facing, digitisation becomes key to ensuring innovation and efficiency is part of every decision made across a fast-changing enterprise. Utility leaders at the Utility Week Forum shared their digitisation journeys, and many have seen large return on investment in their efforts to modernise.

The challenges facing the UK’s water and energy sectors are forcing companies to be more innovative. What was hugely encouraging to see was the progress that is occurring today, which will lead to much stronger systems in the future – and a better future for customers.

Find out more about Google Cloud’s work here.