ScottMadden recently conducted a survey to gather opinions on the top strategic priority for not-for-profit electric utilities. While 44 percent of respondents selected “Keeping Costs/Rates Low” as the top strategic priority, the majority selected different priorities. This indicates that these utilities face challenges on multiple fronts. Customers expect low rates, help with local economic development, and improved service and performance, among other things.
One leader at a large public power company explained his choice of “Improving Service and Performance” by saying, “I think that we are in a transformational era in the utility industry. Low costs are not enough. We need to maintain and grow the scope/quality of services we provide or risk weakened support from our community and elected officials if they decide that we are not keeping pace with the competitive market.”
Marc Miller, director and public power and electric cooperatives practice area leader at ScottMadden, noted, “A compelling argument could be made for any one of several top strategic priorities (as evidenced by the survey outcome summary in Figure 1 below). In reality, most utilities will want to have a balanced set of long-term priorities that cover the results that are most important to their stakeholders. But for these priorities to really make a difference, they must be linked to what is planned and executed for the business in the near term.” A supporting case study can be found here.
Figure 1: Top Strategic Priorities for Not-for-Profit Electric Utilities
There is no single right answer to the question, and the top strategic priority will be different for different utilities. All industry executives must understand the changing (sometimes conflicting) expectations of their stakeholders and align their organization around a strategic response.
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