U.S. and European Utility Construction to Ramp Up Through 2020

Pent-up demand will drive utility investment growth through this decade.

For the first time in nearly half a century, utilities in Europe and North America face enormous demand for new construction of electric generation and transmission facilities. In Europe, utility investments are expected to more than double, reaching peaks around 85 billion euros a year by the middle of this decade. 

Utilities in the U.S. see a similar trend, with investments growing throughout the decade. These investments aim not only to replace and upgrade aging infrastructure, but also to meet new requirements to deliver more electricity from renewable energy sources like solar and wind. For example, California will require 33% of its electricity to come from renewables by 2020. Germany aims for at least 35% by the same year.

This dramatic increase in activity comes with unique challenges for utilities. First, they have to dust off an outdated and incomplete playbook and relearn how to manage major projects. Projects are more complicated now than they were last time around, and given intense public scrutiny, departments like public affairs and environmental compliance play critical roles on project teams. Before a shovel ever touches dirt, utilities must secure a daunting set of licenses and permits from public and private authorities. They have to coordinate with a range of stakeholders, including rate payers, special interest groups and residents, who often have competing interests.

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