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The utility industry is at a critical tipping point, with 94% of utility executives believing the industry needs to be transformed and 80% of consumers dissatisfied with the current amount of information they are receiving from their utility, according to a survey conducted by technology and services company Itron Inc.

The company says the Itron Resourcefulness Index highlights the need for utilities to do more to achieve operational efficiencies and take a more active role in educating consumers about energy and water use.

Itron notes that it surveyed more than 600 utility executives and 800 consumers across 14 countries to measure perceptions on issues critical to the operation of gas, water and electric utilities. The objective, Itron adds, was to understand the views of consumers and utility executives on current challenges and long-term solutions for efficient operation of the industry, including resource use, supply, efficiency and technology investment.

According to the company, consumers want help from utilities to better manage their resources. Eighty percent of consumers are displeased by the current level of information they get from their utilities, and the majority want more information about efficiency programs. Further, 70% of consumers expect the industry to be more efficient, and consumers rank "offering energy efficiency programs" as a top unmet need from the utility industry.

Government policy is critical, Itron reports, but is currently perceived as a barrier. Ninety-four percent of utility executives cite current regulation and lack of clarity around regulation as a top barrier to infrastructure investment. Utility executives list dealing with new regulations - or the possibility of new regulations - as the top challenge for the industry.

Technology is a key to transformation, the company says. More than half of utility executives say they would invest in technology if they had an increased budget, and 75% say effectively managing big data is critical to modernizing infrastructure.

Although many themes were similar across gas, water and electric utilities, Itron says the Resourcefulness Index highlights some notable nuances. Consumers and industry executives are least concerned about the price and continued supply of natural gas and most concerned about electric utilities' long-term ability to meet demand. In addition, the major concern regarding water utilities is the impact of outdated infrastructure.

Itron states that the Resourcefulness Index underscores that technology and data will be crucial to achieving transformation and improving industry operations. This, combined with increased engagement and communication from utility companies, will be vital for achieving efficient energy usage, Itron adds.

"Increasing constraints on global resources, combined with accelerated technological innovation, place the industry at a critical juncture in defining how we will successfully manage finite resources, meet growing demand and engage consumers around the world," comments Philip Mezey, Itron CEO. "The Resourcefulness Index helps identify key challenges facing the industry that we can, and must, work together to solve."

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