Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the SEPA Utility Transformation Challenge?
The SEPA Utility Transformation Challenge is a comprehensive, honest assessment of U.S. electric distribution utilities’ efforts to embrace the transition to a carbon-free energy future. For this project, we collected information about how utilities and their stakeholders are rising to this challenge, as well as the unique innovations they are employing. The primary components of the Utility Transformation Challenge are the Utility Transformation Survey, the Utility Transformation Profile and the 2021 Utility Transformation Leaderboard.
How is this different from what SEPA has done in previous years?
In previous years, SEPA surveyed U.S. electric utilities annually to collect and assess deployment data for grid-tied solar power, energy storage and demand response (DR). In recognition of the increased industry focus on carbon reduction, SEPA launched the Utility Transformation Challenge — a new initiative to gauge and present a holistic view of U.S. electric distribution utilities’ (hereafter referred to as “utilities”) progress in transforming the energy system towards a clean and modern energy future. The Utility Transformation Challenge significantly expands the survey focus to information on utility initiatives and innovation that support the transition to a carbon-free energy future.
What is the Utility Transformation Survey?
This broad industry survey targeting electric utilities consisted of six individual surveys designed to capture progress in multiple industry areas. The individual surveys addressed corporate leadership, demand flexibility, grid integration, utility business models, solar and energy storage, and transportation electrification. The survey was conducted from April through June 2020.
Who was eligible to participate in the Utility Transformation Challenge?
All U.S. electric distribution utilities, including investor-owned utilities, public power utilities and electric distribution cooperatives.
How many utilities participated in the Utility Transformation Survey?
SEPA received survey responses from 135 individual utilities, representing more than 83 million customer accounts, or approximately 63% of all U.S. electric customer accounts.
How many investor-owned utilities participated in the Utility Transformation Survey?
SEPA received survey responses from 94 investor-owned utilities.
How many public power utilities participated in the Utility Transformation Survey?
SEPA received survey responses from 20 public power utilities.
How many distribution cooperatives participated in the Utility Transformation Survey?
SEPA received survey responses from 21 distribution cooperatives.
Can I see a list of utilities that participated in the Utility Transformation Challenge?
This information is not publicly available. (SEPA assured utility participants that they would remain anonymous, with the exception of Leaderboard Utilities.)
What is the Utility Transformation Profile?
This data-rich report presents the findings of this year’s Utility Transformation Challenge. It highlights utilities that are leading in the transformation and examines the industry’s transition by exploring Four Dimensions of Utility Transformation: (1) Clean Energy Resources, (2) Corporate Leadership, (3) Modern Grid Enablement, and (4) Aligned Actions and Engagement. Using these dimensions, the report identifies the common attributes of utilities that are leading the transformation.
What is the 2021 Utility Transformation Leaderboard?
This list recognizes 10 utilities — Leaderboard Utilities — that demonstrated the greatest progress toward a modern and carbon-free energy system, based on the findings of the Utility Transformation Survey.
Why are the findings presented in the Utility Transformation Profile meaningful?
The transformation to a clean and modern grid requires much more than clean energy generation. The Utility Transformation Challenge offers the industry a more comprehensive assessment of utility actions, initiatives, and leadership that support the transition to a carbon-free energy future. The results illustrate to utilities, regulators, legislators, technology and solution providers, and customers the opportunities available to them to accelerate the transition.

The findings presented in the Utility Transformation Profile – based on the results of our surveys, and insights gained from the utilities leading in this transition – form the basis for a set of key recommendations for utilities of all sizes, types, and geographies as they pursue their own path of transformation.

What form did the Utility Transformation Survey questions take?
Nearly all survey questions took the form of multiple choice or “select all that apply.” A very small number of “fill in the blank” questions were included.
What timeframe does the data from the Utility Transformation Survey represent?
SEPA conducted the Utility Transformation Survey in the spring and summer of 2020. For all questions, participants were asked to respond based on the status of decisions, actions, processes, or practices that were approved and in effect when the survey was taken unless stated otherwise in the report.
Is Utility Transformation Challenge data publicly available?
The Utility Transformation Profile presents a large amount of aggregated data. Additional project data is not publicly available. (SEPA assured utility participants that they and the data they provided would remain anonymous, with the exception of Leaderboard Utilities.)
How did SEPA evaluate participating utilities?
SEPA evaluated utilities based on their survey responses, which served as the quantitative basis for the evaluation framework in this report. SEPA directly analyzed responses to many survey questions. Other responses yielded additional insight and background for contextual purposes. For evaluation purposes, SEPA assigned individual survey questions a scoring weight. In order to measure an individual utility’s progress, points awarded were totaled across each dimension to determine an overall score. Utilities that did not meet the minimum threshold for survey completion did not receive an overall score and were not eligible for Leaderboard consideration.
Will SEPA publish the scoring / evaluation methodology for the Utility Transformation Profile?
While the details of our scoring methodology and evaluation framework aren’t publicly available, the Utility Transformation Profile provides an overview of our approaches to both.
Who was eligible for the 2021 Leaderboard?
Utilities that met the minimum threshold for survey completion were eligible for consideration. Those that did not meet this threshold were not eligible.

We intend to regularly assess utilities’ progress in the transformation.

Will SEPA be providing a benchmarking report like in prior years?
Participating utilities will be receiving information in the form of a private report providing further insight into their evaluation results this year. This report will provide information regarding utility overall placement, dimension scores, and scores for some of the categories that make up the four dimensions.
How can I find out how my utility participated in the Utility Transformation Challenge?
Participating utilities will be receiving information in the form of a private report providing further insight into their evaluation results this year.
Will there be another Utility Transformation Challenge?
Yes, we intend to continue to regularly assess utilities’ progress in the transformation.
Why should my utility participate in the Utility Transformation Challenge?
The Utility Transformation Challenge offers utilities a chance to participate in a comprehensive assessment to-date of utilities’ efforts to transition to a carbon-free energy future. Under this project, we are collecting extensive information about how utilities and their stakeholders are rising to this challenge and the unique innovations they are employing. We need your help to capture this information and want to hear from you about your efforts related to the transformation. Participation in the Utility Transformation Challenge gives utilities of all sizes, types, and geographies a chance to be recognized for innovation and industry leadership. In future years, we aim to provide benchmarking to participating utilities to help support their transition to a clean and modern grid.
Who is SEPA?
The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) helps address the most pressing issues encountered in the smart transition to a carbon-free energy system by 2050. Utilities, industry, regulators and other electric power stakeholders trust SEPA to provide education, research, standards and collaboration around a clean and modern energy future. To learn more about SEPA, visit sepapower.org.
How can I join SEPA?
To join SEPA or to find out more about SEPA membership benefits, visit sepapower.org/community/membership/become-member.

Whom should I contact at SEPA with a media inquiry related to the Utility Transformation Challenge?
Jordan Nachbar at Jnachbar@sepapower.org or 202.559.2034.