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Blog December 2023 Updated April 2024

5 Best Practices for Utility Compliance: How to Avoid Regulatory Violations

Regulatory compliance is a must for all utility providers but with diverse and disparate assets to monitor, accurate reporting can be difficult. Follow our best practice guidelines to avoid violations.

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Across the country, millions of residential and commercial customers expect access to clean, safe, reliable, and affordable energy and water. In order to provide these services, utilities must be compliant with the various rules governing their industry.

For the most part, adhering to these regulations is not complex; it simply requires utilities to retrieve and compile data. It sounds straightforward, but with the need to track data from different teams, contractors, and systems, collating accurate, up-to-date information on day-to-day operations is often anything but easy. Particularly when assets are scattered over varying geographies, which makes it harder to list assets and oversee reporting.

To add to the complexity, utilities are also faced with a changing regulatory landscape. Compliance guidelines are updated frequently and what is compliant one day may not be compliant a few months from now, so it can be difficult to stay on top of current requirements.

Working closely with national regulatory bodies is essential as non-compliance can lead to fines or voluntary redress payments. In the UK, for example, 2023 has already seen energy companies pay out £5,481,151 in statutory penalties according to Ofgem.

So, with the risk of punitive measures on the one hand and a complex network of assets on the other, how do utility providers stay compliant and avoid regulatory violations?

What is Utility Compliance?

The first step towards compliance is to detail the various regulations that apply to your utility business and ensure that you review that list on a regular basis. These laws help utility companies maintain safe, fair and ethical business operations so any transgressions can have legal repercussions, not to mention damaging your reputation and customer trust.

Identifying the specific regulations that apply to your business is important. In Europe, for instance, each country has a national, independent energy regulator, while in the US laws are issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). There are also a slew of state utility laws, as well as local and regional requirements.

Ultimately, there is no one-size fits all approach to regulatory compliance; every utility follows its own specific regulatory framework, however, there are some essential best practices that every utility provider can follow to avoid violations.

5 Utility Compliance Best Practices

1. Conduct a Compliance Audit and Review

When working towards regulatory compliance, a thorough audit of company compliance will always serve you well. Whether undertaken by an external consultant, or internally, this should involve a comprehensive review of all the regulatory areas your utility company needs to address.

Besides assessing whether or not your business meets all of the required laws and regulations, you need to review your company’s current compliance efforts so you know if you have any at-risk areas that need improvement. Start by reviewing things like the total amount of violations you have had and how much they have cost.

By establishing where you are with your current compliance efforts, you can plan ahead to reduce the number and severity of violations.

2. Create Effective Policies and Procedures

Policies and procedures are vital to guide and inform your employees of organizational values and current business operations. This means your ability to manage, distribute, and track compliance measures is essential to reducing regulatory risk.

You simply cannot comply with regulations if your employees do not follow your policies and procedures so it’s important to ensure that staff not only know the relevant procedures, but also understand them. Invest in regular training to make sure everyone is on the same page.

3. Adopt Utility Management Software

Cloud-based utility management software, such as AMCS Field Services, is becoming increasingly common in the utilities sector, especially when it comes to regulatory compliance management. Software programs such as this are not only easy to maintain and operate but they make tracking and reporting compliance easy.

For example, software can be used to develop the company’s regulatory system and store information, but it can also be used to automatically extract data from daily work, making it easy to create, submit and organize reports. Where appropriate, it even be used to trigger alerts for non-compliance.

The right utility management software can ultimately help train your employees on regulatory utility compliance using simple digital workflows tailored to your operating procedures.

4. Create a Culture of Compliance

While written policies and procedures can serve as a powerful tool, employee communication is still an important element of achieving regulatory utility compliance.

As such, it’s important to regularly feedback on performance, explaining what the issues are, what they mean for employees, and what needs to be done to correct them and avoid violations. Where possible, make sure your leadership team publish compliance-related information throughout the company so you can fix problems and create a culture of compliance.

With appropriate digital tools, you can ensure compliance information is available at everyone’s fingertips with updated information on current compliance status.

5. Track and Report Utility Compliance in Real Time

Finally, keep track of utility compliance with accurate, real-time monitoring and reporting. Ongoing monitoring helps manage your company’s compliance status and allows you to build a sustainable structure for consistent and efficient documentation.

Look for asset management software with features like remote monitoring to improve data quality and help managers keep track of both performance and reports. Automated processes for compliance reporting help you stay compliant with permits and regulations and can even generate insights for future improvement.

Benefits of Reporting With AMCS Field Services

With sophisticated tools for streamlined asset monitoring and clear, intuitive reporting, AMCS Field Services supports compliance in a whole host of sectors from energy production to water, telecoms, or even waste services.

It enables utility providers to:

  • Automate compliance reporting
  • Receive alerts for regulatory violations and non-compliance
  • Create customized reports
  • Automatically extract data to create and submit reports
  • Configure additional reports on the fly

Clearly, no-one doubts that utility regulations are essential, but compliance can be challenging. With digital solutions to help you stay compliant, we can simplify the process of adhering to industry standards, laws and guidelines.

Follow our five best practices to avoid regulatory violations, and for more ideas on how to create a culture of utility compliance at your company, take a look at how our Field Services software can support effective training, communication, tracking and reporting in today’s utility company.

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