The adoption of big data analytics technologies will be one of the key trends that is set to be seen in the energy and utilities industry in the coming year.

This is according to Gartner, which identified ten key developments that businesses operating in the sector will need to get on board with in order to be successful in 2013. These will be needed to address the numerous challenges facing such organizations, which include evolving consumer expectations, environmental sensitivities and changing policymaker attitudes.

Kristian Steenstrup, vice-president and fellow at Gartner, noted that the energy and utilities market was once considered a conservative and slow-moving sector, but this is changing as innovation becomes a central part of firms' operations.

Mr Steenstrup said: “Public and private utilities are looking at how technology can reduce cost, drive efficiencies and enhance competitive advantage.”

Among the tools identified by Gartner as playing a key role in this will be big data analytics. The organization said that as smart grid solutions increase the amount of information gathered by utility companies by several orders of magnitude, having the right tools to make the most of this will be essential.

Gartner said: “In addition to significantly impacting data volume, smart grid initiatives will produce a different variety of data, such as temporal, spatial, transactional, streaming, structured and unstructured.”

The firm also noted predictive analytics will have a major role to play in the coming years. Applications in the energy and utilities sector for this technology will include understanding future failure patterns or equipment or estimating likely load for certain customer groups or regions. Stronger insight into these factors will enable firms to better allocate their investments into the right areas in order to maximize their returns.

Other technologies highlighted by Gartner as important for this industry in 2013 and beyond included cloud computing, with software-as-a-service tools beginning to emerge in areas such as smart metering and big data. It was noted that although energy firms currently trail other sectors in adoption on this technology, they are beginning to look more closely at it as concerns over security and reliability fade.