Utilities companies are beginning to appreciate the benefits that big data can bring to their operations, but deployment of the technology is still at an early stage in many organizations, who will have to work hard to deliver the full potential of the solutions.

This is according to a new report from International Data Corporation (IDC) Energy Insights, which observed there are a wide range of business activities that utilities firms can apply big data analytics tools to.

These include financial metrics, demand forecasts, evaluation of energy markets, optimization of generation, outages, operational efficiency and customer service.

However, the company noted that as there are many issues that are competing for attention within this market, many firms have not yet been able to devote the resources to develop a full understanding of the potential of analytics, what a successful strategy for this will entail and what results they can expect to see from such an initiative.

"Based on our research, we found many utility companies have more gains to make by leveraging technology, staffing, data, process, and strategic intent to achieve greater results from big data and analytics," said Robert Eastman, research manager at IDC Energy Insights and lead analyst for the Utilities IT Strategies practice.

The organization added that in today's data-driven world, being able to access and analyze information in real-time can create a significant competitive advantage in what is an increasingly-crowded marketplace.

This is true for companies across many sectors, but it noted the utilities industry shows particular promise, with an expanding number of use cases set to arise in the coming years as more firms get on board with the technology and increase their understanding of the tools. 

"We expect to see the number of utilities piloting or experimenting with big data and analytics increase over the next 12 to 18 months," Mr Eastman said." As such, this is an opportune time for most utilities to assess their maturity with regard to big data and analytics."