In the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to participate in two exciting conversations about the future of electric power in this country.
In Maryland, at the Wye River Conference Center, the Aspen Institute convened a roundtable on “developing a smart energy network.” That convening included industry leaders and thinkers from the information and communication technology (ICT) and energy sectors. Our discussion focused on identifying ways our one-way system of electricity generation and distribution can be transformed into an integrated ICT network where energy, information and economic value are exchanged at every point. That is the full vision of “smart grid,” and we have a long way to go to see it realized.
In San Antonio, TX, I took part in the second Utility and Advanced Energy Executive Forum sponsored by AEE and MIT’s Industrial Performance Center (IPC). We brought together leaders of electric utilities, regulatory agencies, and advanced energy businesses to discuss how new technologies and services can be adopted more rapidly. These Forums are hosted on the AEE side by chairman and co-founder Hemant Taneja and Senior Vice President Lisa Frantzis, and by energy innovation expert Richard Lester for MIT-IPC. It was an engaging group, with leaders of companies like PSEG, Northeast Utilities, NextEra, and NRG interacting with advanced energy innovators like CLEAResult, Gridco Systems and First Solar. A third forum is scheduled for next month in Aspen.
These forums are highlighting the need not only for utilities, regulators and advanced energy companies to know each other better, but also to reconcile conflicting incentives and business models. To reap the full benefit of advanced energy innovation, the electricity system in this country is going to have to change. It will take utilities, developers, advanced energy executives, legislators, and regulators, working together, to make that change happen.
There is a vital conversation just getting started about what the 21st Century electricity system is going to look like, and I am proud to say that AEE is in the forefront of this dialogue. The outcome of the AEE-MIT 21st Century Electricity System Executive Forums will be an action plan based on ideas that emerge from those conversations, including possible pilot programs where utilities and advanced energy companies can test new business models to accelerate the adoption of advanced energy in the power sector.
Download our report, "Economic Impacts of Advanced Energy," to discover the current size and scope of the advanced energy sector.