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Coordinating Grid Evolution

Principles to guide build of 21st century electric powerlines

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part series. Last week, "Towards a Modern Grid."

Buildout of a full-featured, modernized electric grid is progressing across 50 states and the District of Columbia. That is making knowledge transfer a pressing issue.

Some states, such as California and New York, have established a mechanism for sharing their deliberations and findings with each other. But given the diversity of efforts and the disparity between leading states and those showing little progress, perhaps a more comprehensive approach is needed. I’d suggest that the power industry and its stakeholders are in the driver’s seat on this need.

But how can we best accommodate not only the diversity of 51 jurisdictions, but also the broad array of stakeholders in each state and across the nation?

I was struck many years back by Dee Hock and his book, "Birth of the Chaordic Age," which advocates a common approach to seemingly intractable stakeholder situations. Hock takes what he dubs a “chaordic” approach, one that is simultaneously “chaotic and orderly” and might feature common ownership of and interoperability within a market or enterprise, even as each member makes its own way or competes with the others.

In Hock’s view, every stakeholder gets something and all give up something. This was Hock’s takeaway from his experience building the VISA credit card business in which individual banks and other financial entities compete for customers, yet honor a common method for all related transactions. This approach offers ideas that are applicable to the challenges facing our industry. Still, there needs to be a common set of values, goals and/or processes in place for such an approach to bear fruit.

Just to get the conversation started, I’d suggest that five tenets or pillars for action that animate the GridWise Alliance’s agenda could very well provide a common set of principles for stakeholders involved in advancing grid modernization.

  • Establish clear and comprehensive guiding principles to shape grid modernization.
  • Facilitate industry input into unifying architectures to ensure interoperability across the entire grid and its markets.
  • Create frameworks to guide local, state and regional policy makers and utilities in their transition to the future grid.
  • Craft solutions through stakeholder engagement and education.
  • Identify technology challenges and limitations through robust research and analysis.

These  principles were based on intense discussions and debate with hundreds of key stakeholders over a two-year period and summarized in a report released in late 2014. This year the GridWise Alliance has launched a series of webinars and workshops to continue the exchange of lessons learned and challenges ahead. We are in a very dynamic time in our industry and this exchange of information is critical to our collective progress.

As our efforts mature, the results must be collated as a resource to guide policy makers, regulators, utilities, consumers and their advocates in pursuit of Grid 3.0, our emerging grid. Obviously, the GridWise Alliance is not alone in this effort and, thus, a wider conversation and coordination is needed among relevant organizations and our policy makers.

The power industry was founded and succeeded for a century on the notion of serving the public good. And I’d argue that one fundamental tenet  should continue to guide us as we contemplate what we each need to gain and what we’re each willing to give to achieve unified progress on grid modernization.

Grid 3.0 is taking shape; new policies and regulations are changing the energy landscape; our understanding of new customer demands is improving; and we have a new set of tools and technologies that are enhancing the way we operate the grid. Now we must accelerate our efforts by sharing knowledge and realizing the benefits.

Steven G. Hauser is chief executive officer of the GridWise Alliance.



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