2016 Members’ Choice Awards
The Awards Dinner at the SGIP 2016 Grid Modernization Summit
SGIP typically publishes Member Spotlights for individual organizations, but on the heels of the consortium’s 2016 Grid Modernization Summit last week, SGIP would like to recognize the people and member organizations that were recognized at the summit’s Award Dinner Tuesday night, November 8th.
Members Awarding Members
SGIP members had a say in recognizing each other for their outstanding contributions. The first ever Members’ Choice Awards were presented in acknowledgment of SGIP members’ collaboration to advance grid modernization as well as standout achievements in interoperability.
|The Erich Gunther Most Committed Interoperability Ambassador
Dr. Stuart Laval, Duke Energy
This award is named in honor of Erich Gunther for his outstanding contributions to SGIP and to the industry at large. The Erich Gunther Most Committed Interoperability Ambassador award goes to the SGIP player who has shown extraordinary dedication to development of interoperability standards and protocols. You’ll find this member is a strong contributor to SGIP committees and a vocal champion of such standards at industry meetings and conferences.
|Best Contributor to Collaboration
Ron Cunningham, AEP
This member may be a thought leader at meetings and conferences as well as an ardent follower of grid modernization efforts. He demonstrates commitment to collaboration by sharing knowledge, teaming up on projects and connecting other members who can benefit by meeting.
|Most Innovative Solution
ComEd for their Hosting Capacity Analytic Tool
Whether it’s a way of mitigating voltage excursions from high penetrations of solar, analyzing data from newly installed sensors, extending automation technology beyond the substation, or any other very specific grid modernization project, this award celebrates smart engineering. Nominations for this award should cover the challenge faced, the solution details and the benefits that accrued.
|Best Interoperability Demonstration Project
Duke Energy for their Coalition of the Willing Project
This award goes to the member company who is actively demonstrating the benefits of interoperability through an in-house initiative or engagement with another organization. The comprehensive project in question typifies grid modernization by including technology from multiple vendors or system.SGIP congratulates the winners from the Award Dinner and thanks all those who voted in the 2016 Member Choice Awards.
SGIP 2016 President’s Award
The Award Dinner ended on a high note, with Sharon Allan, President and CEO of SGIP, presenting the President’s Award.
This year, the President’s Award went to Southern California Edison (SCE) for their Leadership and Collaboration with the following noted qualities:
The award was presented by David Forfia, SGIP Board Chair, and Sharon Allan, President and CEO, SGIP, at SGIP’s 2016 Grid Modernization Summit. The SGIP 2016 President’s Award for Leadership and Collaboration was accepted by Andy Paylan, Manager, Advanced Technology, Distribution Analytics & Controls, and John Bubb, Principal Manager – Smart Meter Operations, Development & Quality at SCE.
Vice President of Smart Grids North America
Gary Rackliffe is the ABB Vice President for Smart Grids North America. He has been in this position since 2009 and leads ABB’s smart grid initiatives in North America. He also is the General Manager for the Smart Grid Center of Excellence located in Raleigh, North Carolina.
With 30+ years of electric grid transmission and distribution experience, Gary has been recognized as an industry leader on smart grid technologies. He is the past chair of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association’s (NEMA’s) Smart Grid Council and is a member of the NEMA Distribution Automation Section, Connected Systems Division, and Grid Modernization Leadership Committee; the DistribuTECH Advisory Committee; the Department of Commerce Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee; and the Department of Energy ADMS Steering Committee. He is also a member of the IEC Smart Energy Systems Committee and the Technical Advisor for the IEC US National Committee’s advisory group. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster and for the GridWise Alliance.
Gary holds BS and ME degrees in Power Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a MBA from Carnegie Mellon University. He is a Registered Professional Engineer and an IEEE Senior Member. He has co-authored a T&D planning book, and has written numerous technical papers and articles.
With around 135,000 employees globally, and some 20,500 in the U.S., ABB is hard to miss in the electric grid market. According to Gary Rackliffe, Vice President of Smart Grids in North America, ABB is focusing its extensive resources on expanding its seemingly-limitless portfolio and providing leadership for power systems transformation.
“The drivers for grid modernization that the industry has faced are extraordinary, including aging infrastructure, heightening expectations for reliability, more frequent and severe storms, more renewables, penetration of distributed energy resources, and cybersecurity threats,” said Rackliffe. “At ABB, we’re working to make a smarter, greener, more reliable grid.”
ABB works with utility, industry transport and infrastructure customers in around 100 countries, specializing in digitally-connected and enabled industrial equipment and systems. “We provide the solutions that make our customers’ grid smarter and more efficient in their energy delivery,” said Rackliffe. Since 2010, the company’s focus on grid modernization can be seen in its acquisitions, such as the following:
• Ventyx, a provider of utility software, in 2010
• Baldor, an industrial motors manufacturer, in 2011
• Thomas & Betts Corporation, a provider of low-voltage products, in 2012
• Tropos Networks, a developer and marketer of wireless technologies and products for distribution area communication networks, in 2012
• Power-One, a manufacturer of photovoltaic inverters, in 2013
By acquiring these offerings and the talent that made them, ABB is growing its expertise and adding news ways to help customers build the grid of the future.
“ABB is providing leadership for the power system’s biggest ever transformation,” said Rackliffe, who is also the General Manager for a Smart Grid Center of Excellence and is involved in industry organizations like SGIP. His role in in ABB’s leadership is focusing on smart grid technologies, grid modernization, market innovation and business development.
One of his proudest accomplishments was working on a battery storage project in Alaska that, at the time, involved the world’s largest battery, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. But Radcliffe’s favorite work in a typical day is about the people he helps. “Working with customers is probably the role I enjoy most at my job, identifying their needs and matching them with ABB capabilities,” he said.
Some of those capabilities are in power electronics, which Rackliffe says is part of ABB’s core expertise, thought he says people don’t seem to talk about it as much as the company’s other focus areas. “Power electronics plays a role in transmission technology, solar photovoltaics, battery storage, power conversion in wind generation, and more,” he said. “ABB is a major player in power electronics and the products that use that technology. I think you’ll see ABB grow even more in this area as we support our customers in grid modernization.”
There’s no denying ABB’s play on the forefront of the electric grid industry. For example, the company has connected 230 gigawatts of renewable energy to the grid. And according to Rackliffe, SGIP helps ABB grow its market leadership. “A big issue for us is interoperability at the grid edge, including identifying the gaps in standards to integrate distributed energy resources (DERs),” he said. “That is one of the areas that SGIP is helping us to address.”
ABB is involved in different SGIP initiatives to help tackle industry challenges. “We participate in working groups and committees. We’re looking at getting benefits from the work that SGIP does to promote some of the grid edge technologies and interoperability,” said Rackliffe. “We’re also getting involved in the nuts and bolts of how we address the gaps in the standards.”
ABB is a big company with a big vision, and it is aggressively working to make that vision a reality for its customers.
Director of Marketing
Vicki Trees has been an active participant in the advanced metering market for over ten years. She has held roles in product management, marketing, business process consulting and customer relations. In her current role with Landis+Gyr as Director, Marketing Communication North America, she is responsible for promoting the benefits of smart grid technologies to utilities and within the market as a whole. Prior to joining the industry Ms. Trees served as general manager in the cable television industry and held positions in marketing and service in telecommunications. Ms. Trees holds a degree in Economics.
Deep roots and new trends come together at Landis+Gyr, where Vicki Trees, Director of Marketing, promotes the company’s various product lines. “There’s never been a more exciting time to be in the energy industry than today,” she said. “There’s so much going on and so much potential.”
Those roots go back more than 100 years in helping utilities deliver reliable power in a safe and cost-effective manner. Headquartered in Switzerland with its North American base in the Atlanta area, Landis+Gyr has more than 5,700 employees in more than 30 countries. The company has provided more than 300 million meters and more than 1,000 smart grid platforms to utilities to manage energy. It also has more than 15 million meters under managed service, and more than 250 utilities use hosted SaaS and managed services from Landis+Gyr.
Today, the electric grid is in the middle of a massive, complex upgrade in the wake of new technological advancements and consumer demands. The challenge for many mainstays in any industry is that their roots tend to paralyze them, preventing the agility and innovation needed for changing markets and new competition. However, Landis+Gyr has been able to turn its history into a launch pad.
“We have grown and changed as the utility industry has changed,” said Trees. “Our portfolio has grown to include advanced sensing technologies and a network platform that has allowed utilities to connect all sorts of IoT (Internet of Things) devices. We see ourselves as the backbone that allows utilities to have digital technology applied to the energy grid. And that brings with it the ability to gather and control information, conduct analytics and run the business more effectively.”
Like other companies, Landis+Gyr offers hardware and software to its customers, but their lengthy experience in running operating systems sets them apart. So they not only implement systems for their clients, but they use those systems themselves, currently overseeing more than 10 percent of meters in the U.S.
As a provider of technology solutions, Trees and her colleagues are a bridge helping utilities cross over to grid modernization. “In my tenure in this space, the major change I’ve seen is the application of digital technologies,” said Trees. “The opportunity to advance the technology in our space has really made it a very attractive industry. Different developments like DERs and solar have grown, so utilities are needing to understand how they should interact with them and continue delivering reliable, safe, affordable power. All of that has really made for an exciting time.”
Using its knowledge of the utility market, Landis+Gyr has evolved its portfolio to keep pace with new possibilities. The company currently delivers the largest IoT network for a utility marketplace at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). “When I think about the sheer size of that network, and the openness and flexibility to help support that, I think that’s a unique accomplishment,” said Trees. “We’ve shown that we can work with very large utilities and complex systems. Not only do we have the IoT network–the backbone that’s connecting all these different devices—we also have the data management application that allows them to collect the data for use.”
With several long-standing contracts and next-generation solutions, Landis+Gyr has the experience and ingenuity to bring creative solutions with a reliable brand, and SGIP has played a role. “One thing that stuck out to me in my early days with SGIP, when it was formed, and which still holds true today, is that SGIP is a place where the standards organizations can come together in a community that allows there to be conversation between a lot of different organizations,” said Trees. ““I think SGIP has done a good job of pulling out the value of the distinct groups and then then bringing added value by sharing it.”
With the credibility of its past and the potential of its future, Landis+Gyr is ready to help utilities address their challenges.
Vice President of Marketing and Product Management, Electric Market Segment
Greg is Vice President of Strategic Solutions and Partnerships at Sensus. He drives the creation of new solutions for customers and works with consultants, system integrators and industry analysts. He holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from WVU Institute of Technology and an MBA from The Johns Hopkins University.
Renowned former business executive Jack Welch once said, “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” When watching the blurring speed of breakthroughs in grid interoperability, a statement like that could keep many people up at night. Sensus, which provides advanced utility infrastructure systems, understands the need for agility and speed, so it has been busy not only keeping up with the latest developments, but also preparing itself for long-term growth.
One person at the intersection of zooming technological advancements and conversations that communicate the potential benefits to customers is Greg Myers, Vice President of Marketing and Product Management in the Electric Market Segment at Sensus. “I’ve gone back and forth between engineering and marketing throughout my career,” he said. “I get involved with not only defining what the solution needs to be to meet market requirements, but in a lot of cases, I get heavily involved in the technical solution to deliver on those requirements.”
Sensus has some 3,200 employees around the world who work with Myers at the speed of market shifts to provide advanced utility infrastructure systems for smart energy, smart water, smart lighting and smart cities. Headquartered in Raleigh, its goals are to help customers from utilities to cities to industrial complexes reach farther with leading technology to deliver greater efficiency, responsiveness and analytical capabilities.
Because of his double-edged expertise, Myers is a go-to subject matter expert for sales, marketing communications and corporate communications at Sensus. And because of his global perspective and cross-functional knowledge, he helps with initiatives beyond his Electric Market Segment.
So the big questions is: how does someone with a bird’s eye view of Sensus and its markets feel about the rapid change happening in grid interoperability? “We’re very optimistic about what the future holds and our opportunity to add more value to our customers and future customers,” said Myers. “We feel like the leader in research and development in our industry.”
Two catalysts in the flurry of innovations happening are the Internet of Things (IoT) and penetration of distributed energy resources (DERs). As a provider of infrastructures, Sensus specializes in these trends, creating opportunities for their customers to harness the power of emerging technologies.
“Agility has become core in the way we think about how we develop our requirements and deliver our solutions. What we create needs to be expandable,” said Myers. “For example, when we first conceived our streetlight control solution, we also conceived all the other developments we want to add to it down the road.” Sensus has also been acquiring businesses and forming partnerships to accelerate their progress. As a result, it now has a portfolio that sets it apart.
“The growth of our market segments has been tremendous,” said Myers. “And we’ve really expanded our portfolio in smart city infrastructure, including smart water, smart gas, smart electric and smart lighting. The breadth of our portfolio is a big differentiator for us.” Many Sensus customers are in multiple market segments and already have infrastructure for some IoT technology. Due it its variety of offerings, Sensus can offer those customers additional IoT solutions without changing those customers’ network infrastructures.
SGIP membership has been beneficial to Sensus as it has gained partners for business growth. “SGIP facilitates and communicates both information around where utilities and markets are headed, but it also drives the development of standards,” said Myers. “The cohesion around developing those standards is valuable to us and, frankly, the rest of the industry.” In many cases, Sensus has formed partnership because of the insight it gains from its membership in SGIP.
But it’s not all about technology at Sensus. The company understands that the way customers interact with utilities is changing. “It used to be strictly a transactional relationship. Now it’s more of a partnership with shared goals of saving money by using our water and energy resources wisely,” said Myers. In response, one of the new applications at Sensus enables customers to do more with their infrastructure through data collection, monitoring and controls. The company also created a customer group, called the Sensus Partner Advisory Network (SPAN), where customers can help brainstorm new solutions.
After all, Sensus and its customers are ultimately working to improve the lives in their communities. So Sensus wants to be involved in those communities, and does so through its Sensus Reach Scholarship at the North Carolina State University College of Engineering.
Change is inevitable, but right now, it’s the speed of change that presents major challenges and opportunities for smart grids. Sensus has worked to stay current and lay a foundation to lead its markets for years to come.
Director of Smart Grid Technology and Operations
Duke Energy Corporation
Jason Handley is the Director of Smart Grid Emerging Technology and Operations at Duke Energy Corporation. He has over 19 years of electric utility experience specializing in the smart grid, distribution automation, and operations management. His role allows Jason to oversee all of the ongoing new technology pilot projects and all operational aspects of the Emerging Technology section. He is responsible for developing and updating the strategic roadmap for power grid devices at Duke Energy. Jason received his electrical engineering degree from Auburn University and his MBA at Wake Forest University. He is a registered professional engineer and received his electrical contractor’s unlimited license in 2009.
“Utilities aren’t really known for being innovative, but that’s changing,” said Jason Handley, Director of Smart Grid Technology and Operations at Duke Energy Corporation. Given his role at Duke Energy, creating a reputation for innovation is something Handley takes personally. “I work in our Emergent Technology Organization, which is basically the research and development arm,” he said. “I have the opportunity and pleasure to lead a talented team of engineers who look toward the future to evaluate new technologies and solutions.”
It’s a tall task to move a utility company to the cutting edge, especially when it’s the largest electric power holding company in the U.S. More than 52,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity at Duke Energy serves some 7.4 million customers in the Carolinas, the Midwest and Florida, along with natural gas distribution in Ohio and Kentucky. The company also owns businesses in Latin America.
In early 2013, Handley and a handful of other Duke Energy employees pitched a bold and unorthodox idea to some 60 energy, telecom and other businesses at a tech conference to openly share their knowledge, products and expertise with each other in a new coalition to bring the grid into the 21st century. Only a small number of companies took the plunge, forming the Coalition of the Willing, but that was only the beginning. Handley would earn the James B. Duke Award in August the following year—Duke Energy’s highest award—for involving interoperability of grid edge devices and leading the Coalition of the Willing.
Shortly after receiving the award, Handley and his peers pitched another daring idea, this time to Sharon Allan, President and CEO of SGIP. Handley is a member of the SGIP Board of Directors, and he believed the consortium could lead a new collaboration to develop an open field message bus that would enable devices to exchange information at the grid edge. Allan liked the idea, and the SGIP OpenFMB™ working group was created shortly thereafter.
While visionary, there’s no mistaking the practical, impactful steps Handley has initiated. “At Duke, we’re building the next-generation utility,” he said. “We’re really trying to lead the way to smarter, cleaner energy solutions for our customers.”
Another big milestone for grid modernization happened in February 2016, when Handley announced Coalition of the Willing II and lead a live OpenFMB demonstration, collaborating with multiple technology partners at the DistribuTECH conference to build a microgrid that demonstrated interoperability across the grid. The collaboration and the demonstration turned heads throughout the energy industry.
Today, the Coalition of the Willing has nearly 30 members. The SGIP OpenFMB working group has about 60, and the North American Energy Standards Board (NAESB) ratified OpenFMB as a standard in March 2016. A few years ago, many in the industry thought interoperability was too expensive and time-consuming to achieve. Today, many would agree with Handley that the technology needed for efficient smart grids is out there, and it’s only a matter of bringing it together.
Trends like faster, cheaper microprocessors and Distributed Energy Resource (DER) generation are pressing utilities to find the next breakthroughs, which is why Handley’s leadership is so timely. “Some consumers are becoming producers too, so one of the opportunities facing us is finding out how utilities are going to make money in the future,” said Handley. “In Duke Energy’s Emergent Technology Organization, we are focused on transforming our business models to become a more service-oriented organization, to provide things like microgrids as a service.”
Today voices like Handley’s have inspired a sense of urgency, and serious energy practioners are heavily invested in working together to create interoperability in the grid. “We can’t wait until customers start using stuff like solar. We need to be prepared now,” he said. “We need to really understand our customers and all their energy needs. We need to know how we are going to interact with our customers in the future. And what we decide needs to be flexible and adaptable for many different types of customers.”
At a time when utilities liked the concept of grid modernization but didn’t know how to move forward, Handley and others charted a path. “It really does prove that like-minded individuals can come together, no matter their differences, and complete a project that can truly change our industry,” he said. There are still big question marks confronting utilities, such as some aspects of cybersecurity in smart grids, but recent history gives thought leaders confidence they’ll find the answers.
Another way Duke Energy is helping to find those answers is with its test bed in Mount Holly, North Carolina, where vendors can test their technology across the grid in the utility environment. Its sole purpose is to take steps toward interoperability. As Handley said, some vendors are currently developing technology that will allow applications to be downloaded directly onto the devices they manufacture, so a utility could install OpenFMB or security parameters. The test bed can help speed these new inventions.
Handley continues reinforcing his vision for grid modernization and the need for collaboration with the help of SGIP. “SGIP has been instrumental in helping Duke Energy’s Emergent Technology Organization. In 2015, when SGIP announced that one of their top three initiatives would be to focus on OpenFMB, it solidified industry support around this effort. I do not think we would be as far along with interoperability, OpenFMB or grid edge intelligence without that support.”
After the successful demonstration at DistribuTECH and the ratification of OpenFMB as a standard, SGIP and Duke Energy, along with other members, are proving the validity of their vision. “I encourage anyone interested in learning more about our industry, collaborating with some for the smartest minds in the industry, to consider joining SGIP,” said Handley.
IT Senior Security Engineer
Mark Ellison is an IT Senior Security Engineer at DTE Energy and has worked in the critical infrastructure cyber security space for over 10 years.
Mark is currently the lead for the SGIP NIST Cybersecurity Framework Implementation Case Study Subgroup and was the subgroup lead for the NISTIR 7628 User’s Guide Subgroup.
He has his CISSP certification and a degree in Computer Science.
“Grid modernization is enabling DTE to provide more functionality and operate more efficiently with fewer resources. It is also allowing us to provide power more reliably to our customers,” said Mark Ellison, IT Senior Security Engineer at DTE Energy. However, Ellison knows as well as anyone that the benefits of grid modernization come with serious questions about cybersecurity.
“Cybersecurity is becoming more complex and more important with grid modernization, because everything’s becoming more computerized,” said Ellison. “And the more computerized the grid becomes, the more susceptible it is to cybersecurity volatilities like viruses.” For this reason, he has been heavily involved in SGIP and its Smart Grid Cybersecurity Committee (SGCC), where he brings a perspective on cybersecurity focused on utilities like DTE Energy.
Founded in 1902, DTE Energy is a diversified energy company providing electric and gas services to more than 3 million residential, business and industrial customers in Michigan. Its largest operating subsidiaries are DTE Electric—the largest electric utility in Michigan—and DTE Gas.
While Ellison’s technical expertise is in the intricate field of cybersecurity, his favorite part of his job is working with stakeholders to map out improvements for the business. “It’s about building strong relationships with your business units and building good communications with the people you work with,” he said. In fact, it’s his ability to speak to the importance of cybersecurity to different business units and stakeholders that makes Ellison an important thought leader for grid modernization.
Implementing cybersecurity improvements at a utility like DTE Energy is no small task, because it’s heavily regulated. Furthermore, different business units, as well as the organization’s senior executives, may each have different hurdles facing them. So, for Ellison to get agreement across his company to invest the considerable time, money and other resources necessary for a cybersecurity initiative, he’ll need to understand many different viewpoints as well as being an expert communicator.
Ellison’s big-picture understanding of how cybersecurity benefits different parts of a utility, and his ability explain those benefits to different audiences, makes him valuable not only to DTE Energy but other organizations like SGIP. In fact, he contributed to the SGCC white paper titled, “Implementing Cybersecurity Frameworks: Utility Lessons Learned,” which emphasizes the importance of buy-in for cybersecurity programs from upper management.
DTE Energy is an example of the progress that can happen when people like Ellison collaborate across the business for cybersecurity. “Operational technology is becoming more automated than ever,” he said. “This is providing tremendous gains in functionality and efficiency, but it also presents huge cybersecurity risks. Yet, DTE is moving beyond mere compliance and working with the industry to develop and implement cutting-edge approaches for securing our critical infrastructure.”
The rollout of one initiative, called the Substation Cyber Security Program, is Ellison’s proudest moment at DTE Energy. Working with the business units to develop and implement the program has been is favorite and most challenging project. The program not only helps protect against cybersecurity threats, but it also enables business units identify obsolete equipment and upgrade it for additional functionality and bandwidth.
Ellison is an ambassador for his field, not only identifying and mitigating the top cybersecurity risks to his company, but sharing his knowledge and passion with others. “I spend a lot of time providing cybersecurity awareness presentations within the company. We believe in my department that it’s really important to get the message out that cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility.”
As the grid becomes smarter, cybersecurity professionals will become more important. Ellison is convinced that his industry will need to come together more to address new threats. “Many heads are truly better than one when creating solutions,” he said.
SGIP provides Ellison and other cybersecurity professional opportunities to discuss some of the toughest questions facing grid modernization. Ellison states, “Working with other utilities and leveraging SGIP expertise helps to identify new and more innovative approaches for securing our critical infrastructure.”
And Ellison isn’t the only person at DTE Energy that sees the benefits of SGIP membership. He said it’s often not clear how to implement standards, but working with SGIP to create implementation guidance gives his senior management a lot of confidence that he is following industry-based approach as opposed to creating one-off solutions.
There’s a long queue of important questions waiting for breakthrough answers from Ellison and other cybersecurity experts, and he believes narrowing gaps between IT and OT organizations, and associations like SGIP, can bring people together and discover the solutions we need.
Robby Simpson, PhD
Member of the Board of Directors, SGIP
GE’s Grid Solutions
“I’ve often heard it said that the electrical grid is the largest machine on earth,” said Robby Simpson, PhD, System Architect for GE’s Grid Solutions. “There’s been a tremendous push from utilities, consumers, regulators and the federal government to modernize the grid, and it’s produced a rapid, consolidated effort.” So, how can a machine so large and complex be upgraded at a fast pace? Through collaboration across the industry with people like Simpson.
“Five years ago, it sounded futuristic to talk about customers selling power back into the grid, or smart meters that didn’t require meter readers and could provide consumers with their energy usage information,” said Simpson. GE’s Grid Solutions business has played a role in these developments and more, with Simpson designing and evaluating the company’s architectures with a focus on scalability, security and interoperability. His experience has taught him the importance of teaming with other organizations, which is why he’s an SGIP member and a director on SGIP’s Board.
“At Grid Solutions, we recognize that our customers are going to have products from other venders, and we need to integrate and interoperate with technologies that are not from GE,” said Simpson. “As such, we believe standards and interoperability are not only a key requirement for our customers, but key elements to making certain that grid modernization continues at a rapid pace.”
Grid Solutions is a joint venture between GE and Alstom, which promotes and markets reliable energy delivery. With more than 20,000 employees in some 80 countries, GE’s Grid Solutions equips 90 percent of the power utilities worldwide, helping bring power from the point of generation to the end consumers, or “from turbine to toaster” as Simpson said. And the continuously-lowering costs of renewables, along with the Internet of Things and other industry developments, present many opportunities for more advancement in micro grids, emergency response times, energy storage, control room software and more.
Simpson’s role is not only to design and architect products, but also the way those products interoperate with one another and products from other technology vendors. He works with various GE product teams, ensuring they’re aware of the latest standards and activities, so they can integrate those developments into their work while thinking from a systems perspective as well as a product perspective.
What Simpson enjoys the most about his job, which he says may surprise some, is crafting standards. While the work is meticulous and demanding, Simpson enjoys it because it allows him to meet people with various expertise and pass milestones that have major impacts across the industry. “It’s about all of us coming to a common language, a common way of working,” he said. “Standards lead to products from various vendors interoperating, so we don’t have to spend a lot of time on integration, and our customers don’t end up with proprietary solutions.”
In fact, one of Simpson’s proudest achievements was chairing the development of IEEE 2030.5 (the Smart Energy Profile 2.0)—an international standard application protocol specification that provides Smart Grid services for home and business energy devices. Through that standard, consumers have been more connected to the grid, and consumers can more clearly see the benefits of grid modernization. Simpson and other stakeholders from across the industry worked together for some five years to create that standard.
“Part of the standard-development process is making certain that everyone has an equal seat at the table. And we make certain that the standards don’t advantage one particular vendor’s product over another, so it’s a very level playing field,” said Simpson. “So, in essence, the standards activities are a benefit to the vendors as well as the customers and industry as a whole.”
That team mentality has created extraordinary change. “For myself, my company and for the industry as a whole, we’ve made tremendous progress on grid modernization and interoperability, and that has an important impact on society as a whole,” said Simpson.
And some of that progress was helped by SGIP. “SGIP helps us achieve our goals by staying on the cutting edge of new developments in grid modernization and interoperability and standards,” said Simpson. “It’s one of the only venues, if not the only venue, where you’re able to get all the various stakeholders to sit down at the table together, like regulators, government, utilities, vendors and individual consumers.”
There’s still a lot of upgrading to do on the world’s biggest machine, and Simpson, along with GE’s Grid Solutions and other leaders, can find solutions together.
Director of Marketing
Tim Wolf, Director of Marketing for Smart Grid Solutions at Itron, is passionate about the company’s core mission of providing world-leading technology and services dedicated to the resourceful use of energy and water. He enjoys explaining the value of smart grid technology and gets excited when speaking about opportunities to leverage network investments to ensure that the electric grid is continuously amenable to more distributed and renewable resources.
“I believe that Itron is well positioned to meet head-on some of the trends that we’re seeing in the industry,” he explained, noting that those trends include the convergence of the smart grid and smart cities, IoT, and distributed intelligence and the technology that addresses the edge of the network.
“For instance, over the past five years, we’ve worked in close partnership with Cisco to evolve our network architecture to IoT6, based on open standards, allowing us to be better prepared for an IoT world. We’re in the process of moving our software to a cloud-based architecture.”
The most significant evolution, said Wolf, was the introduction of Itron’s OpenWay Riva™ communications platform. “This platform really redefines the smart network.”
OpenWay Riva™ was demonstrated live during DistribuTECH 2016 and features a unified, secure, multi-service network for smart energy, smart water and smart cities applications and more. “Utilities require a network that does more than collect reams of data for back office analysis. The OpenWay Riva™ communications platform enables decision-making at the edge, optimizing analytics where they need to happen, enabling utilities to run multiple applications in edge devices, creating capabilities not available before in the industry while opening the door for new revenue opportunities.
“The OpenWay Riva™ platform has the power to transform utility operations and deliver new value in distribution system efficiency, reliability and safety. This next generation platform is available across commodities, providing new and differentiating capabilities for utilities and smart cities.”
Since the inception of smart meters, Wolf feels that utilities and their customers have really come to understand and embrace the technology. “I think the greatest opportunity for Itron is what’s next after smart metering and understanding how to expand the value of the network investments to a broader set of stakeholders than the utilities.
“Itron has put in a lot of smart metering systems. Our next step is to determine how to leverage these network investments to ensure that we are getting the most out of our aging infrastructure and managing assets towards longevity. Itron will explore crossing the boundaries over into the smart cities market where we can leverage smart grid investments so we can make a significant difference in people’s lives.”
Wolf describes Itron as reliable, resourceful, and innovative. “We’ve put in a significant number of complex and challenging projects. Our utility customers have found that they can always count on us. That’s reliability,” he said.
“We’re resourceful. We’ve done a masterful job of combining technology, domain expertise and utility operations knowledge to manage energy and water more intelligently.”
As for innovation, Wolf cites the OpenWay Riva™ technology. “OpenWay Riva™ changes the smart meter from a measurement device to a computing platform upon which metering is one application. This platform has changed the paradigm of smart metering from data collection and analytics to a more robust, real-time solution provider. There’s a big sea change with technology that is taking place at Itron right now.”
Wolf finds value in Itron’s SGIP membership. He acknowledges that SGIP is an industry thought-leader and credits the organization for providing access to the latest industry research and for its key role in helping to develop standards within the industry. “There is a lot of common interest between SGIP and Itron with where we see the future of the industry.”
Dr. Shay Bahramirad
IEEE Senior Member, Director
Dr. Shay Bahramirad, IEEE Senior Member, the Director of Smart Grid and Technology, serves as a strategic business leader in Commonwealth Edison, the electric Utility in Illinois, working on the transformation to the 21st century power grid and the new energy economy. Her major responsibilities include leading Smart Grid organization across ComEd to develop the vision, business models, and investment strategy of the grid of the future initiatives such as merging technologies, microgrids and smart city deployments. She is an Adjunct Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, teaching Microgrids, Elements of Sustainable Energy, and Smart Grid.
Dr. Bahramirad holds multiple advanced degrees, including a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She is the Chair of the board of IEEE PES Women in Power, Technical Chair of the 2016 IEEE PES T&D Conference, Advisory Committee Member of the Great Lakes Symposium on Smart Grid and the New Energy Economy, Guest Editor-in-Chief of IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid, and Guest Editor-in-Chief of the Electricity Journal, special issue on Energy of the Future – Applications to Illinois.
Illinois-based electric utility Commonwealth Edison is executing upon what Dr. Shay Bahramirad, the utility’s Director of Smart Grid and Technology, calls the power industry’s transformation to the grid of the future. “We are bringing new-energy economy to the power grid of the 21st century,” she explains.
ComEd’s steadfast dedication to its customers and the community that it serves has helped it grow to Illinois’ largest electric utility. With more than 6,000 employees and 2.8 million customers in northern Illinois, including the metropolis of Chicago, the utility covers 11,000 square miles and provides 24 gigawatts during its peak load. “We serve 70 percent of the entire state’s population,” said Bahramirad. “We are customer-focused, reliable and innovative.”
Bahramirad is excited about ComEd’s leadership position in redefining the power grid and is extremely passionate about her role in it. “We are one of the most forward-looking utilities in the industry,” she said. “We are looking beyond grid modernization. ComEd is driving innovation and defining strategy for the utility of the future, leveraging the full power of the grid via physical, digital, and social networking.”
When probed about her role in ComEd’s industry leading transformation, Bahramirad replies simply, “I have the coolest job on the planet.”
More specifically, she serves as a strategic business leader whose major responsibilities include leading Smart Grid organization across the company to develop the vision, business models, and investment strategy of the grid of the future initiatives such as merging technologies, microgrids and smart city deployments. She is an Adjunct Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, teaching Microgrids, Elements of Sustainable Energy, and Smart Grid.
She holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. She has earned two Master of Science degrees; one in electric power engineering, the other in computer science; both from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2014, she received the IEEE/PES Outstanding Young Engineer Award for exceptional contributions in research and deployment of Microgrids. That same year, IEEE elevated her to a Senior Member grade; and she was presented the I Power Lives award in recognition of delivering work that results in innovations or efficiencies and demonstrating value-based behaviors in an exceptional manner, presented by ComEd CEO Anne Pramaggiore. Shay is well-published, having written nearly two dozen articles and white papers.
However, she does not focus on her personal accomplishments. “I feel so privileged to be able to work with the talented team of individuals that we have here at ComEd. I am part of a team where the CEO is a great visionary. It is amazing to sit at her table and be part of a workforce that’s making something big happen, rather than sitting back and waiting for the rest of the industry to do it.”
Dr. Bahramirad is proud of her company’s long history as a leader in the electric utility industry and its recent accomplishments. “We continually try to push the boundaries in laying the foundation for emerging technology,” she said. The company is currently in its fifth year of a $2.6 billion smart grid investment as part of a program that was established by the Smart Grid Recovery Act. ComEd’s investment includes the installation of 3.8 million smart meters by the end of 2017.
“The benefits of this investment go far beyond the traditional view of meters and a more reliable grid to new grid technologies and to non-traditional service offerings,” she explained. “Some of the technologies include microgrids, smart LED streetlights, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, fuel cells, and energy storage demonstrations. We are also leveraging our key networks to explore non-traditional potential growth areas and new business models.”
“ComEd’s strategy of the futuristic electric grid aligns perfectly with SGIP’s initiative to advance grid modernization,” said Bahramirad. “We look forward to continuing collaboration with other SGIP member utilities and being part of the SGIP working groups especially the Grid Management Working Group.”