A network of networks – in search of an orchestrator.
Jan Vrins heads Navigant’s Global Energy Practice. Also working in the Navigant’s Energy Practice are Hector Artze, managing director, and Richard Shandross (associate director), who works also in Navigant’s Energy Efficiency Policy and Analysis Group. Mackinnon Lawrence (research director) leads the Energy Technologies and Utility Transformation programs at Navigant Research. The authors thank Dan Bradley, Anissa Dehamna, Ken Horne, and Eric Woods for contributing to this article.
The power sector is transforming. It's changing from a centralized, one-way hub-and-spoke grid - based on large centralized generation assets like fossil fuel, hydro, or nuclear power plants - toward a more decentralized grid, with an increased role for renewables and distributed energy resources (DERs).
We call this new grid the Energy Cloud.1
This shift encompasses technologies and solutions like integrated demand-side management (iDSM), microgrids, virtual power plants (VPPs), storage, electric vehicles (EVs), and others. It also includes advanced software and hardware to enable greater control and interoperability across grid elements. These changes will necessitate new business models, new players, adapted regulations, and new ways of financing, building, maintaining, and operating the grid.
The Energy Cloud will change the way we generate, store, and consume energy. It marks a change from a one-way power flow to a dynamic network of networks supporting two-way energy and information flows.
We need only quote the current U.S. Secretary of Energy, Dr. Ernest Moniz, to verify what's happening: "I believe we are actually in the revolution...right now."2