Videos: gridConnext 2017



Fortnightly Magazine - January 2018

The annual gridConnext event is billed as “where policy and business leaders meet to build the next-generation grid.” This year’s took place in early December with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, CenterPoint CEO Scott Prochazka and many other thought leaders as speakers. Below are some videos of the event.

NYPA’s CEO Gil Quiniones

A digital utility must place the customer at the center of that transformation. It has to create new business models, transform the customer relationship, and a digital utility in the end must measure its success based on the success of its customers.

With the New York Energy Manager right now is we have about 11,000 public buildings in New York state where we have created digital twins of their energy systems, so digital twins of the energy systems of 11,000 buildings. By doing so, we're able to use big data analytics and other customer engagement techniques to help optimize the use of energy for those customers. Second, we are going to be opening up next week is what we're calling our ISOC; Integrated Smart Operation Center. With this, we are digitizing working with GE hand-in-hand in their predix platform. We are digitizing and creating digital twins of our power plants, our sub-stations and transmission systems to really increase the operational efficiencies, reliability, and availability and optimize our capital and O&M spend. Next week this is going to be open. This is a place where we're going to monitor the health of our assets, real-time all the time, a place where we will monitor our cyber security situation, physical security. We're also building a dedicated communication network of all of our assets, high speed, fiber network, so this place also will monitor our old communication network and portfolio of strategic software that we're using in this area; one of which is APM from GE to optimize our maintenance, and asset health, and asset management. That's ISOC and we're opening that. We're very excited opening that on up next week.

Agile is going to be a lab where we will digitize the entire power grid in New York state, starting with the bulk power system generation & transmission. So, we're working with the utilities, we're working with the New York Independent System Operator to do that, just to do that, in a very dynamic, granular, close-looped basis. So, we just purchased a bunch of supercomputers, and EPRI's going to be helping us in making this happen, working with the utilities, etc.

We're going to be doing things in different ways, working with the local utilities and the Public Service Commission and our Thruway Authority to figure out what are our... Because it's not just the technology, right? There has to be compelling value proposition. The customer experience has to be compelling. And, there's a little bit of this trial and error that we have to do, and NYPA is in the best position to do those kind of things.

On the good side of the metric, 40% of our employees have been with us five years or less. Right? So the churn is relative. When we say digitization, it's really way, way beyond, and it's not just the technology. It's about a complete transformation of our company. We need to embrace concepts such as design thinking, lean startup, right? GE called that FastWorks. So they did their own transformation called FastWorks five years or so ago. Basically, it's a melding of design thinking and lean startup principles. We're doing that at NYPA. GE is helping us with their FastWorks experience, or their FastWorks gurus are working with us. We have access to their Crotonville facility, where they do most of their training. But it has to, the transformation has to start from within. And leaders of my company, myself included, our goal is to create an environment so that our employees can work within that framework and that context, and they're allowed to try things, they're allowed to fail fast and iterate. And they are focused on creating value to our customers.

U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Staffer Spencer Gray

In the FERC bailiwick the balancing act between the implementation of the Federal Power Act's provisions and states' desires to protect or incentivize resources within their state borders. Now, for our part, the Senate has it's advise and consent rules, so our oversight of the commission to date has really been processing nominations this year for new commissioners. The House has held its series, ongoing series of oversight hearings on the electric grid and the Power Act, so I see continued interest in that. I'm not sure that there's an obvious legislative answer, but that seems like the biggest issue to me is the wholesale markets.

You can set the NOPR for the side if you like, but that has gotten a lot of interest this fall; bipartisan interest in the merits of the proposal and the process. Aside from that, back to the energy bill, in our majority in the Senate, I guess in the House too, gas pipeline siting has been of high interest. Maybe more bipartisan interest is the hydro-licensing programs. I could see more attention paid to that next week. Our committee may have a hearing on permitting in general, which would focus on some of FERC's role in both gas pipelines and non-federal hydro. Beyond that, I think there will be continuing interest in what happens under the new leadership at FERC in the enforcement office. Senator Cantwell worked very hard following the 2001 energy crisis to help create the current enforcement office, so seeing the actions of the office going forward I think will be of interest to her in particular. Beyond that, we've tracked closely the developments, which don't directly involve congress, and the continued expansion of some of the ISOs and RTOs.

The change in the administration's, or I should say clarification of the administration's, early proposal earlier this year, which saw a pretty dramatic, in our view, decrease in their commitment to federal funds going out the door. I guess it was a signal they paid attention to. I'm a little skeptical that we will suddenly shift as a body from passing a potentially huge increase in the debt through this tax reconciliation bill and then turn around and expend a bunch of federal funds on infrastructure. That just seems like too fast to pivot to me and I think you're seeing the early signs of that. Number one in the more conservative members insistence, particularly in the House, in offsetting disaster assistance; not something Congress typically offsets, and you're seeing it some extent in the larger continuing resolution omnibus spending debate already pushed back and that's before you get to the idea of an infrastructure spending bill. I don't know if that leaves us ... At some point next year, with the funding side of the infrastructure dropping off, and you're just left with permitting reform, in which case it may be hard to attract the Democrats.

So, as everybody here knows, there's a huge diversity in the structure and focus of different utility commissions. Some, many in the west and southeast, are still elected with a party affiliation, so you've got high spending on utility commission races. In most of the country they're appointed by the governor, sometimes confirmed by a state legislature. And obviously the resource mix differs hugely by state, which in every state can be a political issue. So, to some extent, having a soft touch, recognizing that diversity is important. But I will say, back to the energy bill provisions, we think it's important for the federal government to play a role in deploying the intellectual capital that the government has developed to every state. And so, if you're in the state of California with a high level of commitment to a different energy future, a well-funded utility commission, your needs in terms of good modeling and analysis of future options is much lower than if you're ... I'm not gonna pick on a particular state, but smaller states with smaller commissions. And so I do think there's an important federal role there in spreading out the knowledge that, right now, is more concentrated in the New Yorks and Californias of the country.

GE’s Chief Digital Officer Steve Martin

As we think about larger scale movement of goods, that's based off the grid, or electricity-based rather than oil and gas based, that has major implications for how we think about it. It also is one of the few things that could bring a massive shot in the arm for transmission and distribution, as we move to a more distributed environment, because at some point it actually may be more cost effective to move electricity, or electrons, from point A to point B over long distances, than it is to ship refined fuel.

I could probably find a whole bunch of you on LinkedIn. I could find a couple of people that you went to college with. It wouldn’t be that hard for me to spoof one of their names. I’m going to send you an email inviting you to a retirement party, or a get together, naming that other person. I’m going to ask you to click a link at the bottom if you can go or not go. Some number of people in this room would click that, right? I don’t know how many. You don’t have to admit it. But the number isn’t zero. That kind of thing is, I think, so easy and something as an industry we’re going to have to attack.

NARUC’s President Jack Betkoski

Staying abreast of these innovations is a challenge. As the number of cases on the regular docket keep expanding, we have to be committed to what’s on our present agenda while managing an expected uncertain future. We have to see the grid ten, twenty, thirty years or more down the road, and balance it against a rate case today that has immediate monetary impacts to ratepayers and long-term implications for sustaining reliability.

Macky McCleary, Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers

It is what Andy Warhol did for art, right? I was trained as an architect and we were always taught in art history that Andy Warhol killed art in order to make it live, essentially distributed it throughout the advertising landscape so you experience it in every product. I would argue that the Apple iPhone is a result of Warhol's destruction of art in its old form. And the critique from architects was that architects never did that, which is why we've seen the relative decline in the importance of architecture over time. Well, that's changing. But to some extent, I would say that's part of the job of utility regulators to understand why something has to be destroyed or changed in order to essentially atomize and evolve it. I think that is the cusp that we are living in right now.