Developing the Next Generation Electricity Professional
By John Kelly
Inspired by Six Sigma improvement processes and the LEED green building standards, the Perfect Power Institute has developed PEER, a methodology for assessing performance, designing improvements and making the financial case for investment in electric power sustainability. The program helps industry professionals produce higher levels of performance, including grids that are safer, better for the environment, more robust and more efficient.
The electricity sector faces game-changing conditions that include shifting industry trends, changing customer demands and surprising entities from entrepreneurial innovators. Observers agree that these conditions foreshadow a seismic industry transformation.
The transformation is driven by higher expectations from industry customers, regulators and politicians, who demand more reliable, secure, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable services. How will industry leaders prepare their organizations for this impending transformation? When restructuring affected telecommunications and other markets, Motorola and General Electric created Six Sigma to prepare employees to embrace change and succeed in the face of inevitable market transformation. Inspired by the positive effect of Six Sigma improvement processes and the U.S. Green Building Council’s leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) professional accreditation programs, the Perfect Power Institute (PPI) developed PEER, a methodology for assessing performance, designing improvements and making the financial case for investment in electric power. The program helps industry professionals produce higher levels of performance, including grids that are safer, better for the environment, more robust and more efficient.
PEER is the first comprehensive, industry-reviewed program of its kind establishing much-needed performance criteria and design tools to empower industry stakeholders and define electric power sustainability. PEER draws from nearly a decade of research, collaboration and international benchmarking conducted by the Galvin Electricity Initiative and PPI. Development of the program metrics included a rigorous review process that engaged a diverse set of stakeholders facilitated by PPI in collaboration with Underwriters Laboratories. Additionally, the program is being piloted at demonstration sites throughout the United States, such as university campuses, municipalities, power contracting and building developments, in order to refine metrics and implementation. The program addresses four areas of performance: energy efficiency and environment; reliability, power quality and safety; enabling customer action; and operational effectiveness.
The program serves as the foundation to a series of educational courses, professional certifications and resources that enable industry participants to quantify performance objectives, measure and track progress to stated goals, identify wasted resources and provide an investment path to justify improvements. PEER is a vital tool for 1) leaders interested in embedding continuous improvement processes and a focus on performance-based outcomes in their organizations, 2) industry professionals pursuing indispensable skills for managing the evolving grid, or 3) other stakeholders interested in better understanding the needs and changes transforming the industry.
In addition, the program can be used as a design guideline and performance tracking system for local smart grid plans or a microgrid approach to the electricity grid: dividing the bulk grid into smaller, customer-focused nodes that communicate and work together to provide services to each other as well as the larger, bulk electricity grid. A utility in Denmark piloting such an approach calls the smaller grid units "cells." The utility is interconnecting the cells through the use of an innovative cell net controller. PPI is working with a U.S. utility to apply the program and the same approach to a city.
PPI aspires to continuously engage industry stakeholders to improve the program, build a dynamic resource of innovative industry practices and cultivate a community of like-minded, leading-edge professionals. A cooperative effort can support organizations in embracing the looming changes, move the transformation in the direction of desired outcomes and dramatically improve electricity system performance.
John Kelly is executive director at the Perfect Power Institute. Previously, as deputy director of the Galvin Electricity Initiative, he led research into improved electricity governance models and the development of innovative Perfect Power prototypes. He is a founder of the National Energy Center for Sustainable Communities and the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.