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IEEE: The expertise to make smart grid a reality

Powering the People Conference Summary

On March 3, 2011, the Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE) and its parent organization, the Edison Foundation, held its “Powering the People” conference in Washington, DC. Designed to stimulate discussion around the ongoing paradigm shift that continues to reshape the face of the power and energy landscape, the invitation-only conference drew together a dynamic crowd that included power industry practitioners and visionaries, corporate leaders, federal and state policy makers, and standards development organizations.

The one-day conference brought a number of critical issues and challenges to the forefront, with insight and expertise offered by speakers during a variety of keynote addresses, panel discussions, and hands-on exhibits. Among the topics covered were:

•    Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEVs) – the ubiquitous adoption of PEVs and their potential for reforming national energy usage rates, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and increasing national security;

•    Smart Homes – how greater consumer acceptance of and satisfaction with Smart Home technologies is being driven by utilities and their technology partners, including the deployment of real-time data and behavior-based energy efficiency programs, home-area networks, and intuitive energy management tools; and

•    Power Market Transformation – the impact of ongoing disruptive shifts in the power and energy marketplace, such as increasing usage of renewables, next-generation technology developments, and efficiency improvements, on the power grid of tomorrow.

The conference was sponsored in part by key industry and technology leaders, like Cisco, General Electric, IBM, Itron, Sensus, and Silver Spring Networks. Representatives from an array of thought leaders and opinion-makers, such as the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, DTE Energy Co., Edison International, Ford Motor Co., GE, General Motors, IEEE, NV Energy, and more joined in the day’s discussions.

Session Highlights
William C. Taylor, founding editor of Fast Company Magazine and author of the book “Practically Radical”, and the Honorable Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave keynote addresses. These opening keynotes were followed by remarks from Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, who advocated vigorous support for additional research and new policies that foster innovation, particularly in the advancement of transportation energy solutions.

In addition, Mike Howard, President and CEO, Electric Power Research Institute, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce, the Honorable Gary Locke, offered further remarks later in the day. Jim Rogers, Chairman, President, and CEO, Duke Energy, delivered the conference’s closing address entitled, “Our Energy Future.”

Among the day’s sessions was a discussion focusing on PEVs, with featured panel members such as:

•    Tony Earley, Executive Chairman, DTE Energy Co.
•    Ted Craver, Chairman, President, and CEO, Edison International
•    Nancy Gioia, Director, Global Electrification, Ford Motor Co.
•    Britta Gross, Director, Global Energy Systems and Infrastructure Commercialization, General Motors
•    Don Karner, President and CEO, ECOtality North America
•    Jim Piro, President and CEO, Portland General Electric

During their dialog, panelists discussed elevating consumer electrified vehicle experiences through better vehicle performance, driving costs down, and educating customers on choosing the PEV that best meets their needs. The discussion also focused on systems engineering and integration improvements; increasing PEV reliability, safety, and affordability; and an update on national transportation energy policies.

Led by Michael Yackira, President and CEO of NV Energy, the Smart Homes panel featured speakers including:

•    Honorable Ron Binz, Chairman, Colorado Public Utilities Commission
•    Peter Delaney, Chairman and CEO, OGE Energy Corp.
•    Scott Lang, Chairman, President, and CEO, Silver Spring Networks  

The panelists tackled critical at-home energy management issues, such as how to efficiently integrate devices capable of communicating power flow measurement and monitoring data between homes and utilities, achieving greater consumer engagement and empowerment, and the need for plug-and-play standards development.

Market Transformation was the subject of the day’s final session. Moderated by Gregg Easterbrook, contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, The Washington Monthly, and author of the book “Sonic Boom”, panelists included:

•    Ralph Cavanagh, Co-Director, Energy Programs, Natural Resources Defense Council
•    Claire Fulenwider, Executive Director, Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
•    John McDonald, Director, Technical Strategy and Policy Development, GE Digital Energy, and IEEE Fellow
•    Susan Story, President and CEO, Southern Company Services, Inc.

Among the discussion points covered was what impact clean energy sources like nuclear, renewables, and cleaner coal, and production, grid, distribution, and in-home technology advancements will have on the power and energy ecosystem. The group also addressed the need for greater power plant and grid-side efficiencies, as well as the coming shift in spending from metering to distribution.

Additional information on the IEE / Edison Foundation “Powering the People” conference is available online at: http://www.edisonfoundation.net/iee/newsEvents/events/2011-03-03/index.htm.