I have been invited by Dean Stuart Bell (School of Engineering) to come back to KU (Rock Chalk) to share about the genesis of Smart Grid (I coined the term, definition, and unveiled its framework on April 24, 2007), and my journey in building it at Austin Energy (first Smart Grid built in the US). Reading that letter was very rewarding. So, I will be going back on September 18th to meet with him, faculty, and students.
See, we all grow up and go to school to only hope that our skills and creativity will be able to make a difference in someone’s life and maybe more than that. My journey as a professional has been meteoric, exciting, challenging and filled with immense hard work. I was not the top student that my parents had hoped, and I was not as mature as I could have been. I was a bit of a late bloomer on maturity, dedication, discipline, and responsibility. Even though I was an Eagle Scout and a Black Belt in Tae-Kwon-Do with national championships to brag about by the time that I graduated from KU.
When I chose to go to KU, a great deal of that decision was the fact that KU was the place where Dr. James Naismith, who invented basketball, decided to coach. And were Phog Allen became a legend as a coach. And where Wilt Chamberlain played. And where so many other accomplishments and traditions had taken place. It was a choice of a school that had the possibility of teaching me how to make a difference. After graduating, I was hired by Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, WA. Right out of school, I found myself in a place that was hoping to change the world, and actually did it. I worked on Windows, MS-DOS, and Flight Simulator. That experience, plus years at SCO and Borland taught me lots about being customer driven, the customer lifecycle, product creation, eco-system creation, corporate politics, and managing dynamic complexity. From software, I went to hardware by joining Digital Equipment Corporation as a GM in the PC Company. Then on to communications, by joining Philips Electronics as a President/GM of the Consumer Communications Division making wired phones, wireless phones and pagers. Afterwards, I decided to do four start-ups (one was an ISP/CLEC, one was an Internet B2B exchange, and two were in wireless applications and services).
The reason that I share this is that the Smart Grid is the seamless integration of an Electric Grid, a Communications Network, Hardware and Software.
So, when I came to Austin Energy, in 2003, I was an expert in Communications, Hardware and Software. But I didn’t understand well the Electric Grid and its industry. So as we embarked on achieving my goal of helping free up capital and operating dollars to build a new business for the company, which we baptized Distributed Energy Services (focus on conservation, energy efficiency, alternate energy, storage and electric transportation), I realized that I was building something transformational that would change the industry. I had read about EPRI’s Intelligrid™ and IBM’s Intelligent Utility Network™. Both terms were trademarked and cost money to learn and use. I knew that I was building elements of what they preached, but my vision was larger in scope. My vision was certainly shaped by Roger Duncan’s own vision of combining the Utility industry, the Automotive industry and buildings in a new way. Roger Duncan is a visionary, a superstar and my boss at Austin Energy.
So, on April 24, 2007 in Chicago, IL at an IDC energy event, I coined the term as I made a presentation of our journey of building the utility of the future. I needed a term that didn’t infringe on any trademarks, that could be used freely, and that could help define our end-to-end encompassing vision of a new grid needed to connect and manage the merging of the Utility, Vehicles and Buildings. So, Smart Grid was born.
As I talk about Smart Grid, I break it into two distinct pieces. First, my rationalization of talking about Smart Grid 1.0 which goes from the central power plant, through the wires, to the meter and back. It is the focus of most utilities today. And second, the importance of taking about Smart Grid 2.0 which goes beyond the meter into the premise (e.g home, business, school, factory, hospital) to manage other distributed energy elements. Smart Grid 2.0 is about integration of the utility grid (Smart Grid 1.0) to distributed generation (solar PV, micro-wind, etc), energy storage (thermal, electric), electric vehicles, and smart appliances. Smart Grid 2.0 opens up a new future of opportunities for many and it empowers customers to become prosumers (producers as well as consumer of energy).
I am looking forward to the honor and opportunity of returning to KU and share with administrators, faculty and students.
Furthermore, I am also going to be unveiling what Smart Grid 3.0 will be at KU on September 18, 2009.