2017 WAE Q1 Recap: Resiliency, Critical Infrastructure & Microgrids

-Tanner Kenney, Fellow

The Q1 2017 Washington Advanced Energy Group (WAE) Stakeholder Breakfast took place on Thursday, March 16th at the offices of Holland & Knight where discussion leaders and attendees examined the topics of microgrids and critical infrastructure in the D.C. Metro Area.

From climate change and resiliency to private-public collaboration and beyond, the discussion leaders and stakeholder members met to share their vision for advancing Washington, D.C.’s energy towards a cleaner and more sustainable future.

Advanced Energy Group Founder and CEO, H.G., Chissell, began the event with a warm welcoming message and quickly introduced the first discussion leader, Zach Dobbelbower of the D.C. Dept. of General Services. He began with an explanation of the department’s role within the city’s infrastructure planning, construction, and maintenance programs and detailed the process of consolidating generation capacity for the Unified Communications Center (UCC) at the St. Elizabeth campus in partnership with the Lawrence Baker National Lab.

Mr. Dobbelbower then went on to describe the energy portfolio at the campus and the financial risks it exposed the department to as well as the ways in which a resilient and sustainable microgrid would benefit the scenario. Lastly, he explained the success of the city’s Demand Response (DR) pilot from last summer and how it would be expanded this year.

This was followed by a presentation from Rob Stewart, Manager of Pepco’s Smart Grid and Technology team. Mr. Stewart discussed ways in which microgrids would play a major role in reshaping the traditional grid system in addition to various technologies that could be added behind or in-front of the meter. These systems would allow for a more fluid, two-way transmission system that would allow for electrons to flow in directions previously thought impossible, either for cost or safety concerns.

Outside of microgrid investments, Pepco’s team also suggested that energy storage and EV technologies should be prioritized as they are strong tools in the fight against climate change whilst providing resiliency measures for the time-being. The team also stressed a need for decreasing the tolerance of renewables’ intermittence, a process that would allow for a more robust and resilient future for the integration of renewable energy technologies.

Scott Baker, Senior Business Solutions Analyst for PJM, then stressed the need for high-voltage transmission resiliency, as a failure in this part of the electrons’ journey would represent a massive blow to D.C.’s energy infrastructure. Mr. Baker then discussed PJM’s methodology for prioritizing investments in transmission upgrades in stating that reliability, market efficiency, public policy, and resiliency all play a major role in the decision-making process.

Mr. Baker then went on to detail the load shedding that occurs and the resulting wasted energy that could be capitalized upon with greater investment in energy storage systems and the complicated processes through which individual generation assets communicate with each other as well as the ways in which these systems could cause greater damage than the sum of their parts due to the lack of interconnection between sites.

Bracken Hendricks, CEO of Urban Ingenuity, followed with a discussion of the connections between energy infrastructure in cities like D.C. from the perspective of public benefit in addition to the decision-making processes taken on by developers. This approach, Mr. Hendricks contends, focuses on ROI of from assets, but does not allow for a redefinition of these assets. This can cause myriad of consequences, including the delay or prevention of technological adaptation that could generate a cleaner and more resilient asset.

Mr. Hendricks finished with a discussion of the “overall policy structure” that defines D.C.’s energy landscape. He is hopeful for D.C., however, as the city is a “city/state hybrid due to its ability” to implement regulatory changes rapidly in addition to the leveraging of big data which could provide a savings of “~&0.60/sq. ft., in large spaces.” He then cautioned that there are lots of barriers, and “we must take plodding steps.”

David Reed of Schneider Electric then discussed the Montgomery County behind-the-meter microgrid and how it was borne from a reliability plan that incorporated future cost-avoidance measures with “aggressive sustainability goals.” Mr. Reed explained the scope of the project as essentially “two separate grids” combining “both canopy and rooftop solar.” The “existing CHP” was packaged with an absorption chiller which has run with “roughly 75% efficiency” when factoring in the unit’s “minimal downtime.”

Mr. Reed was followed by Pamela Maines, the Executive Director of Constellation Energy. Ms. Maines highlighted the ongoing revolution in the Distributed Energy Generation (DER) space by explaining Constellation’s role as a design-build firm with operational microgrids in Hartford, CT and the campus of the Department of Defense. Incorporating a Bloom Energy fuel cell, the Hartford location is home to an 8MW facility “with 800kW of islandable power” in order to meet the owner’s sustainability goals.

Following Ms. Maines was Matt Hennessey of Booz Allen Hamilton. A cybersecurity expert, Mr. Hennessey spoke about the necessity of “cybersecurity investments as they regard to energy infrastructure” and explained the multitude of ways in which an organization may believe that it is protected, but can still be vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

Prior to the open Q&A session, Jorge Camacho, the final discussion leader, brought the room back to the larger topic at hand and discussed the various ways in which the District could benefit from all types of investment in microgrids in addition to other clean and resilient technologies. Mr. Camacho cited the Navy Yard’s ability to produce 100% of power consumed on-site and promoted communications between utilities, consumers, and regulators.

And following a lively and open Q&A session that featured a wide array of questions, the Q1 2017 Washington Advanced Energy Breakfast came to a close.

Lastly, the Advanced Energy team is excited to announce its newest Fellow, Tanner Kenney. Tanner is a 2016 graduate of New York University’s Master of Science in Global Affairs program with a concentration in Environment & Energy Policy. Formerly the Co-President and Secretary of the Energy Policy International Club as well as the Op-Ed Editor of Perspectives on Global Issues, Tanner was also an intern for the non-profit think tank Energy Vision where he began his research into renewable natural gas production, distribution, and regulation. As a Fellow with the NYU’s Global Research Initiative, Tanner conducted his thesis research in Berlin, Germany, resulting in BBDP – The Bolivian Biogas Development Proposal – which took advantage of his policy research, analysis, and reporting background.

The discussion leaders from this event included:

·       Taite McDonald, Sr. Energy Policy Advisor, Holland & Knight

·       Scott Baker, Sr. Business Solutions Analyst, PJM Interconnection

·       Zach Dobelbower, Sustainability Manager, DC Department of General Services

·       Rob Stewart, Manager, Smart Grid and Technology, Pepco Holdings

·       Jorge Camacho, Chief, Office of Infrastructure and System Planning, PSC D.C.

·       Bracken Hendricks, President & CEO, Urban Ingenuity

·       Kyle Miller, Sr Lead Industrial Cyber Security Engineer, Booz Allen

·       David Reed, Microgrids, Schneider Electric on behalf of Montgomery County

·       Pamela Maines, Executive Director, Constellation