‘Grid of the Future will be Distributed, Decarbonized, Digital,’ New AWEA Chair Says

Speaking yesterday at WINDPOWER 2017 in Anaheim, Calif., the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) newly appointed chair, Tristan Grimbert, said that the U.S. power grid will evolve more in the next 10 years than it has in the last 100, becoming an “agile grid” with “tremendous opportunity for wind.”

“The grid of the future will be distributed…decarbonized and digital,” Grimbert, President and CEO of EDF Renewable Energy, said. “It will be a grid where artificial intelligence will be able to compile in real time a huge amount of data coming from multiple generation assets.”

From all those data points on the grid, he added, we will be able to manage assets in real time and dynamically control the grid.

According to Grimbert, there is no longer a question about whether the grid can manage wind — it can. The real challenge for the wind industry now is to adapt to and compete in a low energy price environment.

To do that, he said, several things need to happen.

First, independent power producers, utilities, federal regulators and transmission operators need to cooperate to strengthen the grid in two ways — grid expansion and fair markets.

“The U.S. grid needs more wire; it’s aging, it’s that simple,” he said. “We need new wire to link load and renewable resources in order to provide grid stability, and…we need more sophisticated and fairer market rules for [transmission operators] to be able to better control and manage the new generation assets while still preserving the latest investment.”

Second, he said, the market needs to continue to evolve to financially recognize the other attributes that wind projects bring to the grid.

“First, ancillary services; today we see that the [Midcontinent Independent System Operator] and PJM [Interconnection] are starting to compensate for reactive power, for example,” he said. “Second, capacity payment, [which is] very important to have in the future market structure of a low-price environment. And lastly, of course, carbon reduction.”

The AWEA board on Monday elected Grimbert as chair. He succeeds Chris Brown, President of Vestas Americas. Also elected were Chair-Elect Steve Lockard, President and CEO of TPI Composites; Treasurer Ray Wood, Managing Director-Head of Global Power & Renewables, Bank of America Merrill Lynch; and Secretary Doug Fredrickson, Vice President at Blattner Energy, Inc.

Newly elected to the Board are Carole Barbeau, President, Energy Advisory – Region Americas, DNV GL; Buzz Miller, President and CEO, Southern Power; and Susan Nickey, Managing Director, Hannon Armstrong. Added as one-year special advisors are Brian Janous, Director of Energy Strategy, Microsoft; and Rob Threlkeld, Global Manager of Renewable Energy, General Motors.

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Jennifer Delony, analyst for TransmissionHub, started her career as a B2B news editor in the local and long-distance telecommunications industries in the '90s. Jennifer began covering renewable energy issues at the local level in 2005 and covered U.S. and Canadian utility-scale wind energy as editor of North American Windpower magazine from 2006-2009. She also provides analysis for the oil and natural gas sectors as editor of Oilman Magazine.

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