T&D World Magazine

Paul Molitor: Smart Grid Monitor

On behalf of the 450 member companies of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, Paul Molitor is responsible for monitoring the national smart grid effort and interfacing with electric utilities, manufacturers, federal agencies, and the U.S. Congress. He is assistant vice president of smart grid and special projects at NEMA, and he said the best part of his job is seeing the entrepreneurial opportunities of the smart grid effort.

“New businesses are being created on a daily basis, and at the same time new lines of business are being developed inside of the utility companies,” Molitor said. “The entire landscape of the companies associated with the electrical supply chain is changing.”

As the industry director for smart grid at NEMA, Molitor knows the market is changing so rapidly, we need to quickly “acquire, absorb and synthesize the information and then convey the important parts and implications to either NEMA’s member companies or to a state or federal legislator or regulator,” he said.

Molitor will be presenting the Economics and the Smart Grid track on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at Gridweek, in Washington, D.C. The track will examine economic trends and attempt to determine how these influences will come into play and their possible manifestations in energy policy. One of the great determining factors in the future of energy is what economists call the “invisible hand” of the market. As we compete for resources that will become increasingly scarce, the forces of supply and demand, competition, and self-interest will play out among utility companies, manufacturers, and consumers.

“This track at Gridweek is about the way forward for the energy industry when viewed from the economic, environmental, and policy perspectives,” Molitor said. “If you take a look at the way the industry has changed relative to these three topics since the implementation of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, you realize that it is very important that we try to anticipate how they will interact to influence the future of the way we do business on the grid.”

Molitor’s diverse background helps him to apply different concepts to the electric grid. His career path was more of an evolutionary process than a conscious choice, he said. He was an education major at one point in college and a platform instructor in the military.

“In the mid-1970s we had a teletype-style computer terminal that was connected to the mainframe at a local college in the next town. This early contact fed an interest in computers, which led to a career in networking, communications, and eventually artificial intelligence systems,” Molitor said.

He has used his experience and position to education the industry on the smart grid. He has been a presenter at a variety of national and international industry forums -- everything from single-company meetings to industry events such as Gridweek and Grid-Interop, guest lecturers at two local colleges, and two national appearances on the Fox News Channel.

“The global scope of the smart grid really hit me at the CANENA conference in Costa Rica last year when my remarks were simultaneously translated into Spanish, Portuguese, and French,” he said.

Molitor said the most important thing to communicate is that people should get involved. “I was at leadership event where one of the speakers emphasized two points about changing the world around you: if not you, who?; and if not now, when? His point was that you shouldn’t just sit back and be an observer of the process, you need to strive to be part of the process.”

The grid isn’t the only thing that is transitioning. Molitor has been transitioning from marathon runner to bicycling fanatic. “When the weather’s nice, there’s nothing like the hum of your tires over the road, the wind on your face, and the fellowship with the other riders – though I’m not a big fan of the shorts,” he said.

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