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Whatever You Do, Get Wisdom

Sept. 21, 2018
It is more important that we grasp where the grid is going

Back in the day, my mentor Hollis Reese invested a lot of time and effort in me. I had a tendency to downplay any accomplishments I might have achieved at the Georgia Power Research Center. Hollis, the lab manger, took me aside and said, “Rick, it is your job to let everyone know that you are proud of what you do and that you do it well.” Good advice, even though promoting myself made me uncomfortable. A little later, Hollis followed up with this comment, “Rick there is more than one way to make a living. You might want to focus as much on what you know and who you know as on what you do.”

I took this comment to heart. At that time my focus had been in underground and I began looking into initiatives in substations and overhead lines. I moved into management to see if I could make a bigger impact in the industry. I got involved in EPRI-funded research and developed a lot of industry contacts. This increased exposure ultimately led me here to T&D World where I get to track down and share best practices with you.

I now put a lot of stock on keeping up with what is going on in the industry. Those of us who have been in the business a while can’t afford go get complacent. Just because we’ve seen a lot and done a lot, doesn’t mean we aren’t being held back by our own limiting paradigms.

Managers and executives coming into the energy space face an even steeper learning curve. At the same time, the industry benefits as they apply what they learned in other industries. They also see the energy industry with new eyes. It is not enough for our managers and executives to grasp the business as it functions today; they must also catch the trends and align their companies to meet what is shaping up to be a chaotic future. I have a somewhat unique job in that I get to spend a lot of my time digging up what is going on and sharing it with you. But as we all know, there is a lot of hype out there that we get to shift through.

T&D Executive Insights Board

To provide you access to some of the best minds in the industry, we asked our thought leaders to serve on our Executives Insights Board. This is really fun for me because of all the incredibly bright people who are willing to share their thoughts and opinions. One of our board members, Mani Vadari, stands out - both for his insights and also for his prodigious output. Mani keeps me on my toes.

And now Mani has compiled his thoughts, insights and experiences into a book, Smart Grid Redefined, Transformation of the Electric Utility. Thanks Mani for undertaking this effort for all of us. This is a great read because it is relevant, timely – and most important – it is written for those of us who are active in the industry but who are having trouble figuring out how all the pieces fit together. Mani takes a holistic look at the energy business.

As you know, over the past decade just about every vendor in our space decided to put smart in the front of the description of their offerings. And we saw a proliferation of smart grid newsletters pop up.

Defining Terms

Now that most of the hype has dissipated, we can revisit the term. Here is Mani’s definition:
Smart Grid – a modernized electrical grid, a reliable and secure T&D infrastructure that can meet demand growth in the future while intelligently responding to the behavior and actions of all the electric power users connected to it, delivering power in a reliable, efficient, economic and sustainable manner.

Because the grid is continuously adapting to rapidly changing requirements, it is more important that we grasp where the grid is going than review how we got to today’s grid. Mani shares the critical components that make up the evolving grid. He also shares insights into the value of distribution automation and follows with chapters devoted to distributed energy resources and energy storage. Vadari provides us with the challenge of the decade, to integrate supply and to address demand diversity. Not easy tasks, but tasks that are surmountable with the many digital tools at our disposal. Of course, as our grid gets smarter, the same is true for our homes and businesses. This enables a truly electric utility transformation and a springboard to smart community. Mani believes we need to become full-time partners in the effort to build out our complex and integrated communities.

I am wiser having read and agitated and mulled over Mani’s book. I have ditched perspectives that were holding me back and gained insights that are propelling me forward. Thanks Mani.

Editor’s note: Mani Vadari has worked with a number of management consulting firms and now runs Modern Grid Solutions, while also serving as an affiliate professor at the University of Washington. Mani is also a technical consultant to New York State Smart Grid Consortium where he participates in an architecture role in the core REV team. He can be reached at [email protected].

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