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Energy Evolution: Leadership, Vision and Synergies from 1990 to Present

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Richard Brooks's picture
Co-Founder and Lead Software Engineer Reliable Energy Analytics LLC

Inventor of patent pending technology: METHODS FOR VERIFICATION OF SOFTWARE OBJECT AUTHENTICITY AND INTEGRITY and the Software Assurance Guardian™ (SAG ™) Point Man™ (SAG-PM™) software and...

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  • May 5, 2019 6:35 pm GMT
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I began working within the Electric industry in 1990 as a software consultant for Digital Equipment Corp, assigned to Southern Company, to work on Southern’s EMS 2000 project. I was new to the electric industry and knew nothing about electricity operations. I was totally green, but I worked with some patient, knowledgeable leaders, both technical and executive in Southern Company, mostly Alabama Power, Georgia Power and Southern Company Services, who were willing to educate me, and I am forever grateful to these people. Over the years I’ve watched deregulation in both the Natural Gas and Electric Industries evolve and mature, and I think of the wise leaders who led us through those trying times; Regulators with firm resolve to make deregulation work as expected, Industry Executives who had to lead, provide vision and long-term commitment and technical people, like myself, who were tasked with implementation and some “new comers”, i.e. Energy Suppliers and Aggregators that represented a disruption to the status-quo. These were trying times, but the industry leaders, regulators and “new comers” were all willing to work together, along with other stakeholders, to reach a consensus-based solution that the new and old players could live with, and regulators deemed acceptable steps in the “right direction” for deregulation.

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I’ve watched and learned from wise, industry leaders in various Standards bodies, most notably NAESB, in what it means to collaborate, negotiate, persuade and be persuaded in the quest for a consensus solution. I’ve also been tasked by industry executives to work within these standards bodies to ensure that the Company’s interests are being properly represented and that whatever negotiations take place in reaching a consensus solution are both acceptable, from a business standpoint, and technically implementable (practical, realistic, measurably successful). My role was to serve as a “solution/standards designer”, negotiator, collaborator and consensus builder in the standards body committee meetings and, ultimately, implementer of these solutions/standards for the Companies I represented, as these standards became regulations, usually under FERC or a State Utility Commission.

I can say, with complete confidence, that I had the benefit of committed, wise, insightful and inspirational leaders from 1990, right up until my early retirement from ISO New England on 11/1/2018 providing me insightful, and in many cases inspirational leadership and vision and that enabled me to successfully perform my role. I will be forever grateful to these leaders for their trust in me and their guidance/support. In my opinion, success was impossible without these leaders, taking the reins.

But I really wonder about the present energy evolution; Do we have the kind of committed leadership across the stakeholder community that’s needed to guide, lead and navigate the changes that are happening all around us? There seems to be a lack of cohesion in what the future, or even the next step, looks like. Grassroots movements from energy consumers are changing the electric supply from a top-down system into a distributed system, each and every day that passes. I remember the disruption that occurred when distributed PC’s were introduced into Companies in the 1980’s and centralized mainframes were being challenged; a situation similar to today’s changes in the energy industry. Traditional industry players are being challenged to change their modus-operandi by State energy programs that aim for 100% renewable energy in this century and Green Energy buyers that have altered the way capacity and power is secured over the long term. The electricity supply chain has been forever altered. Debates over carbon-taxes, fuel security subsidies and the call to retire renewable energy incentives/subsidies are just a few of the ongoing debates that could benefit from a cohesive and clear direction from leadership, wherever that comes from, top-down regulators/industry leaders or bottom-up from the Grassroots efforts. The one item that everyone seems to agree on is the absolute requirement for Reliable Electricity Supply now and in the future. I honestly don’t have faith that “chaos theory” will produce the kind of outcome we’ll all be happy to live with and I believe a more collaborative, orderly, synergistic approach involving all stakeholders would likely produce a more acceptable outcome for all.

I’m a technical designer and implementer of industry standards/solutions and I genuinely want to invest my time and talents in efforts that will produce successful results. I would find it beneficial to see clear direction and commitment from leaders across the stakeholder community willing to take the reins and led on. I sense there may be other “technical types”, like me, looking for direction and leadership. I cannot, in good conscience, put my faith in “chaos theory” to produce a practical and prudent outcome from the energy evolution. We could start the process with the one thing we all agree with “Reliable Electricity Supply” to reach a consensus solution and then take on some of the stickier issues as we progress.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 6, 2019

But I really wonder about the present energy evolution; Do we have the kind of committed leadership across the stakeholder community that’s needed to guide, lead and navigate the changes that are happening all around us? There seems to be a lack of cohesion in what the future, or even the next step, looks like. 

I definitely agree with this-- there seem to be a wide range of personal stakeholder interests creating a push/pull across the industry and adding friction to the inevitable process of utilities evolving to address current and future power needs that look very different from the needs of the past (in terms of size/time of demand, technologies available, environmental concerns, changing fuel prices, and much more). I'm not sure that push-pull will completely go away, but addressing it openly (as you're doing here) is certainly a first step. 

Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on May 6, 2019

Totally agree, Matt. We really could use a rational approach across the stakeholder base to ensure that everyone is working to maintain a reliable electricity supply and that could be the rallying force that focuses all parties on what truly matters, while we all adapt to the realities occurring all around.

Rich Dzikowski's picture
Rich Dzikowski on May 13, 2019

When it comes to reliable power supply, sometimes I wonder why there are power grids in the United States that date back to the Edison era. Wouldn't it be time to switch to newer grids instead of constantly maintaining these inefficient systems?

Stuart McCafferty's picture
Stuart McCafferty on Sep 23, 2019

I couldn't agree more.  In today's world, it takes a lot of guts to be the whack-a-mole that sticks his head up out of the hole.  Someone's going to whack you for sure.  Imagine what some of those leaders you talked about would experience today - 24/7 news media, social media, and parts of society looking for something to be offended about.  It's different now, and I do believe we need something (climate change) to unite us as a people, to follow good leaders, and to be proud again.  Nice job, Dick.

Stu

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 23, 2019

Look no further than how opponents of the Green New Deal have treated it, twisting it into claims that these are just people who want to take away your hamburgers and airplanes. Obviously, we live in an unfortunately sludge-filled time when it comes to politics and disagreements, but like you said that's why it takes strong leaders to know such attacks are coming and weather the storm for the movements they know are right!

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