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Welcome Peter Asmus, New Expert in the Utility Management Community- [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Expert Interview]

Posted to Energy Central in the Utility Management Group
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Energy Analyst Chester Energy and Policy

Official Energy Central Community Manager of Generation and Energy Management Networks. Matt is an energy analyst in Orlando FL (by way of Washington DC) working as an independent energy...

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  • Apr 27, 2022
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The energy industry of today looks like but a shadow of what it was in decades past, with even some notable changes in just recent memory as well. As we prepare to take on the utility industry of tomorrow and what that evolved sector is going to look like, one of the best actions we can take is to slow down and make sure we learn about how we got from there to here, heed the lessons learned, and reflect on how this recent evolution will inform the coming changes of tomorrow.

That fast-moving nature of the energy industry is part of why we covet the Energy Central Network of Experts so much, as they are best able to provide the expert voice that can fill in the gaps and make sure we’re looking at the whole scope of the energy industry. Recently, we were fortunate enough to add Peter Asmus, Director of Strategic Marketing at Autogrid, to that Network of Experts and be able to tap into his wide-ranging expertise on a deep set of topics informed by many years being a leader in this space.

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As we welcomed him as an expert in our Utility Management Community, I caught up with him for a quick discussion to start to peel away some of those lessons that I think our community of utility professionals would best benefit from as a part of our Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’’

Keep reading to learn more!

 

Matt Chester: Peter, we’re excited to welcome you as our latest expert in the Energy Central community. To give our community members some background, can you share what your role in the industry is today as well as how you got involved with the utility sector?

Peter Asmus: My role today revolves around being a thought leader on emerging trends, technologies and business models related to the energy transition to more sustainable and resilient energy systems. I fell into energy quite by accident over 30 years ago, writing for trade publications for utility leaders. That work led to the writing of several books, including Reinventing Electric Utilities, which came out in the late ‘90s and which chronicled the journey of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District into a leader on innovation, shifting from centralized to a more distributed energy resource portfolio. I then served as an independent consultant for many years with clients ranging from the California Energy Commission to trade groups such as the Independent Energy Producers and the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies.

For the last twelve years, I worked for Guidehouse Insights (formerly Navigant Research) heading up the research program and forecasts for microgrids and virtual power plants (VPPs).

Recently, I took on new positions. I now direct strategic marketing for AutoGrid, a leading VPP and DERMS provider, and am also adjunct faculty at the University of Alaska's Center for Energy and Power. Both new positions allow me to deepen my relationships with utilities as they seek solutions to sustainability and resiliency challenges.

 

MC: In your extensive experience in the world of energy, you’ve seen a period of great transformation. What change have you seen that most surprised you? Any changes you expected to see but ended up not coming to fruition?

PA: Some of the biggest changes I did not expect is the growth in scale of wind turbines - now as large as 15 MW! I wrote a book about the birth of the modern wind industry (Reaping the Wind) back in 2001 and I remember then how conventional wisdom was that we could not go above 10% reliance upon variable wind power and a 1 MW machine was considered large. I am surprised how mainstream wind power has become.

More recently, the re-emergence of hydrogen as a storage medium is also a bit of a surprise since there was a hype cycle decades ago and it seemed as if its time had come and gone. In terms of what has not happened, I guess I would say that many of my own priorities in terms of sustainable energy are now actually happening - but I was a bit of an optimist, so expected that DER platforms such as microgrids would have become more mainstream by now. Utilities are now exploring new approaches to microgrids, including direct current (DC) offerings, creative approaches to rate-basing and embracing non-wire alternatives.

 

MC: From looking backwards to looking forward, what has you most excited and eager for the next 5-10 years in this space? Are there any under-discussed technologies or strategies that you think are going to be gamechangers?

PA: I think the orchestration of DER fleets is really a promising way to squeeze more value out of assets owned by multiple parties, but which can be orchestrated to provide shared value. It is no longer about grid deflection, but rather figuring out how customers can have more resilient power supplies while also contributing to the overall reliability of the grid. In terms of game changers, I think forms of ocean energy are key. We can’t do it all with wind and solar. We have to start thinking outside of the box. Wave and tidal power - which I wrote about over a decade ago - will need to be a part of any viable net zero carbon agenda.

The other trend that applies to DER aggregations is the emergence of energy-as-as-service, which is essentially applying the utility business model to third-party microgrids. A similar model spurred on rooftop solar PV. It's a great concept, but the jury is still out as to how much it can accelerate adoption of clean energy technologies.

MC: What advice would you give to someone at the early stage of their career?

PA: I always say don't follow my career path, as it was a bit random. I guess you could say it was opportunistic. The advantage today is that we are much closer to a consensus that we need to respond to climate change - and that it will not necessarily be a burden. There are so many ways to solve the climate disruption crisis. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but instead learn from the diversity of innovation happening all over the globe. Follow your passion, whether you want to join a large corporation or venture out as an entrepreneur. Each will be needed to bring viable solutions to the market. Reinvent electric utilities, as I preached decades ago. 

 

MC: Why did you feel compelled to get more involved in the Energy Central Community? And what value do you hope to bring to your peers on the platform?  

PA: I wrote for Energy Central literally decades ago so it's great to see that it is still around. It has clearly evolved, as has the electric utility industry. As I wind down my career I'm looking for new ways to stimulate change and innovation. I feel excited to be working on both ends of the DER solution spectrum.

On one hand, I am spending my time figuring out how artificial intelligence and digital platforms can transform assets once viewed as problems into solutions. This is Silicon Valley at its finest. On the other hand, I am working with utilities in Alaska who have shifted to more sustainable energy solutions not because of government mandates but because of economic necessity. These pioneers face life and death situations with the largest portfolio of microgrids in the U.S. They can teach other utilities what does and does not work.

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Thanks to Peter Asmus for joining me for this interview and for providing a wealth of insights an expertise to the Energy Central Community. You can trust that Peter will be available for you to reach out and connect, ask questions, and more as an Energy Central member, so be sure to make him feel welcome when you see her across the platform.

The other expert interviews that we’ve completed in this series can be read here, and if you are interested in becoming an expert then you can reach out to me or you can apply here.

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