In conversation with CleanTech News, Julia Hamm, CEO of Smart Electric Power Alliance, discusses the transition to renewable energy in the USA utility industry.
SEPA aiding utilities in the USA transition to clean energy
Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), is a USA based, non-profit organisation, focused on helping electric power stakeholders’ transition to clean energy to reach the goal of making the USA energy system carbon free by 2050.
SEPA, provides utilities and electricity consumers with education, research, standards, and collaboration in four pathways: Transportation Electrification, Grid Integration, Regulatory Innovation and Utility Business Models.
Julia Hamm, President and CEO of Smart Electric Power Alliance, said:
Utilities are key to the energy system of the future, even as business as usual changes for the energy industry. Utilities can act as integrators and accelerants for carbon reduction and other service models through actively embracing new technologies and partners while continuing to serve as trusted partners to their customers and local communities.”
SEPA addresses pressing issue of resiliency in the utility sector
According to a white paper from the USA Federal Government Energy Department, resilience in the utility industry is defined as: “the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions.”
Even though, some utilities in the USA own and operate microgrids, which ensure a power supply to vulnerable customers and areas during power outages, the USA faces many natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes, making resiliency the most pressing issue not just for utilities across the USA, but also policymakers, regulators, and community leaders, have become increasingly focused on this issue.
The company’s Utility Business Model stands out as this pathway to renewable energy encourages collaboration and addresses resiliency in the American utility industry as it transitions to renewable energy. Hamm, said:
SEPA uniquely brings together all stakeholders to collaboratively work towards a shared objective of a clean and modern grid. Diverse in business models and approaches, SEPA’s members are electric utilities, technology companies and other solution providers, government agencies and regulators, and other energy industry stakeholders.”
SEPA’s recent resiliency projects
SEPA is actively working across the USA utility industry on resiliency solutions. Hamm revealed to CleanTech News, the most recent work of SEPA in this area includes, a collaboration with the U.S.A Department of Energy, on a project called, Voices of Experience – Microgrids for Resiliency. This project involved SEPA and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) bringing together utility professionals-engineers, executives, and planners, from across the USA, in peer to peer discussions and workshops.
The company is currently starting resiliency projects in the USA states of Maryland and Kentucky. The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA), as part of the inaugural Resilient Maryland programme, selected SEPA to implement a year-long stakeholder engagement process, and a feasibility study for a microgrid supporting the Newtowne Twenty multifamily housing complex in the City of Annapolis. SEPA will develop a preliminary microgrid design model analysis and associated scenario cost estimates, which will inform an engineering analysis from Baltimore Gas & Electric and a societal benefit analysis from Gabel & Associates.
Recently, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, part of the U.S.A Department of Energy State Energy Programme (SEO) awarded SEPA a grant to conduct a Regional Microgrid Study. Hamm, said: “The study aims to identify the potential of microgrids to provide added resilience across Kentucky. The outcome of this study aims to spur private-sector investment and future development.”
Could Non-Wires Alternatives (NWA) be the future of USA utilities?
The USA energy sector is starting to look at non-wires alternatives (NWAs) as an option and a step away from building traditional transmission and distribution infrastructures, such as power plants.
Hamm said, “The large-scale deployment and increasing cost-effectiveness of distributed energy resources (DERs) is fueling interest in NWAs. For many utilities and third parties, NWAs are proving to be the testing ground for new technologies, programs, and methods. However, these projects challenge traditional utility business models and shed light on the legislative, regulatory, and customer experience barriers that need to be addressed before NWAs can become more mainstream.”
What can businesses be doing now to reach the goal of net zero carbon?
There are many things businesses can be doing now to make progress towards reaching carbon reduction targets. They can make energy efficiency investments in their facilities, transition their vehicle fleets to electric vehicles, and work with their utility and/or solution providers to procure clean energy. Large companies can take things a step further by influencing their employees and supply chain to take similar actions.”Hamm said
Leadership is key in the transition to renewable energy and the work of SEPA serves as an inspiration for others to follow.