Energy Storage: the industry’s roller coaster week of tragedy and victory

This week the energy storage industry received two polar opposite pieces of news. The first was the tragic loss of Brad Roberts--decades long volunteer Executive Director of the Electricity Storage Association who managed to hold an incredibly demanding position at S&C Electric, represent the national trade association, and embody one of the industry’s most ardent missionary and champion. Brad’s lovely wife Betty was always at Brad’s side at the energy storage conferences that I can only imagine would be less than exciting for a non-aficionado. I admired Brad for his tenacity, learned from his experience, and was fond of him as a person. I will miss him terribly.

While many of us were professionally and personally reeling from this news, the California Public Utility Commission unanimously approved a target of 1.3 gigawatts for advanced energy storage. Wow. Unanimous approval. 1.3 gigawatts—without pumped hydro. I wish Brad could have seen this. He, in fact, laid so much of the groundwork for this to occur.

The energy storage industry is just getting started, too. There are currently over 300 megawatts of advanced energy storage on line with many hundreds more in the queue. Large developers like AES Energy Storage, Duke and NextEra are taking bullish positions on storage and finding ways to prove out their value to grid operations. At the moment, only frequency regulation is compensated in the organized markets, but I envision frequency response, other ancillary services and capacity to gain steam for valuation by grid operators. With states like California taking the lead closely followed by Texas, New York, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and others, energy storage should start getting included on the “menu” of resource options that can help meet our need for a more resilient, efficient and cleaner grid.

So in raising a glass in celebration for the California decision, cheers to you, Brad.

Race to the Top: Who’s stuck at the bottom?

As a nation, we don’t like to admit that that we pick winners and losers. But we do—and, in most cases, for good reason. Some technologies or programs have a greater probability of success. Sometimes our national priorities change. Sometimes technology breakthroughs or new information comes to light that shift the focus.

If we believe the U.S. needs to significantly increase our investment in clean energy innovation and move the nation to a cleaner, more sustainable, and more prosperous future, I think we need some new thinking.

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Rebuild For the Next Sandy

Check out this blog on AOL Energy, too!

After hurricane Sandy ravaged the Atlantic shoreline, my 88-year-old mother-in-law sat in her New Jersey home, unwilling to leave her things, for over a week with no electricity. Another friend of mine spent that same week waiting in gas lines to refill a generator and keep his brother’s small business going. These two examples don’t even include the truly unfortunate folks who completely lost their homes and businesses; they just lost their electric power.

There has been quite a bit of buzz about whether the “smart grid” and associated technologies and applications actually helped in the Sandy recovery efforts. They may have but I think we can do better. Read more of this post

New Venture in Energy and Innovation

The blogger at Cleangridview and the entire team here at QGA Public Affairs today announced the creation of 38 North Solutions LLC, to launch in July 2012, which will focus on government relations, strategic communications, and public policy advocacy.

The group, previously part of QGA Public Affairs, will maintain a strategic partnership with QGA Chairman Jack Quinn and President John Feehery.

With decades of experience working in a range of fields – including the federal government, politics, utility, finance, and clean energy sectors – the team has been working together over the past two years to serve clients in the clean technology and innovation space. They have developed a robust practice by combining technology and business acumen with a keen understanding of Washington, D.C., policy and politics, resulting in significant legislative and strategic gains for clients.

“We are thrilled to launch 38 North Solutions – the shared latitude of Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay area – which represents our unique ability to connect public policy to one of the leading hubs of innovation,” said Von Bargen, former Chief of Staff to Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and a trusted policy advisor among Silicon Valley’s venture capital and entrepreneurial community.

“I encouraged Patrick and this exceptional team to form their own enterprise and I am greatly excited at the opportunities we will have to continue to collaborate in the clean tech space while enabling QGA to sharpen its focus on the traditional areas of our practice. This is a natural evolution for Patrick and his team as they delve deeper into the energy and innovation space. I look forward to our strategic partnership as 38 North establishes itself as the gold standard in this space,” said Quinn.

“We take a unique approach to our work by forming a partnership with our clients and building on their innovative strengths, to tell their story in a way that is understandable, comprehensive, and compelling to decision-makers,” said Hamilton, a current director at QGA Public Affairs, former President of the GridWise Alliance, and experienced technologist in the utility and renewable energy sectors.

Allyson Groff and Jeff Cramer of QGA Public Affairs will also serve as founding partners in the new venture. Groff is an experienced writer and public affairs consultant and former communications director and spokesperson for the House Natural Resources Committee. Cramer is a former clean energy and innovation industry analyst, and experienced political organizer on the local, state, and federal levels.

“I look forward to continuing to work closely with the team at 38 North as they start this new chapter. I am confident that their deep knowledge of the issues, entrepreneurial work ethic, and ability to work with Members and offices on both sides of the aisle will allow them to continue their success in this space,” said Feehery.

The team currently serves a variety of clean energy companies and trade associations from around the globe in the wind, solar, energy storage, recycling, bio-based chemical, electric vehicle, venture capital, and green building sectors.

Candlestick Park: An Iron Grid for the Gridiron?

Check out this entry on AOL Energy as well!

With the exception of a few teams (Red Sox, Phillies and Cubs come to mind) most baseball fans are fairly mild mannered. In my house, we spend many summer nights falling asleep to the drone of the announcers’ voices as the seventh, eighth, ninth innings come and go. Football fans, on the other hand, seem to be more physically passionate. Maybe it’s the roughness of the sport. Or perhaps it’s the speed and action. Or the inherent excitement in each play. All I know is, if the lights were to go out for a few seconds in a baseball game, most fans would simply wave up the row for the beer guy. The millions of 49ers and Steelers fans in San Francisco and around their TV sets when two outages occurred during Monday night football reacted a little differently. Read more of this post

In the Middle of the Debt Ceiling Negotiations: Can Energy Information for Consumers Help our Economy?

As I rode the metro into work the other day, I read a piece by George Packer in the New Yorker describing a family unable to make ends meet because they are underemployed, not qualifying for federal or state assistance yet unable to make a living wage with high skills required. Packer claimed that the 9.2 % unemployment rate is really something like 16.2% if one takes into consideration those who do not appear unemployed on paper but are certainly not making it financially. Washington, D.C., is a bit of a bubble in that regard; we have not seen as dramatically the economic toll that the rest of the country has suffered. As I thought about the millions of parents with college degrees who would go to part-time jobs that do not use their skills and then stay up online all night juggling bills and school supply costs, I stepped into a briefing in the cool, sparkling new Capitol Visitor’s Center. Read more of this post

Horton Hears a Woman in Energy: We are here! We are here!

Check out this blog at The Energy Collective as well!

The National Women’s Leadership Summit recently held its fourth summit in three years here in DC. I was once again astounded at how many women were in the room. As far as the eye could see were women—some young, some older, many nationalities and backgrounds—all connected to the energy industry.
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Ode to a Mentor: A Love of Power

In this, my first entry for CleanGridView, the Quinn Gillespie energy and environment blog, I thought it appropriate to talk about an ending as a beginning.

When people hear me talk about the electricity grid they assume I have a degree in engineering. I actually majored in English with the aspiration of writing and illustrating children’s books. I came to DC to find that my skills could only get me $6 an hour serving subpoenas for Arent Fox. In college I had spent a summer working for the Company, what my grandfather called Vepco, later Virginia Power and now Dominion. Read more of this post