• Energy Efficiency
  • Demand Response
  • National Grid

Conference Covers Hot Topics in Electric and Natural Gas Transformation

Brett Feldman
Apr 05, 2019

Utilities Sector 3

I recently attended the Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) East conference in Boston, Massachusetts. It is an annual event where the leaders in energy efficiency and distributed generation technologies convene—and Massachusetts gets to showcase its nation-leading policies to encourage developments.

Notable People and Topics

Judith Judson, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, kicked-off the event by highlighting the state’s current status as No. 1 in the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. She also discussed some of the new initiatives that are part of the 3-year utility energy efficiency plans. Expanded demand response (DR) programs, inclusion of energy storage, and fuel switching incentives for moving from oil heat to air source heat pumps are big parts of the plan.

Carlos Nouel, vice president at National Grid, followed up on Judson’s points and spoke to National Grid’s 80x50 initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The three key themes are fuel switching to heat pumps, ramping-up renewable electricity deployment to achieve 67% zero-carbon electricity supply, and reaching more than 10 million EVs on Northeast roads (roughly 50% of all vehicles). He also touched upon enhancements that could be made to the natural gas infrastructure through non-pipes solutions.

Session Takeaways

My personal involvement included moderating a panel on the intersection of the electric and gas sectors and the emergence of gas DR programs. Ed Regan, from Strategic Utility Management, started the panel by laying the groundwork of energy rate design and price formation, so the audience could understand how distributed energy resources are disrupting the traditional grid and pipeline infrastructure. Next, Steve Lafaille, from Tecogen, explained how gas-fired cogeneration and chillers can reduce electric demand charges for commercial and industrial customers. Then we transitioned to the gas side, with Kurt Roth, from the Fraunhofer USA Center for Sustainable Energy Systems CSE. He outlined the gas DR programs that are working with National Grid in New York and Massachusetts. Finally, Andrew Nih, from Southern California Gas Company, provided lessons learned from its 2 years of gas DR experience and new initiatives to advance programs in the future.

Another interesting session was the Council on Women in Energy and Environmental Leadership's breakfast where Penni Conner, chief customer officer at Eversource, gave an inspirational presentation on change management within a utility and earning badges of leadership for career advancement. A diverse set of people, perspectives, and women are needed in the field more than ever.