Guest Interview with Billy Berny of American Electric Power (AEP)

   How long have you worked at AEP?

   I spent 21 years with Central & Southwest Utilities, which was acquired by AEP in 2000. All
   told I have worked for 32 years for the two companies.

   What is your role at AEP?
   I manage all of the AEP Texas EE/DR programs, which includes developing all regulatory filings pertaining to program planning, implementation, tracking/reporting, and cost recovery. I also review and evaluate proposed legislation during the biennial Texas Legislature having to do with energy efficiency, small-scale DG such as solar and wind. My responsibilities also include involvement with emerging technologies that will likely impact and complement Smart Grid, such as IHDs, AMI deployment and distribution automation; and the coordination of all this with my peers across the AEP system. That alone encompasses 11 state regulatory jurisdictions, with all sorts of variations in market structure and industry organization issues that overlay each.

How long have you been involved in demand side activities?
Pretty much my whole career (with the exception of a couple of years in business operations and nuclear generation public information), beginning in the late '70's when we (the electric utility industry) promoted energy efficient new home construction and HVAC sizing assistance through programs such as the Gold/Silver/Bronze Medallion homes, and later through the Good Cents programs. That transitioned into my work on integrated resource planning (IRP), and for the past 12 years or so, development of programs that come out of industry deregulation and restructured markets, such as what we have in Texas.

What challenges have you faced as a DR professional within your organization and within the industry?
Well, first - reinventing my knowledge and skills to keep up with the pace of change. It is truly mind-boggling to have seen the types of advancement in technology, and the subsequent application of that technology - not only within the transmission, distribution and metering of electric energy, but also within the confines of our customers homes and businesses. The statement "It's not your father's Oldsmobile anymore" is very applicable to our business, and the cycles are growing shorter and shorter it seems. As for the challenges of DR - they are many, but the primary ones are communicating the multiple colors of DR that have been developed, and the kinship to energy efficiency.

AEP is a large, multi-state utility. How do AEP's efficiency and demand response efforts vary if at all from place to place, and what are the factors that lead to such?
They do vary quite widely, as I mentioned earlier. One of the driving factors for these EE/DR program variations is the different policymaker expectations that exist in each AEP jurisdiction - new and different laws and regulatory requirements influence program design criteria, cost-effectiveness benchmarks, cost recovery limitations, and so on. And then there are different customer needs - some of our Operating Utilities have extremely high manufacturing and large industrial loads, while others primarily serve residential and small commercial customer accounts. We have extreme variation in metropolitan and rural service areas, flat and mountainous topography, weather zones and climate differences (cold Michigan to semi-tropical South Texas) which certainly require different program offerings as well. We are proof that "one size does not fit all"!

AEP has a large operation in Texas, a state that has been on front on opening up its market but also pursuing large amounts of renewables and DR. What is happening in Texas that you think would be interesting to DR and SG professionals elsewhere in the country?
Well, the first thing is that we recently surpassed 225,000 advanced "Smart" meter installations in our AEP Texas service area. Our AMI Manager, Jeff Stracener and his team have done an admirable job in managing the deployment of AMI to our nearly 1 million customers in a coordinated and efficient manner since beginning the project in late 2009. The availability of AMI, coupled with the Smart Meter Texas web portal, now allows customers with AMI to visually/graphically see their electric energy use in 15-minute intervals. We are working hard to determine how technology interfaces will enable greater DR opportunities at all customer levels (including residential) through our AMI deployment efforts. We also have recently convened a statewide taskforce to study and develop readiness strategies for electric vehicles (EV), and to figure out all the ramifications of this new technology on our distribution planning processes, with an eye on reliability and safety.

What changes have you seen in the industry as it relates to DR and EE over the last few years?
I'm not sure when the term 'demand response' began to be used - we used to call it various names, like load management, energy management, load control. 'Energy Efficiency' has pretty much replaced 'demand-side management' or DSM as a more defined effort focused on equipment and end-use efficiency gains, and I think it is more appropriately used that way. DSM is such a broad term, and more people - including policymakers and consumers - have begun to understand that it encompasses a whole host of activities, including conservation, EE, demand response, even energy education and DG through the application of higher technology. I believe the industry has begun to make a greater effort to help people understand EE and DR, through school programs, community projects and demonstration events - all of which will enable customers to take action in their homes and business facilities.

What do you expect to be the biggest challenge with implementing DR in the next decade?
Just keeping up with the 'demand' for participation - at all levels. I expect residential customers to begin asking for DR programs from utilities and service providers in the next few years, to give them greater control and flexibility of their use of electric energy. That and, staying abreast of technology development, which will drive innovation in the delivery of services to customers. Those will be adequate challenges for me!

What advice or guidance would you give to young professionals who are considering a career in demand response and smart grid?
If you have an interest in making a difference in the energy industry, learn as much as you can about the whole spectrum of DSM and how the electric grid is becoming more advanced. Be willing to talk to customers of all shapes and sizes, and learn from their experiences. And hang on!

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