Guest Interview with Geoff Wyatt of Siemens

How long have you worked for Siemens?
I have worked for Siemens since 2010 when the company I was working for previously was acquired by Siemens.

What is your role at Siemens?
I am the Director of Demand Response Business Development for North America.

How long have you been involved in demand side activities?
About 12 years. I began my career working for a company that supported customer enrollment for a couple of large utility programs at Austin Energy. The city of Austin at that time was generally considered to be leading the Smart Grid industry. Within my first year I was being asked to support start-up projects for various new DR projects around the country (most of which still exist today). Eventually, I was transferred to New York to manage another large-scale DR deployment in the Northeast.

In 2007 I returned to Austin and joined a start-up that served the big-box retail market with web-based enterprise energy management solutions and services, including Demand Response. I joined Siemens in 2010 when they acquired that company, now referred to as Siemens Retail and Commercial Systems. In 2011 I was extremely excited to transition back into a utility-facing role and into an area of the business that is truly in an industry leadership position, focusing on building out more advanced software applications that allow utilities to deploy and manage DR resources more effectively.

What challenges have you faced as a DR professional within your organization and within the industry?
I think DR presents distinct challenges based on the type of related services being offered into the market (i.e. technology provider, aggregator etc.). In my current role, where I am responsible for providing utilities with DRMS technology, the challenge is sometimes around impacting the status quo. Often a utility sees their current program management systems and processes as sufficient. This may be true today, but may not be the case as they continue to embrace the smart grid in other areas of their business and want to obtain more benefit from DR by tying it into other utility processes. For example, traditionally managed DR programs lack the ability to target and respond to localized grid constraints, or react quickly enough to make a difference. Also, while DR resources should be a viable solution for real time balancing as more renewable resources are deployed, this application of DR will remain limited without significant integration and system enhancement. Obviously recognizing these challenges and being able to offer utilities a solution is very exciting indeed.

What changes have you seen in the industry as it relates to DR and EE over the last few years?
I think DR remains the ‘sexiest’ smart grid initiative, and as such, has attracted many new entrants into the market over the last few years, resulting in significant development in the customer facing technology that is now available. Secondly, due to smart meters and AMI networks combined with the high penetration of Wi-Fi amongst home owners, I think we are seeing advancement in two-way communications and technologies. In particular, smart metering also allows the same ‘post-event’ settlement calculations that were historically reserved for large C&I programs to be applied to residential customers, along with more advanced analytics on overall energy consumption. For the utility, this ability to measure and verify at the residential meter level greatly improves forecasting capabilities and system modeling, while creating flexibility in the types of rate tariffs that the utility can offer to customers. It will also eventually lead us the point where consumers can buy price responsive, grid-enabled devices at their local Home Depot or Lowes (rather than receiving them directly from the utility).

Another major area of impact in the market is low natural gas prices. While this has introduced new competition for DR to some degree, regulators are still very much in favor of expanding DR capacity across the US and many unregulated entities are starting to form their own strategies and business models around DR independently.

What do you expect to be the biggest challenge with implementing DR in the next decade?
I think that one major challenge is the amount of capacity that can ‘reliably’ be dispatched on short notice, as I feel this is still relatively limited. This will become more important as DR is applied to balance the volatility of renewables. To have 1,000 MWs of ‘dispatchable’ capacity, which requires a 30 minute lead time, is great for peak shaving - until 2,000 MWs of wind generation is lost in five minutes. Currently, the firm capacity of wind generation is in the region of 15%, essentially meaning that 15% is all you can rely on. That means that the other 85% of potential output requires backup from traditional generation sources. The economics of maintaining traditional generators for this purpose are not strong and may even require some form of subsidization in the future to remain viable. Despite continuing improvements, DR still needs to become much more integrated, widely deployed, and faster responding in order to truly become an effective balancing mechanism for wind and other renewable resources.

The other area in which a faster response will become more important is dispatching DR at the distribution level to reduce stress on network assets. In many markets, it is becoming increasingly difficult to build out new transmission and distribution infrastructure. Therefore, as load continues to grow and the T&D infrastructure is pushed to the limit, DR and distributed generation must be available on short notice.

What advice or guidance would you give to young professionals who are considering a career in demand response and smart grid?
First, you can learn something from literally every conversation and everyone you meet in this industry. Second, DR is not just remotely turning up a thermostat two degrees for a few hours in the summer “because it’s a hot day” anymore. It’s a complex business that touches every facet of not just the utility industry, which is complex in and of itself, but also the world of the energy consumer, which is equally vast and highly diversified in both type and motivation. The intersection of DR with other industries is where people will find the most creative solutions.

In summary, Smart Grid is very much a fast developing industry and while that often comes with confusion and uncertainty, it also offers limitless opportunity to those who are willing to put in the effort to learn and share ideas. There really isn’t a better industry to be in at the moment if you’re looking to build a career.

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