Guest Interview with Tony Abate of NYSERDA

How long have you worked at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)?
I have worked at NYSEDA for five years.

What is your role at NYSERDA?
I manage a portfolio of R&D projects in New York focused on demand response, smart buildings and smart grid integration of demand side resources. NYSERDA is looking for ways that customers can be more energy efficient, and reduce their bills and their impact on the grid by controlling their electrical loads.

How are you involved in demand side activities?
At NYSERDA, I am exclusively focused on the demand side. In the 1990’s, when I was working for an independent power producer, I first realized the value of customers’ demand response from peak shaving. NYSERDA has been providing incentives for participation in demand response programs in New York State and supporting demand response research for over ten years. Today we are actively looking at how automation can enable smarter building operations where demand response is the norm for commercial buildings.

What challenges have you faced as a DR professional within your organization and within the industry?
Demand response is often narrowly defined as turning stuff off at peak. But DR as it is envisioned in a ‘smarter’ grid offers more robust interaction between customer and the entities that make up the grid, such as responding to prices, balancing supply and demand, and better managing reliability of the distribution system. The value that smart customers and smart buildings bring to grid operations and markets, both economic and sustainability, is not well understood compared to energy efficiency measures.

What changes have you seen in the industry as it relates to DR and energy efficiency (EE) over the last few years?
It has been exciting to see the industry embrace the role of building system automation and smart grid standards like OpenADR. From this foundation, smart buildings and the grid can benefit from price response, energy information systems, energy efficient operations, peak load reduction and even fast or dispatchable forms of demand response.

What do you expect to be the biggest challenge with implementing DR in the next decade?
DR for consumers has to be easier and cheaper to deploy, but at the same time measureable enough for planning and costing purposes. Though the ‘laminated DR instruction cards’ facility managers used during DR events may not go away, I believe that the ability to cost-effectively automate how commercial buildings curtail loads, especially for price response, will be key.

What advice or guidance would you give to young professionals who are considering a career in demand response and smart grid?
Some envision that a sustainable grid will be better at matching our electrical consumption to when renewable power is available. More closely connecting electricity supply and demand is at the core of demand response. DR technology may have many similarities to the ‘internet of things’, but the evolution of DR and our electrical grid has not evolved say as quickly as the internet. Although this evolution is beginning to speed up, you should realize it may not end up looking like what you imagine when you first enter the field.

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