Longtime EnerNex employee Sandy Smith retired from EnerNex after 19 years with the company. Previously, he worked for Electrotek Concepts and SAIC. He served as a project manager for organizations such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory, EPRI, and the Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG). He also supported marketing and business development efforts at EnerNex.
EnerNex’s Carrie Owens sat down for an exit interview with Sandy before his formal retirement.
Q What were the major developments in the electric power industry when you got into the business?
In 1995-1996, the California power industry started to restructure which led to the power crisis. This was partly due to poor understanding and design of deregulated electricity markets and manipulation of the market by bad actors.
Q What were some of the key industry developments that you saw during your time at EnerNex?
The Northeast blackout of 2003 got the attention of the entire nation. It led to the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which established the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) as the organization responsible for assessing the ability of the bulk electric grid to meet current and projected power demand. The organization was also charged with the task of developing standards to help ensure that reliability. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was empowered to enforce those standards as well as given expanded authority to regulate electric power markets.
At roughly the same time, the industry began R&D and engineering initiatives to improve grid reliability and lay out a concept for the grid of the future. At its founding back in 2003, EnerNex was involved in the EPRI IntelliGrid initiative, an effort to lay out an architecture for a self-healing, reliable grid. I worked with EnerNex co-founders Jeff Lamoree and Erich Gunther on this project, and it led to a number of other related activities through the years. This included the Modern Grid Initiative, the GridWise Architecture Council, and the NIST Smart Grid Interoperability Panel. EnerNex staff, under the leadership of Erich, participated in a number of these efforts.
The other key area of focus for EnerNex over the years has been work on the interconnection, integration, and operation of wind and solar generation on the grid. I started working on this back at Electrotek when I begam to support the Utility Wind Interest Group, which eventually became the Energy Systems Integration Group. EnerNex co-founder Bob Zavadil was involved in wind turbine interconnection and integration work pre-EnerNex and he helped advance the state of the art in those areas. At UWIG/ESIG, I did a lot of work with Executive Director Charlie Smith in engaging the electric power industry regarding how renewables work and how they can operate on the grid.
Q What do you see as the biggest challenges for the electric power industry moving forward?
I think the increasing role of wind, solar, and storage on the grid is going to be something that utilities, asset owners, and the rest of the industry will continue to address. Movement to a strategic focus on this will be critical for this expansion and ensuring grid reliability.
Customers are going to play an increasing role in the performance of the grid. Demand Side Management and Demand Response were the first steps in this area, but more people are owning generation and storage and that can play a role as well. I do want to stress the need for good strategy because I have seen a lot of misapplication of technologies for the sake of putting in something new. I do think this is an exciting time to work in the industry and there is plenty of work to do.
Q What are your plans for the future?
I am retiring to focus on some health issues and other personal items. I won’t rule out a return to working in the industry or volunteering in stuff that interests me. I stink at golf. I do love to cook and plan on doing some food tourism, as well as working my way through my collection of cookbooks.