How are microgrids helping to shape the future of the electric power sector? During today's OnPoint, Ed Krapels, founder and CEO of Anbaric, an energy infrastructure developer, discusses his company's recent partnership with Exelon on a series of microgrids in New York state. He also discusses the transmission and infrastructure challenges that exist with U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan.
Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Ed Krapels, founder and CEO of Anbaric, an energy infrastructure developer. Ed, it's nice to see you. Thanks for coming in.
Ed Krapels: Nice to see you, Monica.
Monica Trauzzi: Ed, you recently announced that you would be partnering with Exelon to create a series of microgrids in New York state. Why was your company uniquely qualified to partner with Exelon on this?
Ed Krapels: Well, we've been watching the microgrid space for a number of years now. We also developed transmission lines, and in a lot of jurisdictions people are asking why do I need to build this transmission line? Why can't we do distributed generation? So I thought it'd be good for us to understand both sides of the business, both the macro big transmission line issues and the microgrid issues. Technology is leading to some great enhancements in microgrids, and so we feel that we understand both the big and the small pieces of this, and we'd like to put them together.
Monica Trauzzi: So why is this microgrid project a good fit for New York?
Ed Krapels: New York's always been on the leading edge of innovation and the regulatory space. And New York's chairman of the Public Service Commission, Audrey Zibelman, has issued a new document called the REV, which is a renewed energy vision for the state of New York where she's trying to revolutionize and change how the distribution segment of the electric business operates. So, 20 years ago, we started to restructure the generation space and then the transmission space. Now New York is leading reform in the distribution arena.
Monica Trauzzi: How do you think microgrids are sort of shaking up the industry and the evolution of the electric power sector?
Ed Krapels: They take the bundle of values that is at the customer segment, right? All the transmission lines that go into each area, the distribution lines that go into each area, the assets that are behind that, both the generation and the distribution, and they kind of shake that up and say, "Is the way we've been doing it really the most efficient way." And I think in a lot of cases the answer is no, because technology is taking us into new areas and new directions where customers are more empowered, if you will, to interact with the grid than they have been in the past. And I think in New York they're going to get an opportunity to do that.
Monica Trauzzi: So you talked about transmission and infrastructure before. These are thought to be key pieces of the puzzle in terms of how to make EPA's Clean Power Plan work. But there seems to be less of a focus in the discussion on that element, and we don't hear that piece coming up as much. As we potentially start to see coal plants coming offline, how critical is that transmission infrastructure piece going to be, and what kinds of improvements do we need to see?
Ed Krapels: Very, very critical because as much as I like microgrids, I don't want folks to forget about the fact that what we really have to do as well as develop the distribution sector is we have to reshape the old grid for clean energy. And so from the standpoint of the end of depending on coal for so much of our electric supply, we're now gonna be relying more on wind and on hydro and on alternatives to coal. And when we do that, all of the transmission assumptions that we used in the past to connect coal to the market, we now have to basically rethink how do we connect clean energy to the markets, and that is going to require a lot of new transmission.
Monica Trauzzi: So talk a bit about high-voltage DC lines and the role that you think that they should play in U.S. infrastructure. We don't really see them a whole lot in the U.S.
Ed Krapels: We don't, and it's a shame because high-voltage DC is one way that you can move energy a long way with minimal losses. It has a lot of advantages from the standpoint of bringing clean energy to the market. So in my company, we have a couple of critical high-voltage DC projects that would bring wind, for example, from northern Maine hundreds of miles into southern New England. In the Midwest, there is a lot of wind that could be brought into the populated areas, and there are projects now beginning to be developed that will do that. HVDC is uniquely capable of doing that in an environmentally acceptable and sustainable way.
Monica Trauzzi: So how innovative do you think the industry can and should be in terms of new infrastructure?
Ed Krapels: The industry knows what's up, so people understand HVDC. Companies know what needs to be done. It's difficult to get state governments and utility commissions to understand that we can't stop investing in transmission; we have to continue to invest in transmission. So it's really more funding the next $20, $30 billion of transmission projects. That's what we need to do to bring clean energy into the market.
Monica Trauzzi: All right. We're going to end it right there. Thank you for coming on the show; nice to see you.
Ed Krapels: Thank you.
Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.
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