Patricia Hoffman, assistant secretary for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability at the Department of Energy (DOE), gave the opening remarks for Wednesday's session at the National Town Meeting on Demand Response and Smart Grid in Washington, D.C. Hoffman spoke about the importance of collaboration and how utilities, operators, regulators and the government need to work together to meet consumer expectations and provide a reliable electricity system for years to come.
Here are some key quotes from her speech:
On lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy:
"One of the things we learned from Hurricane Sandy is [customers] wanted critical services up faster. They wanted progress. They didn’t want power to be out for long periods of time. So, was there a way to provide more power to critical services? And I mean more than just the fire stations and the hospitals but, really, telecom—[customers] wanted to be able to charge their phones. [The] hard lesson learned during Hurricane Sandy was how do we continue to evolve and meet customer expectations."
On the future of demand response:
"How can we get more predictive in nature? What we want to do is really take a harder look at flexibility of the system and optimization. And I know people use those terms as a very generic term in wanting to provide flexibility, but we’re going to continue to add renewable and variable generation to the system [and] customers are going to continue engage.
I keep looking at my son with all the apps that he keeps downloading on his phone—and, trust me, he has a lot of them. So, sooner or later, as you look at your iPads and stuff, we’re going to have a lot of integration of services. The industry itself has to keep pace with where the value of those services are coming [and] what kind of services they’re going to provide to customers. That is the focus—how can we continue to improve service to customers?
Where I want to go—as we look at the future—is really going to be a discussion around what is the use of the system, and what [are] the expectations of customers, utility regulators, the federal government, the state government, and how do we actually pull together those discussions? So, how do you want to optimize your system? How are we going to drive and look at the cost effectiveness? What does optimization mean? Is it how reliable do we want the system? What is the level of lines of reliability? We can do a lot in that area, but that dialogue has to occur with respect to expectations."
On what will make investments in technology and infrastructure cost-effective:
"I think data is the key. As we go forward, as we look at the tools we’re developing, the smart grid technology that’s being put on the grid, it will allow us to unlock the data, be able to show, verify and compare what are some of the different solutions we should look at, how we should optimize, how we should balance differing requirements and how we look at cost-effectiveness in our discussion with customers. I think it’s really important that we continue to pull that together."
On Secretary Moniz's vision for the future:
"Where is Dr. Moniz going? He’s pushing me to take a hard look at how do we improve our emergency response activities—how do we do better for next time so that when the next hurricane comes around, what are some of the lessons learned? How can we continue to improve the resilience of our infrastructure? What infrastructure do we need to invest in? How do we look at some tools and capabilities? But, also, how do continue to modernize the grid for the next generation, for the needs of the future? And, in doing that, we’ve got to take a hard look at how we’re optimizing our portfolio, how we're advancing the system and how we’re adding intelligence to the system.
The other thing [Secretary Moniz] is going to drive is the Quadrennial Energy Review. That will be a very, very strong discussion about the energy portfolio and the expectations. From my point of view—I’m a little biased, I’ll say it—the grid plays a very, very important role in pulling those seams together. Anything we want to do on the customer side [or] the generation portfolio, we need a strong electric grid, from the transmission side down to the distribution side. We’ve done a lot of advancements on the distribution side, but there’s more we can do. And there’s more I expect to do and I expect us to continue to work on as part of the community."
On the effects of the sequester:
"The sequester affects every part of the federal government, so it was a standard reduction across the agency. I have some very good people who looked at what was coming with the sequester and we were able to manage our dollars appropriately to minimize the effect of the sequester. We just stretched out projects and other things. We looked at a little bit better prioritization. But we were able to manage what was going on. Budget discussions are always part of budget discussions; unfortunately, they were all difficult.
But it doesn’t mean the conversation should stop here on [what are] the things we should be looking at. [...] I think we need to keep that positive outlook and say, let’s have the discussions, let’s figure out the strategy and we’ll work the funding issues out. But there are important conversations we need to continue to move forward on."
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