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Ask an Energy Expert: Fereidoon Sioshansi
We sit down with the author of Innovation and Disruption at the Grid’s Edge, Fereidoon Sioshansi of Menlo Energy Economics USA in this Q&A about his field, research and book.
- What is your particular area of expertise?
For over 35 years, I have been working in the electric power sector – the industry that increasingly drives all other sectors of the economy.
My interest is mainly in divers of change and how they impact the “utility business model” – the traditional ways of operating, delivering services and creating value.
- How would you explain your current work to a stranger on a bus?
Recently, my research has focused primarily on technological innovations that allow electricity consumers to become more engaged in how much and when they use electricity in their daily lives.
Increasing numbers of consumers today can become virtually “energy independent” by investing in energy efficiency, which can significantly reduce their consumption. They can also self-generate electricity, primarily by installing solar rooftop photovoltaic or PV panels. Moreover, as the price of storage devices falls, they can store some of the extra generation for use at other times. Finally, they can better control and manage their consumption, production, storage – including the option to store energy in electric vehicle batteries.
These developments increasingly allow consumers to interact with their electricity suppliers and the network in ways that was not possible in the past.
- Can you give some examples of how consumes are becoming engaged?
Today, consumers have the option to use far less electricity – e.g., by investing in energy efficiency – or to generate more of what they consume – e.g., by installing solar PV panels on their roofs – or change the pattern of consumption – e.g., by storing some of the generated electricity for use at a later time.
These options, usually referred to as distributed energy resources or DERs, are changing the nature of their transactions with their electricity service providers.
- What first inspired you to study innovation and disruption at the grid’s edge – the title of your latest book?
I am not alone in getting attracted to examine what is happening at the so-called “grid’s edge” – broadly defined as the interface between the electric distribution network and customers’ premises and beyond.
In fact, it is safe to say that that is where much interest and attention will be paid for many yeas to come.
- What’s the most exciting part of your job?
The most exciting aspect of the type of work I and my colleagues in the academic and professional circles do is to exchange ideas, perspectives, experiences and anecdotes – these exchanges taking place at all levels including collaboration in book projects such as my 10 volumes to date – allow the entire community to gain from the insights and perspectives of others. To use an overused cliché, collaborative research tends to be highly synergistic, making the whole bigger than the sum of its parts.
- What keeps you awake at night?
Since I don’t run or manage a “utility” or “network” company nor am I directly engaged in offering alternative products of services, there is not much that keeps me awake at night.
The same, however, cannot be said about many “incumbent” utilities who are experiencing shrinking sales and falling revenues as consumers reduce their purchases by engaging in energy efficiency and – in some cases – through self-generation, such as installing solar PV panels on their roofs.
In Australia, for example, 1 out of 7 houses are solar, roughly 1.5 million of them. In California, there is already over 5 GW of installed solar capacity on peoples’ roofs, and growing. The utility business model is rapidly changing, with many challenges for the managers and regulators alike.
- What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned during the course of your recent work?
Many experts in this field are speculating that the electricity business may gradually migrate to look rather similar to that of the mobile phone service – in the sense that average electricity customers may essentially pay a monthly fixed fee for being connected to the grid or the network, and little or virtually none for the kilowatthours consumed. In a future where much of the generation will come from essentially “free” renewable resources, the value proposition will be mostly focused on connectivity to the network, allowing consumers to take power from the network or feed into it as they wish.
- What do you think will be the next big discovery or development in your field?
Among the most exciting developments with significant impact may be advances in blockchain technology, which offers the easy and inexpensive means of trading surplus electricity among customers – called peer-to-per trading – or aggregations of customers using common platforms.
- How have you used books for your own professional research and how it influenced your work, research or thinking, or help you solve a problem in your field? What outcome did it lead to?
Books, research articles, editorials and commentary on technical, economic and financial aspects of distributed energy resources (DERs) are vital to anyone engaged in research and thinking in this fast- moving space. No matter how much one already knows, or thinks he/she knows, there is much more to learn, especially with the current fast pace of developments in this field.
Innovation and Disruption at the Grid’s Edge examines the viable developments in peer-to-peer transactions enabled by open platforms on the grid’s edge. With consumers and prosumers using more electronic platforms to trade surplus electricity from rooftop solar panels, share a storage battery, or use smart gadgets that manage load and self-generation, the grid’s edge is becoming crowded.
The book studies the growing number of consumers engaging in self-generation and storage, and analyzes the underlying causes and drivers of change, as well as the implications of how the utility sector—particularly the distribution network—should/could be regulated. Chapters also explore how tariffs are set and revenues are collected to cover both fixed and variable costs in a sustainable way. This reference is useful for anyone interested in the areas of energy generation and regulation, especially stakeholders engaged in the generation, transmission, and distribution of power.
- Examines the new players that will disrupt the energy grid markets
- Offers unique coverage of an emerging and unpublished topic
- Helps the reader understand up-to-date energy regulations and pricing innovations
You can access Chapter 1 Innovation & disruption at the “grid’s edge” on ScienceDirect for a limited time. Need the book in print? Order via Elsevier.com. Enter STC317 at the checkout for up to 30% discount and free shipping!
About the Author
Dr. Fereidoon Sioshansi is President of Menlo Energy Economics, a consulting firm based in San Francisco with over 35 years of experience in the electric power sectore working in analysis of energy markets, specializing in the policy, regulatory, technical and environmental aspects of the electric power sector in the US and internationally. His research and professional interests are concentrated in demand and price forecasting, electricity market design, competitive pricing & bidding, integrated resource planning, energy conservation and energy efficiency, economics of global climate change, sustainability, energy security, renewable energy technologies, and comparative performance of competitive electricity markets.
Dr. Sioshansi advises major utility clients and government policy makers domestically and internationally on electricity market reform, restructuring and privatization of the electric power sector. He has published numerous reports, books, book chapters and papers in peer-reviewed journals on a wide range of subjects. His professional background includes working at Southern California Edison Co. (SCE), Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), NERA, and Global Energy Decisions. He is the editor and publisher of EEnergy Informer, a monthly newsletter with international circulation. He is on the Editorial Advisory Board of The Electricity Journal where he is regularly featured in the “Electricity Currents” section. Dr. Sioshansi also serves on the editorial board of Utilities Policy and is a frequent contributor to Energy Policy. Since 2006, He has edited nine books on related topics with Elsevier.
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