At Distributech 2017 in San Diego, the opening keynotes used the word "transformation" to refer to what the electric power industry is going through. Teresa Hansen likened the impact of this transformation to the War of Currents about 100 years ago when George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla's AC won out over Thomas Edison's DC. At the Smart Gird Interoperability Panel 2016 Grid Modernization Summit in Washington DC Anne Pramaggiore, President and CEO of ComEd of Chicago, was the first to call the current business transformation that the electric power industry is experiencing a "revolution". And many other speakers at the SGIP conference agreed with this characterization.
Another key theme at this year's Distributech is greater uncertainty. Philip Mezey, President and CEO of Itron, mentioned regulatory and federal uncertainty specifically referring to the challenge of keeping regulation current with rapidly changing technology and utility business models. But he sees many opportunities in addition to the challenges. He mentioned managing deep solar penetration, ensuring cybersecurity, gowing numbers of EV vehicles, transactive energy, the digital grid enabling utilties to optimize power delivery, improved integration with customers, and moving beyond the smart grid by connecting more smart devices all of which are capable of collecting data. He also believes that this new grid, referred to by some as Grid 3.0, is going to require distributed intelligence because decisions have to be made locally and quickly.
Scott Drury, President of San Diego Gas and Electricity, who aspires for SDG&E to be the best energy utility in the U.S., outlined some of the innovative things that SDG&E is doing to ensure clean, safe and reliable energy for its customers. It outperforms California's Renewable Energy Portfolio in reducing emissions. It has over 100,000 rooftop installations in its service territory and boasts that it is able to make the fastest solar interconnections in the U.S. It is aggressively installing charging stations in its service territory including a target of ensuring 10% of these chargers are in disadvantaged communities. SDG&E has implemented its own weather network with many realtime reporting stations to help reduce the risk of wildfires. It has undergrounded 60% of its network. It has implemented a microgrid in a remote desert community and it is building one of the biggest lithium ion battery projects in the U.S., a substation in Escondido with energy storage capable of delivering 30 megawatts for four hours.