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Creating Resiliency through Connectivity and Flexibility.

The year 2020 originally was nicknamed as the year of clarity, and even through months of societal upheaval and economic disruption, the need for a connected, resilient, and sustainable energy network has become more clear and certain. During times of unrest, our industry leaders have been staying the course in their mission to create a clean future. 

Last week's Microgrid Knowledge Free Virtual Conference highlighted the wealth of human capital, all committed towards developing our smart grid of the future. For those that missed this conference, or missed Instant ON's presentation, a the free recordings for each seminar can be found here. Though much can be learned from listening to these industry expert presentations, two takeaways were evident; we are stronger when connected, and we must be flexible and ready for change. 

Even while isolated, we are stronger when connected.

 As said by Ravi Pradhan, vice president of Siemens Digital Grid, as reported by Microgrid Knowledge, "There is value in being separate but together. Because (microgrids) can function independently or islanded from the grid, microgrids are analogous to where people find themselves now, both isolated at home but connected via the Internet. In many ways, microgrids embody the quality that we will emerge with as we recover from this crisis, the idea of independence - of the need to be able to be isolated and yet to keep functioning and providing essential services that are needed. Microgrids give us great independence and the resilience to withstand the shocks of grid isolation which is not that dissimilar from some of the social isolation that we’re experiencing in the crisis today,” 

As the needs of the grid develops, we see that there is an overwhelming need for independence and self sufficiency, paired with an equally apparent necessity for distributed energy resources to connect together. We must learn from the shortcomings of solar and insist on developing systems that reduce grid intermittency, variability, and renewable curtailment. 

Our infrastructure was built for a unidirectional flow of energy; this no longer should be accepted as an acceptable standard of design. Resiliency is build on redundancy and unity. Each home and building should strive for the ability to not only be self sufficient, but to support the local grid, as a whole, in times of need. 

This cannot be achieved without the intentional and immediate investment in microgrid controller technology and intelligent circuit panels, able to respond to the demand of the grid. Net metering rate codes and solar installations of the past, for example, have produced a scenario in States like California where the grid can be both starved for and glutted with renewable energy in one day, depending on the time. In absence of technology to enable collaboration and coordination, each point of generation acted independently and without harmony. Intelligent circuit panels and microgrid controller technology allow proactive and actionable decisions to be made, so that energy demand and load be made manageable and predictable, utilizing each point of generation or consumption strategically. 

The notion of being stronger while connected is applicable not only to the physical infrastructure we build, but also to the community we foster. While capitalism relies on competition, decisive collaboration is necessary for the development of the smart grid of the future. Connected communities and aggregated distributed energy resource networks are not competing with one another, but are collaborating. As such, all various stakeholders within our community, whether it be developers, utilities, contractors, or homeowners themselves, must be prepared to work together. 

To become truly resilient, we must be flexible and receptive to change.

Written by William Galston in a Wall Street Journal piece, "Efficiency comes through optimal adaptation to an existing environment, while resilience requires the capacity to adapt to disruptive changes in the environment." What has been labeled as "efficient" is accurate in respects only to previous operating standards and needs of that time. The last few months of 2020 has proven that our environment indeed changes, that we must be prepared to adapt to various changes, and that older structural and societal paradigms must constantly be revisited, whether those paradigms be connected to systemic inequality or toward outdated energy infrastructure design. 

Though change can be uncomfortable, without challenges, we do not grow. Humanity evolved, not necessarily through being the fittest, but through being the best to adapt, as researched and reported by the Smithsonian Institution, here

How should the price of electricity be valued? How is resiliency quantified? Will net metering enable 100% renewable energy? Does natural gas have a role in decarbonization, if even just to eliminate the need for diesel backup generators? What sacrifices in customer conveniences are an acceptable trade off, in respects to the need of a carbon neutral, stable, and resilient grid? Are the projects we deploy now simply in the economic interest of the present, or do they also promote a just and equitable future? These are just some of the few questions asked by experts throughout the industry, post Covid-19. 

As mentioned by AJ Perkins, President of Instant ON, now is the time to step up and provide solutions. Instead of waiting for someone else to answer these questions and solve the problems within our world, now is the time to be innovative. For any companies or individuals facing obstacles and wondering what to do, the answer is simple. Contact us! Coming from a Hawaiian, "Sustainability is life. When a culture has lived on an Island, thousands of miles away from outside resources, you learn that there is no option other than to live sustainably." Instant ON is committed to both connecting together with all companies who share this vision, and to be flexible and ready for the change that we know that we will create together. 

Published by David Perzynski, 6/12/2020

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Instant On collaborates with various energy efficiency conferences to promote and speak on the topic of resiliency. Contact IO to request a meeting at any of our conferences, to learn about our speaking commitments, or to work with us on a future public engagement opportunities. 

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