The Advanced Grid Institute (AGI) presented the ongoing challenges and conditions of the nation’s power grid at the Washington Tech Alliance’s policy summit December 14.
Taking place in Seattle, the summit brought together experts from different fields to discuss the on-going changes to their respective areas of expertise. AGI Co-Directors Jeff Dagle and Noel Schulz took the stage with Alliance for Transportation Executive Director Phil Jones. The panel focused on topics such as; load balancing, the transition to electric vehicles and the electrical engineering workforce.
When addressing the challenges the grid faces, Dagle stressed the importance of balancing consumption with power generation. He illustrated the importance of how each energy provides different benefits to the grid and their limitations, pointing to how Washington State consumes and produces energy.
“If I (as a grid operator) need to make an adjustment (to the grid) are those generation resources available?” Said Dagle. “Can you adjust the supply (of power) to meet demand?”
He emphasized that new technology will be needed as Washington (and the rest of the nation) continues to transition to renewable energy. This will be especially true to fill the roles of natural gas that gives the grid flexibility in meeting variable demand.
As part of the panel on grid technology, Jones addressed the ways in which electric cars are changing the world. He emphasized that these changes are not a flash in the pan and increased spending by companies like Ford and General motors are giving the electric car momentum in the transition to clean energy.
Concluding the panel’s focus, Schulz addressed the workforce gap. According to a State of WA Stem report, there is a gap of ~60,000 credentialed workers in STEM fields. She emphasized the need to approach the problem with a “K-20” perspective that produces qualified professionals at all levels of education.
“We need masters and PHD scientists to solve some of these problems, bachelors is important as well,” said Schulz “But we also need to provide k-12 teachers and university professors that can teach incoming students.”
Additionally, she explained the need to create pathways for people who have been historically underrepresented in STEM fields. By building partnerships between utilities, regulators, and universities the skill gap could begin to close, she said.