Drive Oregon and Oregon Innovation Plan recommended for investment by legislators

Yesterday the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Transportation and Economic Development passed SB 5528, the biennial budget for “Business Oregon,” the Oregon Business Development Department. The Budget now heads to the full Ways and Means Committee for consideration.
The budget includes some key provisions to support major opportunities to lower Oregon’s stubbornly high unemployment and lagging personal income levels. These include:

The Oregon Innovation Plan

The Oregon Innovation Plan is now in its third round of funding and has delivered impressive results for the state. The Subcommittee allocated sixteen million dollars this biennium for the Innovation Plan, a suite of initiatives to enhance industry innovation and the commercialization of research. The funding will go toward three industry initiatives and three signature research centers. The industry initiatives include improving innovation and productivity in the food processing industry (IPC) ($500k), catalyzing Oregon’s emerging electric vehicle industry through Drive Oregon ($1.2 million), and putting Oregon on the map for wave energy development and manufacturing through Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) ($2.5 million). The Signature Research Centers include the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnology Institute (ONAMI) ($5.3 million), Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center (BEST) ($3.8 million) and the Oregon Translational Drug Institute (OTRADI) ($2.8 million).

In the midst of a historic recession, the Oregon Innovation Plan developed by the Oregon Innovation Council has been successful at incubating new ideas into growing businesses, helping established industries become more competitive and creating a new economic future for all Oregonians. In less than four years of state funding, the six initiatives of the Oregon Innovation Plan have brought $195 million in federal and private grants back to Oregon and are on track to generate more than $7 for every dollar the legislature has invested, not to mention the creation of 1117 jobs and the incubation of 15 new companies.

For more details on how the funding will be used, visit

Smarter Policy for a Smarter Grid: The First Smart Grid Oregon Public Policy Conference

Smarter Policy for a Smarter Grid: The First Smart Grid Oregon Public Policy Conference

November 9, 2010, World Trade Center, Portland

The aim of this first Smart Grid Oregon Public Policy Conference is to help public and utility officials, regulators, legislators, city and county governments and other stakeholders in Oregon and the Region gain a better understanding of the Smart Grid and policy decisions that will need to be addressed in the coming years.   This conference is intended to inform knowledgeable, forward-looking public leaders of the many Smart Grid activities taking place today in the Region and World that can be useful in crafting a visionary public policy.

Smart Grid Oregon is dedicated to making Oregon a leader in the implementation of Smart Grid technologies and in supporting companies that build and market Smart Grid products and services. A visionary public policy is a critical factor in achieving our goals.

The electric system is being challenged to evolve more rapidly than at any time in its history.   Public policies are also placing extraordinary demands on our hydro power resources which in turn will lead to increasing costs of electric power in coming years.

We can approach all of these changes as a threat or an opportunity.   The opportunity is that the rapid advance in information technology over the past several decades provides a wealth of new, low-cost and standardized ways of improving the management of our electrical system.   The application of such advanced information technology to the electrical system is generally referred to as the “Smart Grid”.

However, in order to take full advantage of what Smart Grid technology can do for us, many of our “sacred” assumptions and historic ways of regulating and managing the electric utility business can become impediments to growth if we don’t understand the opportunities and make changes in public policy in a timely manner.

The US ARRA investments in Smart Grid Investment and Demonstration programs, combined with other Federal, Regional and State investments in accelerating the definition and implementation of Smart Grid (or “Smarter” Grid) technologies are bringing a bewildering array of new Smart Grid data and information to the public forum.  Cataloging, evaluating and turning this information into useful public policy decisions will occupy policy makers for years to come.

Click here for more information and to register.


7:30-8:30AM      Registration

8:30-9:30AM      Welcome and Keynote:  Public Policy in Context: Where are we Today and Where are we Going?

Keynote speaker Roy Hemmingway will put the current electric utility public policy questions in perspective.  How did we get here and what are the challenges facing public policy in the future?  Roy is uniquely qualified to set the stage for the day’s discussion.  As past member of the Northwest Power Planning Council, past Chair of the Oregon PUC and energy advisor to three governors, Roy understands the issues in Oregon and the Northwest.

9:30-10:30         The Pacific Northwest Regional Smart Grid Demonstration Project: National Visibility and Public Policy Implications.   This session will provide an overview of the $188 million Project and how it will inform public policy in Oregon and the Northwest for years to come.   The project will expand existing electric infrastructure and test new combinations of devices, software and analytical tools in homes and on the grid in 12 Pacific Northwest communities. Information from consumers involved in the study will flow back to the Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center located at Battelle’s Richland campus, for analysis. There researchers will quantify the costs and benefits of smart grid technology at both the local and regional level. The data generated from the demonstration project is expected to enable a level of grid performance and transparency to real-time grid status not currently attainable. Public and private sectors will then be able to use this information to reduce the operating costs for utilities, which are usually passed on to consumers.

10:30-11:00         Networking break

11:00-12:00         Other Regional Smart Grid Investments and How they will Impact Public Policy.   Tentative: Representatives of an Oregon Public Utility District, Portland General Electric and Drive Oregon will discuss different types of Smart Grid activities and their implications for public policy.  .

12-1:30PM          Lunch Keynote:  Reshaping Public Policy for the New Age of Electricity

Keynote speaker Kurt Yeager, past president and CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute and currently Executive Director of the Galvin Electricity Initiative, has unmatched experience in dealing with state, national and international electric utility public policy.  He is working with electricity experts, innovators and entrepreneurs to design and build Perfect Power System models of a smart, efficient electric power system that cannot fail the consumer.    He also leads the Initiative in driving the electricity policy changes necessary for system transformation at the state and federal levels.

1:30-2:30 PM    The Federal Government Electric System Agenda and its Impact on State and Local Public Policy.

Speaker Chris Hickman is ideally suited to address this topic.   With recent Federal legislation and funding from the 2009 ARRA, US Government policies and investments are accelerating changes in the electric system at an unprecedented rate.   The DOE, DOC NIST, FERC, NERC, DOD, BPA and EPA are all pursuing major initiatives that impact the state and local electric utility business.   How can Oregon and the Region take maximum advantage of these investments without losing our unique characteristics?       Chris has served on the boards of the IEEE Power Engineering Society, the GridWise Alliance and Avistar, an unregulated subsidiary of PNM and several non-profit organizations.  He is a frequent speaker to regulatory organizations such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Congress and also at a variety of industry leadership conferences.    Hickman spent over 13 years in various executive-level positions at PNM Resources (New Mexico) more recently was an executive at Ice Energy, SureGrid, and at Cellnet Technology.   

2:30-3:30PM      What Can we Learn from other States (specifically California)?

Our neighbor to the south is an undisputed leader in tackling climate change by remaking their electrical system.    But the rapid implementation of leading edge technology and changing public policy has not been without a few hiccups.   Understanding California’s policy changes and their consequences can help Oregon and the region navigate with fewer bumps along the way.   Speakers Lauren Navarro of the Environmental Defense Fund and Andy Campbell of the California PUC (tentative) have been deeply involved in California’s leading edge Smart Grid activities.  Navarro represented EDF working with the CPUC on the recent adoption of a comprehensive plan to maximize the environmental and consumer benefits in the smart grid plans of state investor-owned utilities, PG&E, San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE).     Andrew Campbell has served as Chief Energy Advisor to Commissioner Nancy Ryan at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) since February 2010.  Prior to joining Commissioner Ryan’s staff, Mr. Campbell served as Senior Energy Advisor to Commissioner Rachelle Chong.  Mr. Campbell has also worked in the CPUC’s Division of Strategic Planning.

3:30-4:00PM     Networking Break

4:00-5:00PM     BPA Initiatives and their impacts on State and Local Policy

The Bonneville Power Administration is at the center of Regional power system public policy and changes.   BPA is aggressively investing in numerous initiatives that will illuminate and impact public policy for years to come.   Understanding these will be critical to developing forward-looking public policy changes.

5:00-5:30PM      Introduction to the Smart Grid Oregon’s Public Policy Agenda and Wrap-up

5:30-6:30 PM     No Host Reception

Who Should Attend?

The Conference is aimed at all those stakeholders in the State and Region with an interest in and ability to impact public policy for the electric utility system.   Attendees would include interested legislators and staff, PUC Commissioners and staff, representatives from the State Department of Energy and the Executive branch, public and private utility officials, county and local officials, board members of cooperatives and municipal utilities, electricity consumers and other officials and executives with a stake in the business.   Attendees need not be experts on the electrical system or the rapid advances being made in applying new technical solutions to managing the system.


This is the first of its kind conference in Oregon.  Attendees will gain an appreciation of the range and impact of various investments taking place in our Region and how they will inform public policy decisions for years to come.   Attendees will also have an opportunity to meet and talk with others engaged in understanding the changes occurring and how to best manage them for public benefit.

Click here for more information and to register.

Pecan Street Project: a community-wide collaboration to reinvent the energy delivery system

I saw a great presentation by Jose Beceiro yesterday on Austin’s ambitious Pecan Street Project.  Here’s a brief introductory video:


Meet the Pecan Street Project

The Pecan Street Project is a community-wide collaboration to fully reinvent the energy delivery system. It’s more than a smart grid project. Pecan Street is an ambitious effort to empower customers and innovators to use the energy system in new ways while making energy cleaner, water usage more efficient and the economy stronger.

Planning the Smart Grid for Sustainable Communities – Interactive Conference 2010

Conference Announcement

Planning the Smart Grid for Sustainable Communities

Interactive Conference on June 15th, 2010 / 8:00 am – 3:30 pm
Join faculty and students of Portland State University and
government, business, and community leaders as we learn,
discuss and collaborate on how the technologies of the
Smart Grid can support sustainable communities at
Two World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon StreetPortland, Oregon

 Sponsors: Portland State University, Portland General Electric

Climate Solutions, Smart Grid Oregon, and others

Agenda Highlights

  • Morning Keynote Speakers
    What is the Smart Grid and how can it support more sustainable communities?  Allen Schurr, IBM Vice President for Strategy and Development, Global Energy and Utilities
  • Morning Presentations on Three Case Studies
    • Testing utility-scale battery storage as a Smart Grid option: Portland General Electric’s Feeder Advanced Storage Transaction (FAST) Project
    • Applying the Smart Grid to an eco-district or neighborhood energy project: the proposed Portland State University’s Eco-District and the North Pearl Energy Project
    • A strategy for connecting electric vehicles and the Smart Grid in the Portland Metro area
  • Lunch Keynote Speaker
    Austin’s Pecan Street Project:  One Model for Integrating the Smart Grid into a Comprehensive Sustainable Development Strategy.  Jose Beceiro, Board Member, Austin’s Pecan Street Project, and Director of Clean Energy Economic Development, Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce
  • Afternoon Roundtable Discussions and Feedback on our Case Studies
    • Portland General Electric’s Feeder Advanced Storage Transaction (FAST) Project
    • Applying the Smart Grid to an eco-district or neighborhood energy project
    • Connecting electric vehicles and the Smart Grid 
  • Reflections on the day and recommendations for next steps from our keynote speakers and other conference participants

Who Should Attend
Leaders in government, business, IT and communications regulators, utilities, Smart Grid technology vendors, planners, engineers, architects, home and building owners

Register Now Advance registration is required. Cost:  $25.  Space is limited and registration requests will be accepted in the order they are received.

As your host, Portland State University will facilitate discussion around the recent outcomes and findings from our interdisciplinary graduate class,  Planning the Smart Grid for Sustainable Communities.  At this interactive conference, participants will collaborate to identify Smart Grid components and priorities that will support a more sustainable energy plan for the energy demands of the Pacific Northwest.

The “Smart Grid” has caught the attention of political, business, and community leaders from the White House to Northwest communities and electric utilities. And for good reason.

Its champions tell us the Smart Grid will allow us to use many of the same technologies, concepts, and models behind the internet to transform our electric grid from a centralized network largely controlled by utilities to one that is less centralized….more                         

Energy Storage and the Smart Grid – Recap of April 21, 2010 with TiE Oregon and Business Oregon

Here are slides from Energy Storage and the Smart Grid, organized by TiE Oregon’s Clean Energy Special Interest Group:

Hopefully I’ll have some spare time for a brief summary write-up of the event.  This Clean Energy Special Interest Group event was well attended with high quality panelists and great audience participation asking top caliber questions to keep the panelists on their toes.

Additionally, here are two recent articles in the March/April 2010 edition of Electric Light and Power featuring grid-scale energy storage.  The first article, All Together Now — The Electric Utility, Consumers and Community Energy Storage, offers community energy storage (CES) as a possible component of the customer price-reliability solution. CES straddles the transmission and distribution domain as well as the customer-side domain of applications. It offers electricity customers reliable electric service at a reasonable price with as little environmental and aesthetic impact as possible.  A second article, Energy Storage Solving Power Quality Problems, offers a brief overview of energy storage and the benefits to the electrical system.

I’m intrigued with the promise of community energy storage and I included a backup slide (see page 34 of the presentation) on the locational value of energy storage.  American Electric Power is a proponent of Community Energy Storage.  AEP proposes the highest value for energy storage is close to the end-customer, thus community energy storage offers the biggest benefits.  I posed a question to the panelists about where the most valuable location for energy storage exists on the grid before offering this slide up for discussion – interestingly the panelists were in concurrence, placing more value for energy storage nearby the point of use.

Merging Green Buildings, Smart Energy Efficient Buildings and Smart Grid

In his article “Linking Green Buildings and the Smart Grid will Spawn a Green Energy Ecosystem,” Patrick Mazza offers insights about the relationships and opportunities between smart grid and smart, green buildings:

A new energy ecosystem is emerging that connects smart, green buildings with a smart, green grid to optimize energy flows. Since commercial and industrial buildings represent around 40 percent of U.S. energy use, and homes another 30 percent, this represents the most significant opportunity for energy efficiency and mass-scale renewable generation.

 But creating this new green energy ecosystem means linking what are today heavily “stovepiped” separate systems within buildings and between buildings and the grid. It also means expanding the definition of green buildings to include the digital smarts that connect diverse systems.

The sad truth is that many green buildings today are neither highly efficient nor particularly intelligent, and this is a missed opportunity,” wrote Paul Ehrlich of the Building Intelligence Group in an article previewing the conference. “We have the potential to deliver green intelligent buildings that are sustainable as well as able to deliver high-performance, low-energy usage.”

“The idea that buildings could give and take energy — that’s where the opportunity presents itself,” he said. With growth in net zero energy buildings, “We’re going to see more emphasis on intelligence in buildings” to measure and manage energy and revenue flows. “My whole vision is having the smart building meet the smart grid.

Smart buildings and the smart grid are two elements of the digital information revolution that are spreading tendrils toward one another. As they meet, they will provide huge benefits in terms of more efficient energy use, integration of on-site energy demand and generation with the grid, and better-functioning buildings that are safer and better places to work and live.

Greater automation and control can be done that go well beyond buildings’ energy management systems.  For instance, automated demand response systems can adjust a building’s energy load to accommodate peak demand conditions.  Typically much demand response is done manually, with a call to the building manager to shut off lights and other electrical loads.

Green buildings are often primarily about materials.  Energy efficiency and energy management are an important part too and are increasingly being integrated into green building designs.  Though green buildings are not necessarily “smart” buildings in the context of integrating  each building with other buildings nearby nor the electrical grid.    We have a long way to go before  whole districts of smart green buildings interacting with one another via smart grid technologies to optimize the whole.

See also:  Wiring the Smart Grid for Energy Savings: Integrating Buildings to Maximize Investment to understand more about buildings (not necessarily green buildings) and the smart grid.

Smart Grid Course being offered again at Portland State University

Once again Portland State University will be offering the ground-breaking course “Designing the Smart Grid for Sustainable Communities”  this Winter and Spring terms (2010) through the Executive Leadership Institute.  I was fortunate to have taken this two-term course series on the Smart Grid when it was first offered January – June of 2009 and I found it to be of immense value in learning about sustainability issues and the smart grid.  The Smart Grid has many different meanings and it is rapidly evolving; I found the course an excellent learning experience for future ventures.


This two-term course series examines a set of emerging concepts, technologies, and models of system planning and delivery for electricity that are expected to transform the nation’s century-old, centralized power grid into a climate and alternative-energy-friendly “Smart Grid.” The course series stresses a cross-disciplinary approach, deepening individual areas of expertise in the context of teamwork. Each quarter will build on progress from the previous quarter. It will include lectures, active learning strategies, individual and group projects, class presentations from guest speakers and seminar participants, field trips, and a closing conference. For detailed course information, please visit

Class Dates and Location:

Winter Term (January 12 – March 16, 2010) – Tuesdays, 7:00 pm – 9:40 pm

Spring Term (March 30 – May 8, 2010) – Tuesdays, 7:00 pm – 9:40 pm

This class is available for graduate credit or as non-credit professional development. In either case, you should register for both terms as the second term builds upon the material discussed in the first term.

For more information, visit, or register online.

Can the Smart Grid Enhance Sustainable Development in the Pacific Northwest?

Portland State University Hosts Interactive Conference to Explore if the Smart Grid Offers Hype or Hope for Northwest Communities

Join me and my classmates from Portland State University’s research seminar, Designing the Smart Grid for Sustainable Communities, at an interactive conference as we share our findings from our studies over the past six months.

 The “Smart Grid” has caught the attention of political, business, and community leaders from the White House to Northwest communities, environmentalists, and electric utilities-and for good reason. Its champions say it will deploy many of the technologies, concepts, and models behind the Internet to transform the electrical grid from a centralized network controlled by utilities, to one that embraces distributed resources and encourages more customer control over the cost and environmental impact of the power they consume. They claim the Smart Grid will offer many benefits: encouraging the growth and enhancing the value of renewable options; supporting energy efficiency; helping owners of homes, businesses, and factories save money and better manage their use of electricity; improving transmission efficiency and reducing power outages, blackouts and brownouts; accelerating the adoption of new technologies; creating more family-wage jobs; and more. Read more

Planning the Smart Grid for Sustainable Communities – Interactive Conference

An Interactive Conference co-sponsored by

Portand General Electric and Climate Solutions

Join faculty and students of Portland State University and other business and community leaders for an interactive conference on how the technologies, concepts and models associated with the Smart Grid can support sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest. Questions we will consider at the conference:

  • What is the Smart Grid, both in terms of technologies and capabilities?
  • In what respects can the Smart Grid aid sustainability and why?
  • What metrics show progress towards sustainability?
  • How might we think about the costs and benefits of the Smart Grid, particularly costs and benefits that do not relate directly to electricity production and delivery?
  • How can the Smart Grid support renewable energy resources, both large central-station wind and solar and smaller resources located on an individual site or community level?
  • How do we engage the community in the design, planning, and implementation of Smart Grid to ensure that we fully use its capabilities and achieve the outcomes we hoped for?
Who:   Leaders in Business, IT and Communications, Regulators, Government, Utilities, Smart Grid Technology Vendors, Planners, Engineers, Architects, Home and Building Owners
When:   June 18, 8:30-5:00pm with lunch Registration opens at 7:30am Keynote presentations begin at 8:30 am
Where:   Portland State University, University Place, 310 SW Lincoln St., Portland OR


An Introduction to the Smart Grid Market – Slides from Clean Energy SIG

Here are slides from the talk that Roger Hicks, Brill Sproull and myself (John Thornton) gave to Oregon TiE on May 5th, 2009 as an overview about the smart grid, electric vehicles and distributed generation.

View more presentations from irhicks2.

Additional information is available on the TiE site.