This month, we have decided to profile a new member, Francis Solar, and its president, David Jankowsky. Jankowsky has enjoyed a wide-ranging career as a lawyer and project developer that has taken him across the planet. Over the course of that professional trajectory, he has worked on energy project development and project finance across multiple asset classes – including an LNG regasification facility in Peru and a wind project in California (we won’t talk about the coal plant). Following his stint as a lawyer, Jankowsky joined SunEdison, then one of the world’s largest solar developers, to lead their business development efforts in the Asia-Pacific region.
IF YOU’RE OLD enough to remember landlines, maybe you remember the feedback loop that turned them from must-haves to luxury items. As customers started switching to mobile, the phone companies had to raise rates on the cord keepers to cover the cost of their telephone lines. That only pushed more people to defect, exacerbating the problem—and increasing the cost.
It’s this sort of feedback loop that worries Sonny Garg. He’s the head of energy research for Uptake Technologies and spearheaded the data analytics firm’s new report showing that over the past two decades, the investor-owned utilities that represent nearly half the US grid’s electrical load saw the effective cost of generating one megawatt of electricity rise 74 percent.
What’s your background and what are your main responsibilities at TREIA?
I've had the privilege in my career to work with non-profit, for-profit, and municipalities delivering communications strategies, customer service, and leadership skills to achieve the mission and vision of the organization. This has provided an opportunity to serve in organizations experiencing tremendous change, while evolving to meet the growing needs of its members/customers. My work at TREIA includes welcoming new members and retaining existing ones, while sharing the many opportunities that exist for members to get involved. Currently, my priority is ensuring our 2018 GridNEXT Conference reflects the diverse community that comprises TREIA Membership.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), grid operator for most of the state of Texas, estimates a reserve margin of 11% for this summer—lower than previous years and ERCOT’s 13.75% reference reserve margin—indicating a smaller cushion of resources to meet summer peak demand and an increased risk of grid stress conditions. The lower anticipated reserve margin is mainly a result of three large coal plants retiring in early 2018 and forecasts of record-breaking summer electricity demand.
Although ERCOT is only expecting a slightly hotter-than-normal summer overall, abnormally hot stretches of weather in May and June have already set new monthly demand records. Hourly day-ahead prices at ERCOT’s North hub, which represents a region that includes the Dallas-Fort Worth area, reached $551 per megawatthour (MWh) on May 16 and 15-minute real-time prices reached $3,125/MWh on June 5, reflecting the dynamic needs of the grid during these unexpectedly high electricity demand periods.
Vijay Betanabhatla is a busy person, but he’s committed to TREIA’s mission and passionate about renewables. Volunteering on the board, he comments, “forces you to think outside of your daily job…that’s the best way to learn. That’s why I put my hand up for board member and treasurer.”
He has been in the electric industry for over a dozen years, and cut his teeth on power as a senior engineer at ERCOT before moving into financial and management consulting. He joined the TREIA board early in 2018, where he ably serves as treasurer. Given his background, that role was probably a given, and it’s a huge help to the organization.
Electric utilities are under constant attack from both independent and state-affiliated hackers, which have infiltrated power control systems in the U.S. and even disrupted the delivery of electricity in places like Ukraine.
The DHS briefing on Monday, however, is the latest indication of the scope of the cyber threats against the U.S. utility sector, revealing new information on the effectiveness of the hackers.
ERCOT has set mid-day demand records and aiming for pricing maximums over the past week as summer heat broke state records – all of which creates tremendous opportunities for solar.
On 7/18/18, Axon Power & Gas, LLC – a Retail Electric Provider (REP) in ERCOT and a QSE – filed a lawsuit in the Travis County District Court, seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) against ERCOT from making a collateral call on Axon. The PUCT held an emergency open meeting later that day to address the matter.
Take a rapidly growing state, add a scorching heat wave, and you have a recipe for historically high electricity use. So it was that Texas broke the record for power demand three times in the last week. Through it all, the state’s electric grid operated without major disruption.
That success nevertheless revealed some interesting things about the ways we generate and consume electricity.
The Whisper Valley sustainable community project first came onto my radar screen at last year’s GridNEXT event. There I met Axel Lerche, an articulate and passionate spokesman talking about a new way of creating sustainable communities.
I kept hearing about Whisper Valley over the next year, and on a July trip to Austin I accompanied TREIA development officer Julie Beggs and TREIA president Melissa Miller to the rolling hills of East Austin just off of State Highway 130 (proximity to the highway – with its posted 80 mph speed limit - is a critical factor in the project’s success).