What will the energy landscape of the future look like? Will there be a shift toward more efficient generation sources? What changes will we see in energy configurations?
The energy industry is currently amidst the most significant transformation that it has ever experienced—a metamorphosis that requires the reevaluation and reconfiguration of every aspect of electron generation, storage, and distribution. And innovation is the catalyst.
New technologies are a driving force behind this industry-wide shift. Advances in distributed energy resources and energy storage products, coupled with lower costs, support the incorporation of renewable sources and enable an array of new grid architectures. A changing regulatory climate and mounting public concern about sustainability have further accelerated the transition.
This is an exhilarating moment in distributed energy’s history—one that marks the convergence of old and new technologies, as well as the industry’s movement toward intelligent solutions. We honor this evolution with a series of interviews that explore future possibilities and offer technical insight to support the dynamic shift taking place.
For this week’s post, we asked Benjamin Locke, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Tecogen, for his perspectives regarding the energy landscape of the future. Prior to his appointment as Co-CEO of Tecogen, Benjamin served as the Director of Corporate Strategy and became General Manager. He holds a B.S. in Physics from the University of Massachusetts, an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University, and an M.B.A. in Corporate Finance from Boston University. We’re grateful for his insight.
Distributed Energy (DE): From your vantage point, what will the energy landscape of the future look like?
Benjamin Locke (BL): We believe the future will involve more distributed generation replacing traditional centralized power generation. As DG assets become more affordable and interconnect regulations become more practical, self-generation will be more practical and economical.
DE: What are the indications that this is the direction the industry will take? What trends are you noticing?
BL: We are already seeing utilities such as Con Edison in New York turning to DG as a way to eliminate significant investment in additional generation capacity. Also, states are increasingly focusing incentives and support programs on efficiency measures. CHP systems are one of the largest efficiency measures that a large facility can implement. CHP is increasingly prescribed with other efficiency measures such as LED lighting, window upgrades, insulation, etc.
DE: What policy changes are needed to support this transition?
BL: Continue policies that are permissive for DG assets to interconnect to the grid. Despite the progress thus far, there are still barriers for DG with some utilities, either on interconnect regulations and safeties, or on punitive tariffs designed to discourage DG. Policy needs to be adopted that prevent this disincentive by some utilities.
DE: What technologies will facilitate the integration of distributed energy resources?
BL: Fully certified inverter-based interconnect is the safest way to deploy DG assets with the existing electric grid. Microgrid features will allow safe operation of the DG assets in a grid-isolated event. And clean emissions technology for fossil fuel based systems is a must.