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On the Plane Again – February 2023

Generac Grid Services’ SVP of sales, Jonathan 'J.T.' Thompson, shares each month's conversations to shed light on what it will take to truly modernize the grid.

February 2023


As Generac Grid Services’ SVP of sales, I get the opportunity to lead a global team of hardware and software sales leaders who help utilities and other energy companies solve their grid problems. This blog continues the series I kicked off last January. In it, I intend to anonymously share what’s on the minds of peers in this industry actively working to modernize the grid. So, whether you’re a utility representative, industry vendor, or other grid enthusiast – reach out if any of this speaks to you!

DISTRIBUTECH, How I’ve Missed You

I always look forward to DTECH. It’s like a big class reunion and catching up with longtime friends in the industry is always a plus. The week started with our kick-off happy hour event, where we had a great mix of friends, customers, and prospective customers. The team asked me to give a welcome speech, so I briefly thanked everyone for joining us amidst preparations for a busy week and talked about how we view them all like family; after all, many attendees have been around since our early days as Enbala.

During the week, the conversations focused on three areas:

  1. DERMS: What is it? Why does every vendor think they have one? Why is our platform different? The answers came down to focusing on differentiating demand response management systems (DRMS), virtual power plants (VPPs), and distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS). We talked through the use cases of each because, let’s be honest with ourselves, a DRMS cannot do what a DERMS can and neither can an advanced distribution management system (ADMS).
  2. Hardware & PowerINISIGHTS: As has been the case for the past several months, the PowerINSIGHTS tool was a hit. It supported many discussions around what Generac devices are in the ground today and how those DERs can support grid reliability. Where Generac Grid Services’ Concerto platform is not yet in the mix, we discussed how to use our Grid Services API to access Generac devices.
  3. Electric Vehicles: I will preface this with the statement that EVs were the buzz of DTECH. Between charging infrastructure and cars, it was certainly top of mind for many vendors and utilities. Our discussion centered around our new Generac Level II EV Charger for the residential space and our partnership with RER to bring telematics into the Generac Grid Services’ ecosystem. Every utility grid will uniquely experience EV load growth, and management solutions will require the ability to meet utilities at their distinct points in the managed charging journey.

A Chance to Keynote at Smart Energy Summit

It was great to be back on the stage at Parks Associates’ Smart Energy Summit, as it’s been roughly 12 years since I spoke at the event. My keynote focused on “the good, the bad, and the reality of program design.” During the “reality” part of the discussion, I even took a few shots at groups that aren’t “playing nice” in this space. If DER vendors are going to support maximizing customer choice in utility programs, they must play fair by providing control and optimization platforms with some level of access. Some great questions were posed, but the one that really stood out was, “What’s your favorite Western?” The answer is The Sons of Katy Elder with John Wayne.

A Trip to New Orleans

I must admit, in all the years I have been in this industry, this was my first trip to AESP’s Annual Conference. It was a good event with some familiar faces and plenty of new ones. There were plenty of questions about Generac, specifically about Generac’s vision and plan for the Grid Services business. My takeaway is that many groups within our industry still don’t know the value we can provide by coupling our hardware and software. Further, they’re unfamiliar with the various use cases Concerto™-enabled solutions offer to help stabilize the electric grid. Some would see this as a challenge, but I view it as an opportunity.

Some of the sidebar discussions I had at AESP centered around focusing our efforts on existing installations, both residential and commercial, to help in grid emergencies. There is real value there. We must provide a business model that works with the regulatory and programmatic confines. Stay tuned — more to come on this subject in future posts!

In all, it was a good month, but a quick one. Great discussions all around! March could be full of surprises as we end the first quarter. By the time this is posted, I’ll be at the TechAdvantage Expo event in Nashville. Visiting with representatives of the electric cooperative space always presents an opportunity to learn about what challenges they are facing. I plan to spend some downtime during the month as spring break draws near. Until next month, see you around the terminal!