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“It’s better to surf where there are waves and the swells are gigantic!”

Posted by at 6:47 PM, 09/03/2009

By Carole Low, Clean Tech Open Volunteer. Thanks Carole!

Smart Grid & Energy Storage: Next Waves of Innovation”

With recent political, environmental, and economic impetus, “Smart Grid” is one of the clean tech buzzwords of 2009. How can entrepreneurs, corporations, investors, and customers looking for the path to build, enable, and grow the smart grid infrastructure succeed in this undefined territory? What are the technologies that will be the backbone of this new “energy internet”? Our panel explores the regulatory, technology, investing, and corporate efforts and challenges involved in the smart grid and energy storage.

Carole reports from the event...

“It’s better to surf where there are waves and the swells are gigantic!”
Warren Jenson
Chief Financial Officer
Silver Spring Networks

The August 2009 Smart Power Symposium, “Smart Grid & Energy Storage: Next Waves of Innovation” hit the sweet spot for the 240 attendees seeking future opportunities. A diverse panel, consisting of a vendor, an investor, an industry analyst, and a technology marketer, and led by the moderator from Greentech Media, offered their insightful perspectives on what matters and what’s next. Answers to thought-provoking questions (listed below) shed light for many.

I’ve reined in my enthusiasm for pouring out a play-by-play of this event. However, I’ve highlighted a handful of key takeaways below. To get the full benefit of a dynamic discussion like this, you’ll want to attend the next Clean Tech Open event yourself, so  hope to see you there.

50,000-foot view

“How can we rethink and address the problems today and in the future? Customers are looking for new efficiencies and technologies.” Laura Pickering, NetApp vice president, Office of the CEO & Environmental Responsibility Advocate pointedly asked the audience.

Warren Jenson from Silver Spring Networks, a seasoned CFO with roots previously established at GE’s NBC, Delta,, and Electronic Arts, then shared his company’s vision and how it related to entrepreneurs who were developing solutions for the smart grid. Warren candidly shared, “I’ve done a few things right and plenty of things wrong. There has been a ton of lessons and a ton still to learn.”

He asserted that we need a smart grid that seamlessly connects all people and devices that generate, distribute, or use energy.  Next, he explained Silver Springs Network’s role in driving energy efficiency as an operation system for the smart grid. As an example, Warren pointed out, “We are sitting in PG&E’s smart grid. There are a million connection points with PG&E at the front of it.”

Smart Power at a Glance

Goal:                             Energy efficiency is the key.
What’s involved:             Connect everything from the back office to any device.
Scale and economics:      Aim for ubiquitous and cost-effectiveness use of IP.
Locations:                      Grids are everywhere. Think global.
Timing:                         This is a marathon.

Warren’s Four Points on Smart Power and the Internet until 2020

  • Creation of the smart grid is an imperative.
  • Efficiency is the key to the global energy equation.
  • Consumers will be part of the solution for the first time.
  • A whole new platform – new applications and devices.

With those comments to tee up the evening, the moderator and panelists dived right into lively, thoughtful discussion.

Snapshot of the Panelist Discussion

John Skinner from Intel Corporation reflected on the need for an intelligent network of decentralized distributed network of people and devices. He then asked a quintessential Web 2.0 question, “How do we connect them through social networks?”

Meanwhile, Steve Vassallo, a venture partner from Foundation Capital, chimed in with his thesis around clean technology. “First, there’s an equation of supply and demand, and a notion around upstream leverage. Energy efficiency and the demand side have a massive marketing problem, but saving money is sexy.”

Moreover, attending technology-savvy entrepreneurs received tips on low-hanging fruit from Dr. Erfan Ibrahim, a knowledgeable expert on the smart grid EPRI.


Participating Moderator and Panelists in the Know

Eric Wesoff, Senior Analyst, Greentech Media (Moderator)
Steve Vassallo, Ventur e Partner, Foundation Capital
Dr. Erfan Ibrahim, Technical Executive for the Smart Grid Program, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
John Skinner, Director of Marketing, Eco-Technology, Intel Corporation
Warren Jenson, Chief Financial Officer, Silver Spring Networks

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