About Peter Asmus

Peter Asmus, principal research analyst with Navigant Research and president of Pathfinder Communications, is an internationally known expert on new energy business models such as nanogrids, microgrids and virtual power plants. He has covered cutting edge energy and environmental issues for over 25 years.

Contact Information:

Pathfinder Communications

PO Box 436

Stinson Beach, CA 94970

(415) 868-9866





Novel Direct Current Architectures Face Challenges in New York, California 

If I had to pick two states that are leading the charge on reinventing electric utilities they would be New York and California. Yet even in these state laboratories of regulatory reform, new novel forms of distribution networks often referred to as “microgrids” that rely upon the inherent advantages of direct current are facing obstacles.

The core challenge facing DC distribution networks lies with the need for standards and open grid architectures that can help integrate the increasing diversity of resources being plugged into retail power grids.  This, among other issues, is the focus of the first major conference sponsored by the Institute of Electrical Energy Engineers (IEEE) on DC distribution networks taking place in Atlanta, Georgia on June 7-10th of this year.

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As Goes California, So Goes the Nation - Not!

Living in California, it’s easy to forget that the rest of the world doesn’t always see things in the same way.  Given the ambitious energy and climate change goals outlined in Governor Brown’s inaugural address, on January 5th, this divergence may only grow.

What exactly did the governor propose?  Here is a snapshot summary of targets he set for the state by 2030:

  • Increase from one-third to 50% the portion of the state’s electricity derived from renewable sources
  • Reduce today's petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50%
  • Double the efficiency of energy use in existing buildings while also making building heating fuels cleaner.

For investors in and developers of innovative clean energy, transportation, and building technologies, Brown’s targets mean that, more than ever, California will lead the United States in terms of technology development and commercialization of renewable energy, electric vehicles, and smart building automation products. 

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Alaska: World's Market Leader on MIcrogrids

Rather than viewing microgrids as a threat to public safety due to intentional islanding and/or departing customer load on long-term revenue projections, a small, but growing number of utilities view the microgrid they may own and operate – a utility distribution microgrid (UDM) – as the next logical extension of their efforts to deploy smart grid technology. As I’ve noted earlier, the developed world can learn interesting lessons from the developing world.

Navigant Research’s base scenario shows that the total UDM market represents over $2.4 billion of economic activity today, with the bulk of this investment flowing into projects located in the Asia Pacific region. As has been noted in other Navigant Research reports, North America is the overall market leader. Yet when it comes to utilities, both Asia Pacific and Europe are ahead in near-term deployments and related implementation revenues. All told, this UDM market is forecasted to reach $5.8 billion under the base scenario in 2023, revenue compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2%.

However, there is one important exception to this market generalization: Alaska.

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Will California State Lawmakers Pull the Plug on Community Energy?

California is schizophrenic (or perhaps dyslectic).

On the one hand, recent energy storage mandates in the form of last year’s AB 2514 have created great opportunities to test out how advanced batteries can help mitigate the frequency and voltage issues associated with high penetrations of variable renewable energy. Utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric have suggested these mandates plant the seeds for new microgrids building upon the utility’s success with the Borrego Springs project, which it recently announced would be expanded.

This year’s AB 2145, nicknamed by critics as the “Monopoly Protection Act,” would introduce a major kink in efforts for the San Francisco Bay Area to give local governments the authority to purchase bulk renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions. The target of the legislation is a policy vehicle pioneered in states such as Ohio and Massachusetts, but which has fanned the flames of controversy in California known as “community choice aggregation.”

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Can the Developing World Teach the Developed World New Tricks on Energy?

With utility push back on policies that have historically supported distributed renewable energy emerging as a global phenomenon, it might be wise for vendors in the space not to push the panic button, and instead look to emerging markets in the developing world for a reality check.

As utilities and states modify their traditional support for technologies such as solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, purveyors of hardware and software that helps integrate distributed renewables into power grids see increasing opportunity. The decline in generous feed-in tariffs for solar PV, for example, creates new opportunities for energy storage.

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