Speaker Series - Robert Thomas, PhD

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - 2:00pm


Thoughts on a Path to an Electric Grid of the Future

Robert Thomas
Professor Emeritus of Electrical & Computer Engineering
Cornell University

This talk begins by discussing past planning and operation practices of US bulk power utilities. It is important to understand these practices as they defined the design and operation of the current legacy system, a system that imposes a considerable constraint on any future system design. We then discuss why there needs to be changes in both planning and operations as we move to a future grid that is constrained by the legacy system, and yet needs to accommodate different planning and operational practices in order to be economic and maintain the high level of reliability we have come to expect. Many of the drivers for a future grid are based on a desire to improve capacity factors by shifting the demand curve through either market incentives or controls, to accommodate new types of variable yet sustainable generation, to provide for the electrification of the transportation system, and to accommodate new environmental concerns, to name a few. This will require new ideas in communication, computing, and control as well as the completion of market designs that includes demand as well as supply side management. The talk examines some of the technologies that are being considered and in some cases implemented as we seek to modernize this important infrastructure.

Robert J. Thomas currently holds the position of Professor Emeritus of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Cornell University. He has had assignments with the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Electric Energy Systems (EES) in Washington, D.C and the National Science Foundation as the first Program Director for the Power Systems Program in the Engineering Directorate's Division of Electrical Systems Engineering (ESE). He is the author of over 100 technical papers and two book chapters, and has published in the areas of transient control and voltage collapse problems as well as technical, economic and institutional impacts of restructuring. He is founding Director of the 13-university member National Science Foundation Center, PSerc (Power Systems Engineering Research Center), is a Life Fellow of IEEE, and has been actively involved with the IEEE United States Activity Board's Energy Policy Committee and served as the IEEE-USA Vice President for Technology Policy. He was a member of the USDOE Secretary's Power Outage Study Team (POST) and is a founding member of the Coalition for Electric Reliability Solutions (CERTS). He was on assignment to the USDOE in 2003 as a Senior Advisor to the Director of the Office of Electric Transmission and Distribution and a member of the DOE August 14, 2003 blackout investigation team and contributed to the 2007 National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor NIETC) study. He was an Advisor to the DOE Assistant Secretary for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability from 2006 to 2011, and served as one of 30 inaugural members of the U.S. Department of Energy Secretary’s Electricity Advisory Committee (EAC) from 2008 to 2010. He is currently a member of the PJM Advanced Technology Advisory Council and a Cornell ACSF Fellow.