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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Hosts Conference To Explore the Technology, Policy, and Promise of Microgrids


Contact: Media Relations

October 1, 2013

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Hosts Conference To Explore the Technology, Policy, and Promise of Microgrids

Energy Policy and Smart Grid Expert, Chair of the New York State Public Service Commission, Will Deliver Keynote Address at the Upcoming “Workshop on Microgrid Technology and Applications”

The Center for Future Energy Systems (CFES) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute next week will host thought leaders from academia, industry, and the public sector to explore the technology, policies, and opportunities related to the large-scale deployment of microgrids.

The inaugural Workshop on Microgrid Technology and Applications, organized by CFES in collaboration with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), will take place Oct. 10-11 in the Russell Sage Dining Hall on the Rensselaer campus.

The workshop’s keynote address will be delivered by Audrey Zibelman, chair of the New York State Public Service Commission and a member of the State Energy Planning Board. Recognized as a national and international expert in energy policy, markets, and smart grid innovation, Zibelman has extensive experience in the public, private, and not-for-profit energy and electricity sectors.

“The focus of our workshop is to explore the promise of microgrid technology as a means to improve the resiliency of the electrical systems that we rely on every day to power our homes and workplaces,” said workshop chair Jian Sun, CFES director and professor in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer. “It is an honor for us to have Audrey Zibelman, with her vast knowledge and unique perspective of the national and international energy landscape, as the keynote speaker.”

Broken up into four sessions, the workshop will explore the topics of microgrid and infrastructure resiliency, enabling technologies and applications, policy and regulatory Issues, and microgrid opportunities for New York state. Workshop speakers and presenters are from academia, government, and companies with a stake in energy technology and markets, including: Consolidated Edison, Sandia National Laboratories, MIT Lincoln Labs, Rensselaer, PACE, DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability, General Electric, ABB, National Grid, NYSERDA, the New York State Smart Grid Consortium, and several others.

Along with NYSERDA, co-sponsors of the workshop are the New York Energy Policy Institute,

the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST), and the New York State Smart Grid Consortium.

See the full agenda of the workshop at:

MicrogridsA microgrid is broadly defined as a small-scale power system capable of operating independently from the utility power grid. Microgrids can provide many benefits, including the potential to improve power grid and other infrastructure resiliency, Sun said. As a result, there is an increased focus on microgrids in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and other storms that have damaged and disrupted power delivery networks, he said.

The concept of microgrids is not new, Sun said, and arguably dates back to the small DC and AC power systems developed by Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla in the late 19th century. However, leading-edge technologies such as power electronics, advanced control and communication, and distributed generation from renewable resources, as well as new ways to efficiently store electricity, have made it possible to develop new microgrids that are highly reliable and efficient, Sun said.

Microgrids for improving the resiliency of electric supply systems are different than standalone microgrids for military, rural, and island settings. The major difference is that remote microgrids generally do not connect to the utility grid, whereas resiliency-focused microgrids do. This connection provides new opportunities for system optimization and cost reduction, Sun said, but also presents new technical, business, and policy challenges. The Workshop on Microgrid Technology and Applications aims to address these opportunities and challenges.

Audrey ZibelmanAudrey Zibelman was confirmed as a commissioner of the New York State Public Service Commission on June 19, 2013, and was named chair on September 3, 2013. Her term turns through Feb. 1, 2018.

Zibelman has extensive experience in the public, private, and not-for-profit energy and electricity sectors. She is a recognized national and international expert in energy policy, markets, and Smart Grid innovation.

Zibelman is a founder and past president and chief executive officer of Viridity Energy Inc., which she formed after more than 25 years of electric utility industry leadership experience in both the public and private sectors. She has participated as both counsel and expert witness in numerous electric utility proceedings before state and federal regulatory and legislative bodies on topics such as the benefits of power markets and Smart Grids to consumers. Zibelman also has served on the boards of organizations responsible for assuring the security and reliability of the nation's power system, including Reliability First, the GridWise Alliance, and the Midwest Reliability Organization.

Previously, Zibelman was the executive vice president and chief operating officer of PJM, a Regional Transmission Organization that operates the world’s largest wholesale power market and serves 14 states throughout the eastern United States. Zibelman also held executive positions at Xcel Energy, served as general counsel to the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, and as special assistant attorney general in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.

As PSC Chair, Zibelman sits on the State Energy Planning Board. She is also chair of the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment. She sits on the board of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the board of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Inc. (RGGI), the New York State Disaster Preparedness Commission, and is a member of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s New York Renewable Energy Task Force.

Zibelman received her B.A. from Pennsylvania State University and her J.D. from Hamline University School of Law.

About the Center for Future Energy SystemsCFES is the hub of energy research at Rensselaer, where world-leading science and engineering researchers from all fields gather to collaborate on building a productive, more efficient future. Working with partner Cornell University, as well as many partners from industry, CFES conducts fundamental and applied research to accelerate the development of energy efficient, renewable energy, and energy storage technologies.

More than 30 researchers and 45 students from Rensselaer and Cornell collaborate on CFES projects. CFES is a New York state designated Center for Advanced Technology and receives funding from the Empire State Development (ESD) Division for Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR).

For additional information on CFES and energy research at Rensselaer, visit:


Reeve Hamilton
Director of Media Relations and Communications

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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,600 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.