Why Regulators and Energy Providers Need to Be on the Same Page

Technology advancements like better batteries and data analytics have improved the performance of electrical grids, but to reach their full potential regulations need to catch up.

At Fortune’s Brainstorm E conference held in Carlsbad, Calif. on Tuesday, Nicholas Akins, the president and CEO of American Electric Power Company, said that customers, whether they are air force bases or big universities, want to see more innovative forms of power delivered to them. This energy could come from renewables like solar or from small-scale power grids called microgrids.

However, current government regulations haven’t kept up to the pace of technology, which can better deliver the type of energy requirements organizations crave, argued Akins.

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“The regulatory side clearly needs to move faster or provide more flexibility,” Akins said.

Atkins cited a small Texan town called Paint Rock that outgrew their energy capacity. He said that the best remedy for the town’s energy problem was for American Electric Power Company (AEP) to work with a company called Greensmith (which American Electric Power invested in) to help provide the town energy.

Atkins said in this instance, Greensmith’s specialized battery and energy storage technology was a better solution to the town’s problems than conventional methods.

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However, American Electric Power Company had to file with Texas regulators to get approval, which was too long of a process for Atkins.

“This has to change dramatically so that we can have that kind of relationship with our customers,” he said.

Susan Kennedy, the founder and CEO from Advanced Microgrid Solutions, agreed with Atkins on the need for government regulators to ensure that policy is in sync with technology.

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“The technology exists, we need the flexibility in order to implement them,” said Kennedy.

Google’s (GOOG) vice president of energy John M. Woolard said that although there is a lot of innovative power technology now available, there are still areas that electrical grid operators need to get better at.

He explained that networking technology that can more intelligently disperse power to match demand will greatly benefit customers, and is a way for electrical grids to be “smarter” at delivering power.

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