The New Utility: Basic Enabler of Sustainable and Resilient Electric Energy Services? [SmartGrid Seminar]

The New Utility: Basic Enabler of Sustainable and Resilient Electric Energy Services?
Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 1:30pm
Shriram 104
Marija Ilić (Carnegie Mellon University)
Abstract / Description: 

In this talk, we consider problems concerning the role of future utilities. Innovative operations and financial mechanisms are needed to transform utilities into future enablers of sustainable and resilient electric energy service providers. Both technical and financial issues on the road to modernizing today's utilities.

First, we illustrate on real-world operating problems limiting the penetration and utilization of distributed energy resources (DERs) and how these problems can be systematically solved using advanced automation and control. Automation represents a fundamental opportunity to overcome today's worst-case approach to electric energy services and offer more sustainable and resilient services. Mechanisms for better voltage support, power-electronics-based automation for stable operations systems and fast storage systems during abnormal conditions must be introduced. Although utilities should consider this approach as an alternative to building strong grids, some of these solutions are too complex for end users. Fortunately, there exists a win-win range of technological solutions by both utilities and end users. This is particularly the case when solutions are needed to operate these grids during natural disasters and cyber-attacks.

Second, we discuss financial roadblocks to deploy these promising technological innovations. We assess electricity markets in terms of their ability to enable DER integration at value. We also show how DERs can participate in electricity markets for energy and regulation during normal operations, but stress that there are no good mechanisms to value automation and storage. Utilities should move forward as providers of the last resort at value and be paid for taking the financial risks. If end users require uninterrupted clean services, market mechanisms must be put in place to give incentives to utilities to deploy effective technological solutions.


This quarter's speakers are renowned experts in power and energy systems, and we believe they will bring novel insights and fruitful discussions to Stanford. This seminar is offered as a 1 unit seminar course, CEE 272T/EE292T for interested students. This course can be repeated for credit for the students.

SmartGrid Seminar Organization Team:

  • Ram Rajagopal, Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Chin-Woo Tan, Director, Stanford Smart Grid Lab
  • Wenyuan Tang, Postdoctoral Scholar, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Yuting Ji, Postdoctoral Scholar, Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Emre Kara, Associate Staff Scientist, SLAC


Professor Marija Ilić is currently on leave from Carnegie Mellon University as a Visiting Professor at the MIT Institute for Data, Systems and Society. She is also a Senior Staff in the Energy Systems Group at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory. She is an IEEE Life Fellow. She was the first recipient of the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award for Power Systems signed by late President Ronald Regan. In addition to her academic work, she is the founder of New Electricity Transmission Software Solutions, Inc. She has co-authored several books on the subject of large-scale electric power systems, and has co-organized an annual multidisciplinary Electricity Industry conference series at Carnegie Mellon ( with participants from academia, government, and industry. She is the founder and co-director of the Electric Energy Systems Group at Carnegie Mellon University (