National Grid talks Clean Energy Economic Development

The Triple Win of Lower Bills, Less Carbon, More Jobs
May 9, 2016 9:30 AM ET

There are enormous challenges the energy industry must overcome to decarbonize the supply chain, as discussed at length in my eBook. Affordability, innovative regulation, advances in technology, unprecedented partnerships, the natural gas bridge – all must be implemented on a large scale and at the local level. What does that mean? How, exactly, does that macro vision translate to micro stories in the communities we serve?

There’s a lot of economic benefit that comes with having a large utility in your backyard. For one, we bring billions to bear in local investment – $12.5 billion over the next five years, in fact. And that’s just in infrastructure upgrades. This number does not take into account the state and local taxes we pay, the jobs we provide, and the capital we invest to move our systems into the 21st century – with the proper regulatory support, of course.

Remember, we’re not selling widgets. We’re transporting energy – a volatile commodity whose needs must be met with 24/7 oversight. I can only speak for National Grid, but as a multinational energy delivery company with a hyper-local customer focus, there are a number of examples of clean energy leadership I’m proud to lean on. 

Our new approach to large-scale solar in Massachusetts is one of them. By strategically targeting installations – more than 20 megawatts of solar panels in projects across the state – National Grid is looking to provide additional energy to communities that need it when they need it, vastly improving the value of solar projects to customers. And the local economic benefit? In addition to the powerful impact these installations will have on the energy grid, the projects will create jobs for the community and, in some locations, help to transform marginal existing space into something far more beneficial. Further, the solar projects will also provide information to help us determine if infrastructure can be retired and removed in certain locations. There’s that triple win again—lower bills, cleaner energy, and more jobs. 

We are also innovating how we bring clean energy to customers through on and offshore wind projects. Our Green Line transmission projects tackle the issue of intermittent energy from wind power by linking wind farms with hydro generation. When wind generation slows, we ramp up hydro – and vice versa – to create a stable stream of electricity that will be delivered from New York, Maine, and Canada via efficient HVDC transmission lines to population centers in southern New England.

And if that doesn’t get you excited, consider this: the first offshore wind installation in the U.S. is rising out of the waves here in Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm will connect Rhode Islanders with clean electricity, and I’m proud to say that National Grid is building the undersea cable that will connect Deepwater Wind to mainland electric consumers. Again: the triple win. 

There is no silver bullet when it comes to a decarbonized energy future – that’s why we believe in a balanced approach to getting us there. Enter the natural gas-to-renewables transition story – the one that few talk about. The facts remain: yes, natural gas is a fossil fuel. But it’s the cleanest, most abundant and affordable option we have that can supply reliable energy over the next several decades in the way we have come to expect. No other resource can deliver on that promise. It is the bridge that will allow us all to make the best decisions for our communities. No customer or community can be left behind, so the solutions must be the right ones the first time. 

Climate change threatens nearly every aspect of our society. From health, food supply, businesses, the environment—all the way up to national economies and security. Our industry, and the U.S. as a whole, must continue to advance renewable energy sources while also lowering demand through energy efficiency. 

Given the region’s growing electric-gas interdependency, we must invest in natural gas pipelines today to stabilize electricity prices and prepare for the electrification of transportation and home heating tomorrow. And we must continue to build the resilient electricity transmission networks that underpin and enable the economic prosperity of our communities. 

There’s no denying what our customers already know: tomorrow’s power grid and energy supply chain must look much different than today’s.

I admit that we don’t have all the answers yet, but I can guarantee we are committed to finding them. We do know we must put customers in charge, embrace technology partners, and see real change in how the industry is financed and regulated. It’s time for all utility companies—and our policy and tech partners—to bring the full weight of our power to bear, killing our 20th century infrastructure paradigm in order to have one that works for the 21st century, and beyond. 


About the Author

Dean Seavers joined National Grid in December 2014 as President of National Grid in the U.S.

Dean’s long career has included leadership roles at GE, United Technologies, and Tyco. He led GE Security, a $2 billion product and technology group, and he also led a $4 billion global services portfolio for United Technologies.

At Red Hawk Fire & Security, Dean’s most recent venture, he was a founder and served as President and CEO. Red Hawk quickly became the second largest independent fire and security platform in the U.S., providing integrated security solutions to large and mid-sized commercial customers.

Dean has a strong background in financial strategy, performance improvement, and operational leadership. At National Grid, his focus is on continuing the performance progress that underpins the company’s U.S. business while driving its Connect21 agenda of building the advanced natural gas and electricity networks that are the foundation of our 21st century digital economy.

A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Dean graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business from Kent State University and earned an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Dean and his family have a home in Boston.


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