One month ago, I joined the grid enhancement technology firm Smart Wires. Not an easy decision to change jobs – I was very happy at GE Renewable Energy, where I was fortunate to work on challenging and meaningful projects with a great team of people. In the end, my move was motivated by the potential impact on the environment and future for my children.
For me, providing accessible, affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy for all is the goal – a “green electron revolution.” I believe it is paramount – not just for my children and their future, but for future generations across the world.
For the last decade, I have tackled these challenges by focusing my career on renewable generation development – primarily onshore wind. The need was pressing; the market opportunity was huge; the pace and scale of technology evolution and adoption is incredible. Generating green electrons is a core component of the energy transition. Still, when you look at the broadest view of what energy transition means, what it needs, moving green electrons around is the key.
The Grid has existed for a long time, it was designed for large, centralized fossil fuel power generation, with one-way power flow, supply greater than demand, and vast amounts of spinning inertia that stabilized the grid. It was not designed for large-scale, intermittent, and increasingly distributed renewable generation. Energy generation and demand patterns are shifting, electrification needs, and opportunities are rapidly evolving, and so must the grid. To unlock the energy transition, the grid must modernize and operate differently.
I realized that it is not simply about generating low-cost, clean, renewable energy, but about transferring this clean energy effectively and efficiently to where it’s needed.
In simple terms, the grid was becoming the bottleneck to unlocking the movement of green electrons and the energy transition at scale. There are thousands of GWs of renewable projects waiting for grid connections around the world. These generators are waiting on grid upgrades that take years due to financing, permitting, planning, and construction. Solving today’s problems is one thing. When we consider how many green electrons are needed to move through networks to electrify sectors like heating, transportation, and industrial processes – I knew this problem would only get more extensive and more painful.
I discovered the grid was not only under-utilized today, but there are solutions out there that can quickly unlock this capacity. I was so amazed by the potential for impact – I felt it was larger here than anywhere else in the electric sector. And I was blown away by the technology – unique, innovative, and perfectly timed for the growing global need.
This was my ah-ha moment. This was when I realized I could do even more for my children, their future and society, by helping the grid.
Smart Wires has been positioning itself for the last decade to play right here, at what I believe will become the nexus of the energy transition – providing technology to help utilities modernize, optimize and monetize grid capacity.
As a recent Battle Group report finds, grid enhancing technologies can allow more than double the renewable generators to connect to the grid – compared to the status quo approach to transmission planning – over the next five years. These investments could be made before the end of the year and would pay for themselves in six months.
This is the impact I am talking about – this is how we unlock a quick, affordable revolution of green electrons. We have the tools today; the opportunity is there for the taking.
The energy transition is upon us, a critical evolution of technology and behavior. As the champion of evolution so eloquently said: It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change. -Charles Darwin
Be the leader the industry and the world needs. Explore non-traditional solutions, question the status quo, and be open-minded to change or get out-competed in the revolution.
Peter Wells is the Chief Executive Officer of Smart Wires, a global power technology company advancing the delivery of affordable, clean electricity worldwide. Peter joined Smart Wires from GE Renewable Energy, where he served as CEO of Onshore Wind for the Europe and Sub Saharan Africa (SSA) Region for two years. Peter had previously held the role of Senior Vice President and COO for Services and Projects with Vestas Americas.
Prior to Vestas, Peter had spent five years with UpWind, where he was CEO, growing the business 10X to create the leading Independent Service Provider in the US, before successfully selling the business to Vestas in 2015. Before joining UpWind, Peter spent ten years with GE in various roles, including Six Sigma, Marketing, Parts GM, and VP New Plant Project Operations in different GE Energy business units. Peter, who is originally from the UK, previously spent time at a variety of European companies, mostly in the EPC (Engineering, Procurement & Construction) space as a Chartered Surveyor, dealing with the commercial management of large and complex infrastructure projects.