Grid modernization – two perspectives from #DTECH2017

Feb 16, 2017
Our grid modernization team sent two T&D consultants to DistribuTECH 2017. Luther Dow has been to more DTECHs than he cares to count. Jake Zhang had never been to this mother-of-all industry event. Luther has seen the nature of his practice slowly transform from material to digital planning solutions. Jake has been moving from theory to practice as he works with utility clients on distribution infrastructure planning. Both especially valued the connections made on the event floor; after all, engineering is essentially a human endeavor!
We caught up with them after the event to get their impressions.

Luther Dow:

As a long-time attendee of DistribuTECH, it has been interesting to see the continuing growth and shift in focus in the exhibit hall. Initially the focus was on traditional utility infrastructure — transformers and switches — things you could touch and feel. Then the focus began to change — Smart Grid, smart meters, sensors, and data collection. This year, I thought there was a lot of focus on was software products and services that improve the customer interaction.

While we see continuing shifts in the focus of the conference, one thing has not changed — the utilities are driving the conference content. It is great to see the utilities deciding the conference program and heavily participating in the various panels and presentations. It is the interaction between the utility attendees and the exhibitors that provides value to all that attend DistribuTECH.

I appreciated the discussions and feedback that I received from the various attendees who stopped by our booth. The feedback they provided about their needs and how our products could be used or improved was invaluable. I hope we were able to provide some insight to them in return. I am already looking forward to attending next year.


Jake Zhang:

This was my first time at DistribuTECH, so my goal was to get a general overview of the conference. There were so many vendors and suppliers that it took a while to get familiar with their brand names and their products! Once I settled into the Nexant booth, I was able to get my bearings and take advantage of all DistribuTECH has to offer. I met many utility attendees and was able to hear their current needs for various solutions, which is definitely one of the benefits of attending DistribuTECH— making contact with our clients and prospects in the market. Several of our competitors were there as well, so I was able to find out more about them and compare our solutions and capabilities with theirs to distinguish our competitive advantage. DistribuTECH offered a great opportunity to see where the industry is going in terms of practical solutions. I was glad not to see “equations after equations” in the paper session presentations — another sign that DistribuTECH extremely focused on the real-world applications for utilities in the future rather than theories only. I can’t wait for the next one.

Barney Speckman, Luther Dow and Jake Zhang planning future distribution systems at Nexant’s San Francisco office.


PE Luther Dow’s electric power industry experience spans more than 40 years in electric utility transmission and distribution (T&D) engineering and management, research and development (R&D), and consulting. He started his career as a distribution-planning engineer and progressed into the management of T&D planning, T&D construction and maintenance, and electric system strategy. During this time, Luther focused on asset management, distribution automation, system reliability improvement, and organizational improvement programs. He also managed T&D R&D for EPRI, including work on the System of the Future and on-line equipment diagnostics. Luther now consults for U.S. and international utilities in the area of distributed energy resources (DER) integration and associated impacts, grid modernization, process improvements and system strategy.

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Dr. Jake Zhang specializes in grid modeling, analytics and energy market operations, including DER integration and scheduling from the perspective of utilities; wholesale market demand-side development to address transmission system challenges; and utility economics based on deregulated market structure and network business regulations. Jake is proficient in commercial power system analysis tools (CYMDIST with COM module, Synergi Electric, PSCAD, DIgSILENT PowerFactory, PSS SINCAL), open-source power system simulation tools (OpenDSS, GridLAB-D, MATPOWER, CIMTool, OPAL-RT), and scripting and optimization tools (VBA, MATLAB, UML, GAMS).

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