Increasing Value of Energy Resilience, Reliability in Today’s Climate

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Chris Cummiskey, chief commercial and customer solutions officer at Southern Company and PowerSecure CEO, sits down virtually with Sarah Rubenoff, special projects editor at Microgrid Knowledge, to discuss the growing value of energy resilience in a world increasingly wracked by climate change.

PowerSecure’s CEO Cummiskey has also taken on the position of chief commercial and customer solutions officer for Southern Company. Cummiskey shared with Microgrid Knowledge what this move means for the strategy of Southern Company and its subsidiaries, which include PowerSecure, before launching into the current microgrid environment.

Cummiskey broke it down like this: “The idea here is the customer, and that’s why we put that in the title. Southern Company always said the customer is at the center of all we do.”

These days, he pointed out, customers are changing, and what they are looking for is changing faster than ever before. This position is designed to share knowledge with customers across all the  “prongs” of Southern Company business.

A recent PowerSecure report shows that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was one for the books —  in fact, the busiest on record. The Southern Company exec shared how this year impacted PowerSecure’s customers and its 1,800 managed microgrid systems across the country.

“It seems like the year of 2020 had so many problems across the board, whether it be COVID or storm season, but, you know, summer and fall was just one giant storm mode for the company,” Cummiskey said.

PowerSecure’s new white paper, “Before, During & After the Storm,” explores the 2020 experience in the microgrid market and the growing value of energy resilience.

energy resiliency

An example of a PowerSecure microgrid. Photo courtesy: PowerSecure

In fact, PowerSecure had 263 distinct customers and 566 microgrid units that were impacted by the storms.

“It was a challenge, but the good news is, at the end of the day, we had 99.5% reliability, but it was a lot of work, a lot of learning. But we consider ourselves the gold standard for service; we don’t just put our product in your backyard and walk away,” Cummiskey said. “We keep technicians in your area. And we are always watching it, and that’s what made us so successful during these storms.”

As climate change continues to impact the rate of natural disasters, drought, storm strength and more, the value of energy resiliency continues to grow.

Cummiskey confirmed this assertion. “I think it’s going to keep growing up and up and up” for two reasons, he said.

One is the increasing severity of the storm seasons.

“There’s a trend here. The world’s changing; we are seeing more and more of this, and I don’t see that ending. So there’s more value there because every time a customer goes down, it costs them money. If it’s going to happen more often, it costs them more money,” Cummiskey said.

The second reason he attributes to the fact that the world is simply “electrifying.”

“Everything is becoming more electric every day, so every part of your business becomes more electric. So the value proposition of losing power for an extended period of time and what it costs your business is growing,” he said.

Cummiskey also confirmed the energy industry is likely to continue to see the rate of new deployed microgrid systems continue to ramp up as the value put on energy resiliency continues to grow.

He noted the industry will likely see renewable natural gas and renewable diesel become larger players, and he pointed out noticeable efforts being made in the area of sustainability — on top of resiliency.

“And what you’re seeing there is more advanced microgrids, and we’ve done them in the past, and we continue to do them,” Cummiskey said. “I think you are going to see those grow. ”

See the full video above, and download the supporting white paper, “Before, During & After the Storm” to further explore PowerSecure’s 2020 experience in the microgrid market and the growing value of energy resiliency. 

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  1. “”Cummiskey broke it down like this: “The idea here is the customer, and that’s why we put that in the title. Southern Company always said the customer is at the center of all we do.””

    I look at now and have to ask, why push on with Vogtle 3, 4, when it more than likely will never pay for itself, but will need to be subsidized for decades to come, by the ‘customers’. I look back just a few years at the Kemper plant in Mississippi and see the dismal failure of all of this “clean coal” technology fail to provide baseload electricity anywhere near the cost of wind generation or solar PV generation offer. Just (my opinion), Southern company needs to concentrate on the future. Take that output of Vogtle, send it into HVDC transmission lines to very large scale energy storage systems in several states, then convert to the A.C. grid where needed. Hind sight is 20-20 right? How much infrastructure could Southern Company have installed today if the projects with those multi-billion dollar cost overruns had been spent on transmission and storage facilities? Keep going at this rate and the Southern Company will become Duke Energy or another acquisition by Berkshire Hathaway.