Opening new doors globally for advanced controls: Q&A with PXiSE

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Microgrid Knowledge recently sat down with PXiSE Energy Solutions COO Tim Allen to discuss how leveraging the resources of a large partner can help emerging software and technology companies move the needle on the transition to the future of distributed and clean energy. PXiSE was acquired by Yokogawa Electric, a multinational measurement, control and information technology corporation based in Japan, last fall.

PXiSE

Tim Allen, COO of PXiSE Energy Solutions

MGK: How is the integration with Yokogawa going and what benefits is PXiSE seeing so far?

Allen: The integration is progressing well. Any integration to a big, new corporation comes with its challenges. The initial integration activities focused on business operations such as IT, HR and accounting; getting transitioned into the company as an operational subsidiary. The current activities are more focused on training affiliates to learn about PXiSE products, with our objective to enable sales and deployment through Yokogawa affiliates.

A major benefit is having a global group of affiliates. The way Yokogawa is structured, they have fully functioning, autonomous teams in most of the major countries around the world.

MGK: Yokogawa’s goal is “to contribute to the realization of a sustainable society through broad-ranging activities in the areas of measurement, control and information.” PXiSE implements industry grid control technology for DERs and renewable energy integration. Can you speak to the value of being part of an organization that is philosophically aligned?

Allen: There is value in being part of an organization where we’re philosophically aligned, and that value is really bidirectional. Yokogawa brings a worldwide team with relationships and a reputation for delivering high-quality products and solutions that historically focus on the process industry and power generation industries. What they were interested in that PXiSE brings is innovative technology that’s exclusively focused on renewable energy and battery storage.

They are seeing a huge transition with their traditional business in the process industry and oil and gas industry. Some of their largest clients are oil majors, which are investing in renewable infrastructure and renewable companies. They have ESG goals. All of their large partners and customers are transitioning, so Yokogawa saw that they needed to also be a part of that transition. In some regions, they are seeing decreasing CAPEX investment in oil and gas, and they’re seeing the market growing rapidly in the renewable energy space.

I’ll highlight one region as a prime example. In Australia, Yokogawa has an organization of 200-300 people. They’ve supported major customers on LNG facilities and in mining operations. They are really big in the process industry in Australia. But you see what Australia is doing. They’re transitioning more rapidly than any country in world, adopting new technologies. PXiSE is a part of that transition in Australia with the DERMS [distributed energy resource management system] we did with Horizon Power and a DER marketplace solution we’re developing with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

MGK: On a practical level, how does being part of a global corporation open new doors?

Allen: The way we approach this with our limited resources is to conduct initial sales training with affiliates. Yokogawa has assigned a small team in Japan focused on helping to coordinate with the affiliates, knowing that there is a huge imbalance in the number of resources wanting training and access to PXiSE versus the resources at PXiSE to give trainings and meet with global affiliates. Yokogawa set up a screening and intake process to work with each of the affiliates to help educate them on the products PXiSE offers, what information is required to get a proposal from PXiSE and set some strategic priorities so that we don’t look at opportunities that don’t fit our near-term priorities. Separately, we’re conducting technical trainings. Within Yokogawa, they have global delivery centers staffed with engineers that help deploy big projects around the world. We’re doing technical trainings to get those teams familiar with our software and give them hands-on training to install and support it.

That led to the first project we’ve won in Thailand. We now have a microgrid opportunity at a smart city in Thailand where our local affiliate, Yokogawa Thailand, has signed the contract and they’re bringing the PXiSE controller as the solution they’re delivering to the customer.

There are also technical resources around the globe that we’re training, and our goal is to mobilize teams worldwide that can replicate what we have been doing in North America. We’ll keep the center of excellence in San Diego. Our software developers that created the technology, the technical team, will become more like technical experts while our global affiliates become the deployment experts.

Financially, Yokogawa is fully committed. Yokogawa bought 100% ownership in PXiSE, and it is fully committed to growing PXiSE — funding our growth, hiring, bringing resources.

MGK: What projects using PXiSE solutions best showcase the power and potential of advanced microgrid control systems to enable the transition to the clean energy grid of the future?

Allen: We have a new partner we just signed three contracts with. They’re developing microgrids to serve EV charging stations in major cities in California. It’s an exciting opportunity for us because we know that there’s a rapid deployment of EVs and charging infrastructure, especially in California. Microgrid controls are going to be a critical part of the solution to support continued reliability of the electric grid as these large intermittent loads pop up all over already congested areas of the network. We developed a solution for them that ties in the charge points of EV chargers to our microgrid controller. That allows them to keep charging even when the power goes out. We’ve also architected it with a local controller, so that if they lose communication with their charger management system in the cloud, our microgrid controller can continue to operate the chargers within the available capacity of the batteries on the microgrid. We see this as a business model being replicated all over the place.

MGK: How do companies like PXiSE convince grid stakeholders such as utilities and DER owners that they all benefit from taking ownership in the grid’s future by investing in advanced controls?

Allen: With the big utilities, what really speaks most to them is bringing knowledge and experience. Having a lot of our senior leadership team come out of the utility industry gives us the insider ability to speak their language, to be trusted. That’s the beginning. We are picking up the phone, calling our networks, sharing what we’re doing, being thoughtful about changes the industry is facing like FERC Order 2222.

A lot of the vertically integrated utilities are not sure what they’re going to do, how they’re going to comply, how they’re going to serve their coops and their distribution utilities. What we are finding with our portfolio of products from the microgrid controls to the DERMS to the work we’re doing with AEMO to create a DER marketplace, is that utilities are looking for advice on how to set up a systemwide solution that actually meets the needs of everyone in the stack, from the utility to generation owners, transmission operators, the market operators, the distribution operators. We’re finding opportunities to provide that advising role, and we hope that will translate into some project opportunities.

Tim Allen is COO of PXiSE Energy Solutions.

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