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Energy Central Power Perspectives™: Getting to Know Peter Bronski, Expert in the Digital Utility Community

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While new technology can sometimes create a lot of hype and end up as just a flash in the pan, the trend of moving the energy sector towards digital utilities is undoubtedly here to stay. From digital communications, smart technology, and the advent of troves of utility data that can be used to benefit utility and customer alike, staying on top of digital utility trends is paramount to movement forward into the utility of tomorrow.

To ensure the readers of Energy Central don’t miss out on the immense insights and vast expertise available to them within our community, we’re continuing today with our Power Perspectives™ “Getting to Know Your Experts” interview series with a seasoned veteran expert in the Digital Utility Community, Peter Bronski. Peter brings many years of experience in the utility sector with them and a perspective that’s adequately forward-looking when it comes to digital technologies. In this interview, I seek to pull out just a few of the many useful tidbits Peter has to share, which will hopefully encourage you to use him as a resource and pay attention when he contributes to the Energy Central community:

Matt Chester: Peter—thanks for being an active Energy Central member, a registered expert, and for participating in this interview series that allows our community to better know our experts and what they bring to the table. Kicking off with that, can you introduce yourself to any of our community members who may not know who you are and let us know what your role is in the utility industry and what brought you to that point in your career? 

Peter Bronski: For 20 years, my career has focused on sustainability and the environment. The longest and most recent chapter has been laser-focused on clean energy in particular. Though my job roles have listed some flavor of marketing and communications on my business card, my background is more diverse, including engineering and natural resource management. This experience gives me a deeper understanding and comfort level with technical content, which helps to translate energy industry nuance into compelling branding, marketing, and communications strategy. Over the years I've held senior roles in organizations such as Rocky Mountain Institute and Panasonic, and in late 2017 I founded Inflection Point Agency, a boutique full-service marcom firm that serves clients in the clean energy space, including Energy Web Foundation, WattTime, Lumin, and others. 

 

MC: You’ve worked extensively in clean energy organizations for marketing and communications. What would you say is the mistake in messaging that most people make when trying to talk about the clean energy / cleantech space? Where would the message be made clearer?

PB: I continue to see a persistent perspective—often perpetuated by clean energy companies and allied organizations—that the clean energy sector is trying to overturn the incumbent fossil-fuel industry. We have cast ourselves in the 'David' role in the story of 'David vs. Goliath.' But recent years have seen a tectonic shift in the market: renewables and even renewables+storage are now often the least-cost resource for utility procurement; clean energy technologies bolster grid resilience, rather than undermine it; the clean energy sector is a major jobs creator, etc. Collectively, we should be making an attitude adjustment to re-cast ourselves as the dominant heroine of the story. If we do that, then we can better define our own narrative, rather than trying to carve out a place amidst a century-old narrative of central thermal generation. Clean energy should be the 'new normal' in messaging. 

 

MC: As an expert in our digital utility community, can you comment on the importance of the digital utility transformation when it comes to clean energy and how these two ideas go hand in hand together?  

PB: In short, 'digital' is a shorthand proxy for everything we associate with modern, 21st-century life in the year 2020. Modern = smartphones, high-speed wireless and fiber connectivity, high-performance electric vehicles, crisp clean solar panels, and wind turbines. Likewise, the modern utility of today and tomorrow can't be a nostalgic analog relic in an otherwise digital world. From how utilities manage the evolving power grid to their brand reputation with residential and C&I customers, becoming a 'digital utility' should be as much a priority as their next round of all-source renewable energy procurements.  

MC: While kicking off a fresh new year, what utility-related story do you think is going to loom largest in 2020 that flew a bit under the radar in 2019?

PB: As we speak, terrible fires are raging in Australia. Meanwhile, 2019 likewise saw wildfires and risk of wildfires cause massive preventative blackouts throughout California. This situation is shining a bigger spotlight than ever on the vulnerability of our grids, especially with long-distance transmission delivering power to demand centers. Thus in 2020, I think we'll see even greater attention being paid to distributed and local generation as a form of resilience and wildfire prevention. 

 

MC: As one of our trusted experts at Energy Central, you’ve used the platform as a means to share your insights fairly actively. What do you think is the value in the Energy Central community and the ability to bring together utility professionals from different areas? What keeps you coming back to Energy Central?  

PB: Frankly, I don't attend nearly as many energy-industry events as I used to. The Energy Central community has become my new crossroads where I can interact and converse with diverse peers from across the industry. In lieu of networking happy hours and impromptu conversations in the aisles of trade show expos and in the halls of hotel and convention centers after panel discussions at conferences, I now have Energy Central. 



  

Thanks to Peter for participating in the “Energy Central Power Perspectives™: Getting to Know Your Expert” interview series and for time and again showing a commitment to sharing his insights within the Energy Central community.

The other expert interviews that we’ve completed in this series can be read here, and if you are interested in becoming an expert then you can reach out to me or you can apply here.

Discussions

Rami Reshef's picture
Rami Reshef on Jan 19, 2020 6:42 pm GMT

Hi Peter, thanks for your valuable comments and insight, and I happily accept your evaluation that clean energy is the "new normal", although specifically when looking at the "attention being paid to distributed and local generation as a form of resilience and wildfire prevention", unfortunately the new normal clean renewable energy sources are immediately forgotten in the rush to place orders with six and seven figures on pollutant diesel generators. Hopefully 2020 will mark a new and longer-sighted approach to distributed and local generation that targets resilience, wildfire prevention, climate action and transition to sustainable energy by putting in place more clean backup power and energy storage alternatives.   

 

 

Peter  Bronski's picture
Peter Bronski on Jan 24, 2020 4:46 pm GMT

You make a good point regarding diesel generators. I can think of a few examples where a local municipality has banned new fossil-fueled backup power (in favor of tech alternatives that don't produce local emissions). With the rise of increasingly economic battery energy storage, fuel cells, etc. hopefully we'll see the momentum behind backup power and resilience merge with the ongoing move toward clean power as well.

David Svarrer's picture
David Svarrer on Jan 22, 2020 8:49 pm GMT

Wonderful sharing. Great interview. Thanks a lot! 

In my humble opinion, you (Matt) could indeed have asked more questions in the same line - it is always nice to get in depth interviews where we can really get to understand the interviewee, their background, their achievements, their view on their area :-) 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 22, 2020 9:55 pm GMT

Glad you appreciated it, David-- and I'll keep that in mind as I hone my interview skills! Always good to know more about what our community wants to hear

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