Editor’s note: This segment was originally published on Energy.gov as a collective spotlight on members of the Electricity Advisory Committee (EAC). Our Chief Engineer, Tom Bialek, was recognized for his continued dedication to his executive leadership role with the EAC, where he serves as Smart Grid Subcommittee Chair.
This summer, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the new and returning members of the Electricity Advisory Committee (EAC), which advises DOE on electricity resilience, reliability, security, interdependency, and policy issues. In a new series of posts, we hear from the members of the EAC to learn more about their backgrounds, their predictions for the future of the electric grid, and their advice for young professionals in the energy space. This week we are highlighting the chair and vice-chair of the Smart Grid subcommittee.
With a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, two patents and numerous academic papers to his name and more than 30 years of experience in the energy industry under his belt, SDG&E Chief Engineer Tom Bialek is a fount of knowledge when it comes to the technical challenges facing America’s power grid and the potential solutions.
What have you worked on during your time in the EAC?
I am actively engaged in the Executive Leadership, chairing the Smart Grid Subcommittee and participating in the Storage Subcommittee. Given my exposure to transmission and distribution issues, including distributed energy resources in California, I have provided a utility perspective from an area of the country that has seen significant change.
Can you tell us about your professional journey that led you to the EAC?
Over the course of my career, I have worked on both sides of the proverbial utility fence, gaining experience with both manufacturers and utilities. I have been involved with equipment and systems doing anything from manufacturing and planning to designing and testing. There are few major pieces of equipment that I have not seen, pulled apart, repaired, and put together. This has provided me with a unique perspective on the role of data in making actionable decisions, a perspective that is especially important today.
What new developments excite you about the future of energy?
Technology has and will continue to fundamentally change how customers choose to satisfy their energy needs. As stewards of this energy future, we need to leverage advances in technologies to improve operational efficiencies and provide improved visibility to ensure that the electricity customers rely upon, and take for granted, is always available.
The grid has evolved significantly in the past century. What do you expect from the Grid of 2100?
As the grid continues to evolve and electricity consumption on a per capita basis increases, the Grid of 2100 must become more flexible and resilient. It must be available at all times and remain affordable for all customers. New technologies will continue to be developed and implemented, but to meet customers’ expectations, manufacturers must strive to develop products with standardized interfaces to facilitate their choices.
What is something surprising people do not know about you?
I play the role of a gentleman farmer with over 50 fruit trees and grapevines; which explains why I am always busy. I am fermenting my red grapes as we speak.