As the smart grid market continues to move from the fundamental ‘blocking and tackling’ of infrastructure and communications build-out to a wide swath of new, advanced applications ranging from consumer behavior analytics, to next-gen control and protection, to greentech integration and grid optimization, we thought it helpful to once again call attention to those leading the charge. The global upgrade to Grid 2.0 has billions, if not trillions, of dollars, euros, yen and yuan on the table, as well as the future safety and security of our power grids, and it is not a job for the faint of heart.  Luckily, the folks on this list are all on top of it. Are these folks in your Rolodex? If not, they should be. 

For a comprehensive understanding of the companies leading the global smart grid market, please refer to The Networked Grid 150: The End-to-End Smart Grid Vendor Ecosystem Profiles and Rankings report

Sharon Allan, Partner, Accenture

As head of Accenture’s North American smart grid practice, Sharon Allan has led the consultancy into a leading position in utility deployments, with 9,300 employees working in a practice that has completed more than 105 smart grid projects around the world. Allan’s previous positions as President of Elster Integrated Solutions and Chief Knowledge Officer at Elster Electricity certainly give her in-depth knowledge of the industry. Accenture now faces the challenge of helping utilities integrate all their new smart grid technology -- and data -- into their back-office IT systems and broader business processes.

Ron Ambrosio, Global Research Executive for Energy & Utilities Industry, IBM

Ron Ambrosio’s role in guiding the smart grid’s architecture stretches all the way back to 2000, when he helped the Department of Energy create the GridWise Architecture Council, a first for the agency. His current work includes serving as chairman of NIST’s Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) Architecture Committee. At IBM, Ambrosio leads the company’s Energy & Utilities Industry activities in its ten major research facilities scattered around the world, where IBM’s smarter planet initiatives meet cutting-edge research and development.

Massoud Amin, Director, Technological Leadership Institute, University of Minnesota

Massoud Amin has a long and distinguished pedigree in managing smart grid complexity in the real world, stretching back to his work in 1998 on a joint EPRI/Department of Defense project aimed at securing the country’s critical infrastructure. His tenure at EPRI includes managing the research group’s Infrastructure Security, Grid Operations/Planning, and Energy Markets efforts, and coordinating all security-related R&D after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He has collaborated on projects with NASA-Ames, Rockwell International, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, MEMC, ESCO and others.

George Arnold, National Coordinator for Smart Grid, NIST

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is ground zero for the hundreds of standards being developed around the smart grid, and George Arnold, National Coordinator for Smart Grid Interoperability at NIST, is in charge of it all. That includes everything from formulating the ways in which data will be shared in demand response events (OpenADR) and between utilities, customers and third parties (OpenADE), to the overarching rules that pertain to keeping the smart grid private and secure. Arnold also co-chairs the White House National Science and Technology Council’s Smart Grid policy subcommittee.

Guido Bartels, Managing Director, IBM

By day, Guido Bartels is the General Manager of IBM’s Global Energy and Utilities Industry, which oversees Big Blue’s smart grid initiatives. The GridWise Alliance grew six-fold under his chairmanship, and Bartels continues to bring an international focus to smart grid issues as chairman of the Global Smart Grid Federation. Likewise, his work chairing the smart grid subcommittee for the DOE’s Electricity Advisory Committee brings his global perspective to the Obama administration.

Michael Bauer, CEO, Sentient Energy 

Michael Bauer leads Sentient Energy, a startup that’s quietly gotten its distribution grid sensor and monitoring technology into a growing number of utility projects, including with integration partner Silver Spring Networks. Foundation Capital is an investor in Sentient, and Bauer served as Entrepreneur in Residence at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the Department of Energy and Foundation Capital. His smart grid experience stretches back to his joining BPL Global in 2005, were he was responsible for product strategy. Before that, he spent over a decade in broadband and video networking in Silicon Valley.

Chad Bell, Senior Director of New Business Solutions Group, Best Buy

Want to know the latest greentech initiatives going on at Best Buy? Talk to Chad Bell. He’s in charge of many of the electronics retailing giant’s key green initiatives, which include sales of Brammo electric motorcycles and charging stations for Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV and Ford’s upcoming line of Focus electric vehicles. Best Buy is also hosting public charging spots as part of The EV Project, the nationwide government-industry car-charging initiative. Recently, Bell has been quoted as saying that Best Buy may even consider hosting the sale of plug-in electric cars built by startups.

Niraj Bhargava, CEO, Energate

Niraj Bhargava, CEO of Energate, has been making a big push into linking energy-smart, smart-grid connected thermostats into homes across North America. The Ottawa-based startup has its thermostats communicating with Silver Spring Networks-connected smart meters with Oklahoma Gas & Electric, and recently launched a commercial rollout of smart thermostats connected to utilities via broadband-to-the-home in Canada’s Ontario province. If the industry is looking for real-world data to determine which mix of communications and utility programs capture the most homeowner involvement with their smart thermostat, Energate is a good place to start.

George Bjelovuk, Managing Director of Enterprise Technology, AEP

AEP is deploying millions of smart meters, distribution grid management systems and energy storage technologies from substation to backyard scale across its territories. George Bjelovuk, managing director of enterprise technology at the multi-state utility, is in charge of putting all those grid pieces together. As project manager of AEP Ohio’s gridSMART project, he’s put the complexities of managing a modern smart grid in terms meant for consumers to understand. Bjelovuk also serves on the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) Governing Board.

Andy Bochman, Founder, The Smart Grid Security Blog

Smart grid cybersecurity: amidst a lot of happy talk on one end of the spectrum, and all the “sky is falling,” worst-case fear-mongering on the other side, it’s hard to know where the truth stands. Andy Bochman’s Smart Grid Security Blog is a must-read for anyone keeping abreast of what the security experts in the field are thinking. Bochman comes to his smart grid cybersecurity credentials via his role as energy security lead at IBM, as well as his contributions to national security working groups on the topic of energy security.

Terry Boston, President & CEO, PJM

Terry Boston, president and CEO of PJM Interconnection, has led the Mid-Atlantic grid operator as it has grown from the nation’s biggest demand response market to breaking new ground in linking the grid to power users. We’ve seen PJM affirm the first uses of energy storage for fast-reacting power markets, as well as cutting-edge virtual power plant technologies. PJM has also taken a stand on a key market dispute with U.S. demand response leader EnerNOC that could have broad ramifications for how the industry develops from this point out.

Andres Carvallo, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Proximetry

Andres Carvallo has brought his technical expertise and next-next-thing vision to the smart grid ever since he coined the term “smart grid” as an alternative to EPRI’s “Intelligrid” concept back in 2003, the same year he joined Texas utility Austin Energy. Carvallo ended up as CIO of the utility, which has broken ground on its smart grid efforts. In March 2010, he left Austin to join Grid Net as executive vice president and chief strategy officer, where he led that company’s move away from strict backing of WiMAX toward supporting LTE and other technologies. In April 2011, he made his most recent move to Proximetry, a startup promising an advanced network management platform to keep the smart grid’s disparate systems running.

Ralph Cavanagh, Co-Director of Energy Programs, Natural Resources Defense Council

The Natural Resources Defense Council has emerged as one of the most stalwart defenders of the smart grid amongst its cohorts in the environmental movement. As long-time energy program director for the NRDC, Ralph Cavanagh has played a key role in that support. For the past 30 years, he’s worked on ways to unite utilities and renewable energy, energy efficiency and other green ideals. He served on the U.S. Secretary of Energy's Advisory Board from 1993 to 2003, and was appointed to the Secretary’s Electricity Advisory Board in 2008. Most recently, he’s emerged as a strong supporter of smart meter technology to counteract the anti-smart meter backlash growing around the country.

Ed Cazalet, Founder and CEO, TeMIX; Founder, Megawatt Energy Storage

With 35 years of electric power experience as an advisor to industry and government executives, and as a consultant, researcher, developer and entrepreneur, Ed Cazalet has his smart grid chops. His specialty is the interplay of energy markets, smart grid technologies, and renewable generation and energy storage. He is founder and CEO of TeMIX Inc., a transactive systems and services company, as well as many other companies. As vice president of Megawatt Storage Farms, he’s an advocate for California to bulk up its energy storage capabilities to manage the 33 percent of its energy the state expects to get from renewables by 2020. If you want to know how much storage per megawatt of intermittent wind or solar power you need to keep the grid stable -- and how to make it economically feasible -- call Ed.

Paul Centolella, Commissioner, Ohio Public Utilities Commission

Paul Centolella’s role in smart grid isn’t limited to his seat on the Ohio PUC. He also serves as the Secretary of the Organization of PJM States and a member of the NARUC-FERC Smart Grid Collaborative, the NARUC-FERC Demand Response Collaborative, NARUC’s Climate Change Task Force, and the NARUC Energy Resources and Environment Committee. Commissioner Centolella also sits on the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) Governing Board, a technical support forum assisting NIST in standards coordination.

Steven Chu, United States Secretary of Energy

While the Department of Energy’s $4 billion smart grid stimulus may be allocated and flowing out the door, Energy Secretary Steven Chu hasn’t lost his importance to the development of the U.S. smart grid industry. Most notably, this staunch advocate of energy efficiency and clean energy, winner of a Nobel Prize in physics, and the former director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has spearheaded the DOE’s ARPA-E program, which includes amongst its grant recipients several startups developing energy storage and power electronics technologies that, if brought to fruition, could redefine the smart grid. (P.S. -- When Chu was a research scientist at Berkeley, he reprogrammed his building’s energy management system to make sure his lab temperature didn’t vary, so he knows building energy efficiency first-hand.)

Carlos Coe, Founder, Xtreme Power

Carlos Coe founded and chairs Xtreme Power, a startup with battery solutions for the smart grid space. With the promise of high energy density and capacity with a lead acid-based chemistry that’s far less susceptible to thermal runaway than lithium ion, Xtreme has deployed megawatts of storage systems to back up substations, wind farms and remote grid applications. Coe previously led refrigeration company Anthony International and Whirlpool Corp., but his roots with Xtreme’s technology stretch back to 1986, when he served as general manager and executive vice president of the joint venture between Ford Aerospace and Tracor working on the battery technology that was to become Xtreme Power.

David Cohen, CEO, Infotility

What’s a Grid Agent? For Infotility, the startup acquired by Pacific Controls earlier this year, it’s an intelligent software agent build for the smart grid. Infotility co-founder and CEO David Cohen has decades of experience in bringing the world of distributed computing and energy together, having previously worked for Silicon Energy in developing its Distributed Energy Manager product, used for such systems as ABB’s Virtual Power Plant application. As a member of the GridWise Architecture Council, EPRI’s IntelliGrid project and other research projects, Infotility’s concepts could help form the next generation of smart, distributed energy management systems.

John Cooper, Founder, NextWatt Solutions

John Cooper has been active in the energy, telecommunications, IT services and government research industries since the mid-1980s, leading projects including utility IP networks, wireless AMI, distributed generation, demand response, energy efficiency, utility-scale energy storage, virtual power plants, and EV charging infrastructure. He’s also the co-author of The Advanced Smart Grid: Edge Power Driving Sustainability and author of The ABCs of Community Broadband, a handbook for community leaders, and his white papers and articles on the smart grid could probably fill a book as well.

David Crane, CEO, NRG Energy

NRG Energy has made one of the most aggressive moves into green technology of any U.S. utility, from massive wind and solar power investments to the launch of the country’s first private plug-in vehicle charging networks and its $350 million purchase of Green Mountain Energy in 2010. As CEO, David Crane has led the company’s green push, saying that green energy could be 25 percent of the company’s business by mid-decade. Crane previously served as CEO and COO of U.K. wholesale power generation company International Power, as well as senior vice president of global power for Lehman Brothers in New York and Asia.  

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