Asheville city council candidate calls for municipal collaboration on DOE grant

For Immediate Release: Contact Grant Millin, grant [at]

Asheville, NC – Innovation strategist and Asheville, NC city council candidate Grant Millin is seeking qualified North Carolina municipalities willing to unify and apply for a Department of Energy (DOE) local research grant. Any qualifying US municipality is welcome to contact InnovoGraph and form an applicant consortium.

The goal of this grant is to use relatively user-friendly National Laboratory ‘energy informatics’ software to study various Smart Grid and distributed energy technology. Results will help make US communities more resilient to severe weather and combat human-caused climate change.

North Carolina’s much needed Resilient Electricity Delivery Infrastructure (REDI) Initiative

The DOE Resilient Electricity Delivery Infrastructure (REDI) Initiative will “help communities deploy smart grid tools and technologies to advance climate preparedness and resiliency of the electricity delivery infrastructure,” according to a DOE press release.

A secondary benefit is that Smart City / CleanTech solutions like fuel cell microgrids make local economies more valuable to high performance firms looking to startup or relocate. While the City of Asheville and Buncombe County Government were unable to make a REDI application, any North Carolina municipality is encouraged to apply. InnovoGraph has developed a REDI and general community energy innovation solution called Smart Grid DEEP (Smart Grid, Distributed Energy, and Efficiency Program). Utilities like Duke Energy are encouraged to participate, but municipalities can continue with or without utilities through InnovoGraph, DOE, National Lab, and other preferred REDI partner support.

In their 2014 Energy Technology Perspectives report, the International Energy Agency concludes the globe will need to invest $44 trillion over the next 35 years to combat climate change inducing carbon emissions. A direct economic benefit from such investment is a projected $115 trillion in energy savings. Each US community needs to get into the power business to a certain degree and understand these costs and benefits. That’s where the REDI initiative and InnovoGraph’s Smart Grid DEEP (Smart Grid, Distributed Energy, and Efficiency Program) solution comes in.

REDI-Smart Grid DEEP Ecosystem

InnovoGraph has identified UNC system energy innovation centers, as well as assets like the National Climatic Data Center and the nonprofit NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA), for potential partnership with any REDI municipalities. Municipalities must have experienced a “Presidentially Declared Major Disaster” over the past 30 years.

One challenge so far is getting Duke Energy to provide power outage data and resiliency measures. Such data was requested from Duke Progress Energy for Asheville area analysis going back to Hurricanes Frances and Ivan. Because of the Federal mission involved, such data can be accessed through the NC Utilities Commission. Utilities ought to be more willing to participate. The REDI research phase for this grant is not a commitment on the part of the applying municipality, utilities, or partners to fund Smart Grid electrical system equipment. It’s merely an opportunity to use a scientific method when it comes to making choices about the vast energy innovation options available to communities and utilities today.

“While it’s disappointing to see my home city and county experiencing strategic overwhelm to the point they can’t pursue powerful competitive advantage solutions like REDI, I still want to see Asheville ‘join’ the rest of the state in more collaborative ways. I hope as an Asheville city council member this will be the first of many opportunities for all of us to work as a state ‘innovation and opportunity ecosystem’ team,” said InnovoGraph owner Grant Millin. Grant anticipates Asheville and Buncombe County will begin using the REDI strategy once other North Carolina communities, and other REDI communities across the nation, take the lead.

Grant believes each US community working together and sharing ideas will lead to true national wealth in contrast to tactics like using obsolete, counter-productive corporate tax break ‘jobs incentive’ packages and other incomplete and ineffective economic development strategies. “Sustainability isn’t just a ‘feel good’ notion any longer. Sustainability is literally about responsible futures strategy. The costs of energy modernization, unmitigated human-caused climate change… it’s all unavoidable. We have to work as a national team and get moving in a responsible direction.”

As part of the White House Climate Action Plan, several ‘Climate Action Champion’ communities were announced last year. Only two Southern communities qualified as champions: Knoxville, TN and Broward County, FL. In order for North Carolina to subsequently develop a credible state clean power plan, as many of our municipalities as possible should collaborate and send in essentially the same application referring to their joining this REDI-Smart Grid DEEP Ecosystem, or consortium. Such a strategy better shares REDI R&D strategy and lessons learned. The consortium members are better prepared for future funding opportunities in the energy innovation and Smart City arena.

About Grant Millin, InnovoGraph’s innovation strategist and owner

Grant is a San Francisco native. When his parents moved the family to Asheville after purchasing the historic T.S. Morrison & Co. general store, the now highly praised Downtown Asheville district was being threatened with the strategy of demolition for a downtown mall.

“I’ve always heard that places like Asheville and states like North Carolina will always be ten years behind communities like San Francisco. I am pleased City of Asheville has announced downtown innovation district development. But responsible, high value firms don’t develop just around breweries and tourism. They startup or expand/relocate to places with Smart City infrastructure like fuel cell microgrids and progressive, community-building policies,” Grant said. Grant is promoting an Asheville Microgrid initiative.

Grant served as North Carolina project manager for the historic Hydrogen Road Tour and produced the Forum on Smart Grid and Hydrogen Economies at Duke University. He has a bachelor’s interdisciplinary studies, independent degree in Sustainability and Security Studies as well as a Master of Entrepreneurship and Master of Project Management degree.

Fuel cells and hydrogen infrastructure work for North Carolina too

Fuel cells work in concert with solar PV, efficiency, as well as the kinds of additional Smart Grid solutions firms like Duke Energy are already deploying. A fuel cell-biogas-solar power system helps power the Apple data center in Maiden, NC. Duke Energy is a partner on the Apple power system. North Carolina municipalities are encouraged to look up the California Stationary Fuel Cell Collaborative Fuel Cell Installation Map. Apple and other Silicon Valley firms, universities, and even hospitals and a USPS facility shown on the map are often using stationary fuel cells. InnovoGraph recommends using an alternative fuel cell provider.

InnovoGraph’s Smart Grid DEEP center of excellence approach links with universities, business, nonprofit, and the rest of government in an innovation ecosystem approach. InnovoGraph will provide high level strategic project management, communications, and basic data collection around the Phase One energy informatics tool selected.

InnovoGraph and partners will help develop the required Project Management Plan, up to and following the May 4th REDI application deadline. Qualifying municipalities must submit these REDI applications and be committed to the process. Students interested in energy innovation attending in the partner municipality regions will benefit greatly by serving as paid interns. Phase 2 is the Go/No Go decision to commit to new energy innovations such as fuel cell and hydrogen infrastructure (FCH2) and ask for policy like Federal fee and dividend carbon taxes, a Federal renewable energy portfolio standard, and possibly Community Choice Aggregation. Grant is developing a separate nonprofit to cover  this and other sustainability strategy.

While North Carolina communities are encouraged to apply and work with InnovoGraph in this Smart Grid consortium approach, Grant wants each US community to do what they can in the remaining time to apply. Interstate Smart Grid DEEP collaboration is encouraged.

REDI programs can include analysis for Smart City CleanTech like electric vehicles. The NC Plug-In Electric Vehicle Roadmap (PEV) needs to be replanned and rebranded to include zero emission vehicles like fuel cell cars, buses, and forklifts. Several PEV recharging stations already exist in North Carolina, but except for a Proctor & Gamble plant in Greensboro that uses fuel cell forklifts, there are no public access hydrogen fueling stations in North Carolina. In a related Mid-Atlantic collaboration effort, InnovoGraph recommends hydrogen fueling stations go in the nation’s capitol; Richmond, VA; Durham, Wilmington, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and Asheville, NC forming a Southeast Hydrogen Highway in order to compete with PEV technology and other parts of the nation and globe already deploying FCH2 CleanTech.

Contact Grant Millin for plan details and an InnovoGraph capabilities statement: 828.423.2266.


Resilient Electricity Delivery Infrastructure (REDI) initiative Note: DOE press release may show a March 4th application deadline.


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