The core business of energy generation, transmission and distribution has been operated and managed by non-IT systems for years. IT has only had a modest role in energy operations. But according to Tony Giroti, CEO of Bridge Energy Group, with the smart grid, the paradigm is rapidly changing.

“The ambitious objectives of smart grid, when combined with some early warning signs from those who‘ve embarked on the journey, indicate that the role and complexity of IT is being grossly under-estimated, and that IT is going to play a more prominent, if not dominant, role in making smart grid a reality,” Giroti said.

As the leader of the Bridge Energy Group, Giroti works with many stakeholders in the energy industry to evangelize the importance of interoperability, IT integration architecture, and the need for a formal and strategic approach to the smart grid. Giroti contends that IT needs to develop a strategic smart grid architecture and take a closer look at the challenges posed by current integration practices and interoperability demands.

“Otherwise, without a strategic vision, planning, and an architectural approach, smart grid and demand response programs will pose formidable challenges that cannot be fully solved,” he said.

Giroti is leading the Architecture track at Grid-Interop in Phoenix, Arizona, on Dec. 5-8. The track will cover five areas:

  • Innovative Architectural Models
  • System Evolution and Legacy Integration
  • Data Integration and Deluge
  • You’ve got data, not what!
  • Cost Benefit Analysis & Risk Mitigation

“The power grid is currently being operated and managed with many legacy systems that are proprietary as they have been either custom developed or have been highly customized versions of commercial applications,”Giroti said. ”On top of that - new products, services, and standards are coming to market, each typically with implicit architectural assumptions. It is vital to recognize and understand the critical role that IT integration and interoperability plays in enabling smart grid success. This session reminds us not to get caught up in existing paradigms, but to continue to work toward the architectural vision of a future grid.”

Giroti has more than 24 years of experience in managing information technology products, platforms and applications, starting with his post-graduate training at Crompton Greaves in the Power Systems division – where he took part in designing large transformers. From there, his past experience working in the areas of grid operation, market operation, smart grid, demand response and IT have given him a great deal of perspective into the multi-disciplinary aspects of smart grid – including power systems, IT, business issues and even the regulatory environment.

Giroti started out in the telecom and financial services industry as CIO and CTO developing enterprise platforms and running large business and IT transformation programs.

“Then in the late 90s, I caught the entrepreneurial bug and started two venture-capital-backed companies,” he said. ”A few years ago I got fascinated by the pent-up demand for transformation in the utility industry. After serving as the chief architect at NV Energy, where I participated in one of the first smart grid demand response projects in the country, I was convinced that the energy industry was on its way to the transformation we have witnessed in the telecom and financial services industries and I wanted to be a part of that journey. “

Giroti has continued to teach from his experiences at many important events such as Grid-Interop for the last few years and “can’t begin to name all of the sessions” he has presented in the past. He has participated in Cloud Computing: Information Technology for Smart Grid and Using Smart Grid Standards: Early Successes at Connecivity Week, An Introduction to Interoperability - Policy and Business Issues for Smart Grid in Washington, SOA & Web Services for a More Sustainable IT Infrastructure in Brussels, the GWAC Interop Workshop for System Operations and Smart Grid Deployments, Beyond the Hype – Interoperability in Practice at GridWeek, An Introduction to Information Interoperability: a Cost Benefit Analysis at Grid Interop in 2010, and Systems Integration at GridWeek 2011. He will also be presenting A Cross Divisional Approach to Smart Grid Integration at DistribuTECH in January 2012.

Giroti tells students that whether they have already embarked on their own smart grid journey or are venturing out for the first time – the information and progress in the energy industry is constantly changing and it’s important to stay informed and share best practices whenever they are able.

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and I think that’s what we see here at events like Grid-Interop when stakeholders come together to advance smart grid standards, architecture and the energy ecosystem as a whole,” Giroti said.

In his spare time, Giroti plays chess with his two boys (even though they often win), watches his kids play soccer on the weekend and spends time with his family in general.