Microgrid Moves: Kotch Exits NY Prize; IDEA Enters Microgrids

May 24, 2016
Microgrid Moves…NY Prize Director Micah Kotch steps down for job at BMW tech accelerator. IDEA readies to boost regulatory advocacy for microgrids.

Micah Kotch received more than one ovation for a job well done at the Microgrid Knowledge conference last week, after announcing that he will be stepping down as director of NY Prize.

Kotch has been the pivotal figure in the emerging microgrid market, shepherding the ambitious $40 million NY Prize through its first stage. The competition has made New York an early epicenter of the microgrid industry, drawing companies from around the world to work on community microgrids.

“He set an example that I’d love to see replicated in other states,” said Rob Thornton, president and CEO of the International District Energy Association (IDEA), at the conference. “Micah, we’ve been so glad to have you in our sandbox.”

Kotch is leaving to serve as managing director for Urban-X, a BMW/MINI accelerator for technology startups that focus on smart cities. Urban-X describes itself as “engineering the city as a service.”

John Saintcross, the assistant director of NY Prize, will become the new director, after Kotch leaves June 3. Saintcross has been with the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority for 16 years. NYSERDA oversees the NY Prize. Saintcross previously worked with Green Mountain Power and Maine Public Service.

In parting words of advice, Kotch urged the industry to broaden its definition of microgrids. The textbook definition requires that microgrids have more than one distributed energy resource. But Kotch said microgrids should be thought of as “the utmost control and optimization on any distributed energy resource. That’s really the way to think about the evolution of this industry; the smarts and brains on any distributed system.”

He also urged the industry to make microgrids “sticky.”

New Voice in Regulatory Arena

“This group of folks has the responsibility to amplify the voice of those who will benefit from this system and make sure decision makers hear that voice loud and clear,” Kotch said.

In keeping with that message,  IDEA offered insight into its plan to absorb the Microgrid Resources Coalition (MRC).  The two advocacy groups announced the plan on the eve of the Microgrid Knowledge conference.

Launched in 2014, MRC will become part of the 107-year-old IDEA, which has 2,100 members.

“We have some capacity and resources. We want to invest in moving the microgrid industry forward,” said IDEA’s Thornton. “I think we bring a platform of experience.”

Thornton added the microgrid industry needs a voice in the regulatory arena.

“The concrete is wet. We need to put our imprint in today,” he said.

IDEA will be holding a microgrid workshop at its conference “IDEA2016: Embracing Change,” which is June 20-23 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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