Grid Forward Reveals Winners of 2023 Grid Innovator Awards at Annual Member Meeting

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Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Utilidata and Pat Hoffman are recognized for their industry-defining contributions to modernizing the electric grid.

June 26, 2023 –Grid Forward announced the winners of the 2023 Grid Innovator Awards during its Annual Member Meeting on June 23, 2023. Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), Utilidata and Pat Hoffman received recognition for their roles in helping to lead the electric utility industry forward in grid modernization across the western U.S.

Grid Forward brings together a wide diversity of industry leaders and stakeholders to drive grid modernization and energy innovation ahead,” said Bryce Yonker, Grid Forward CEO and executive director. “While so many people and organizations have contributed to the cause, our Grid Innovation Winners have regularly stepped up with exemplary contributions.”

Grid Innovator Award Winner, Utility: Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has continuously raised the bar for the industry in its work to modernize the grid. From their early work during the Recovery Act testing innovative dynamic rates to their recent deployments of virtual power plants (VPPs), SMUD has shown time and time again the central role that utilities can play driving equitable and cost-effective electrification, resilience and decarbonization. The industry as a whole has benefited greatly from the example set by SMUD across a variety of areas, including program design, integrated planning, and distributed controls.

Grid Forward’s Kelly Strand and Bryce Yonker (right) join Obadiah Bartholomy from SMUD (holding award) and Josh Keeling of Generac.

“We’re so proud to be recognized as a leader in grid innovation,” said SMUD CEO and General Manager Paul Lau. “As we move toward eliminating carbon from our electric supply, innovation becomes key in those efforts. We’re working on projects and partnerships that can bring to scale emerging technologies like virtual power plants, long-duration battery storage, vehicle-to-grid projects, ADMS, DERMS and more. We’re excited about the future and how innovation can help us meet our zero carbon by 2030 goal.”

Grid Innovator Award Winner, Industry: Utilidata 

For more than a decade, Utilidata has been at the forefront of software-defined grid modernization, setting the standard in critical areas such as voltage optimization and distributed energy resource (DER) integration. They’ve deployed solutions with many of the biggest names in utility innovation, such as Portland General, Holy Cross and Duquesne Light. Most recently, have deployed an AI-enabled smart grid chip, developed in collaboration with NVIDIA, that enables a swathe of use cases at the grid edge.

Grid Forward‘s Bryce Yonker with Utilidata’s Marissa Hummon (holding award) and Sophie Janeway.

“Utilidata is honored to be recognized as an industry leader by Grid Forward,” said Marissa Hummon, CTO, Utilidata and Grid Forward board member. “The grid is at an inflection point, requiring new technology solutions to accelerate the clean energy transition and improve reliability. We continue to be inspired by our partners, like Portland General Electric, who are committed to innovation and  operating the grid more effectively to better serve their customers.”

Grid Innovator Award Winner, Individual: Pat Hoffman, Principal Deputy Director, Grid Deployment Office, U.S. Department of Energy

The words civil service gets used for many in public roles—Pat Hoffman is truly someone who has dedicated a career to supporting this industry from a role in federal government. For nearly three decades at U.S. DOE she has worked on grid modernization, energy resilience, grid affordability and reliability issues. As a central figure in the rollout of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) rollout, Pat led the teams that worked on the smart grid investment grant that advanced so many aspects of grid modernization. More recently, Pat was the first hire at DOE when they created a new grid team that has now become the Grid Deployment Office which at the center of transformational funding to advance critical grid hardening and flexibility areas. Pat’s expertise, dedication and service to the industry and advancing the grid are in a class of their own. 

Pat Hoffman, U.S. DOE

“I am honored to receive this award from Grid Forward,” said Pat Hoffman. “With a historic investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, we were able to stand up the Grid Deployment Office almost one year ago. Since then, our number one priority has been collaborating with stakeholders and industry to create programs that will provide benefits across the board. Building the grid of the future will require a holistic effort across communities, states, regions, and the Federal government.”

About the Grid Innovator Awards

Grid Forward hosts the Grid Innovator Awards each year as part of its annual member meeting. The awards recognize outstanding dedication and leadership in progressing electric grid modernization and innovation in the energy industry. This year’s finalists and winners were chosen by an expert panel of Grid Forward partners, advisors and board members.

The other finalists for the Utility category were OPALCO, PacifiCorp and Seattle City Light.

Kelly is next to Emeka Anyanwu of Seattle City Light, Obadiah, Cory Scott of Pacific Power and Bryce.

The other finalists for the Industry category were Awesense and Kevala.

Aram Shumavon CEO of Kevala (left) and Mischa Steiner of Awesense (right) join Bryce and Marissa.

The other finalists for the Individual category were Larry Bekkedahl and Marissa Hummon.

About Grid Forward

Grid Forward is a 501(c)(6) non-profit, member-driven trade association dedicated to promoting and accelerating innovation on the regional electric system. We deliver community, expertise and resources for leaders who are working to modernize the grid across the western U.S. and Canada. Find more information at

Media contact: David Smith, marketing advisor, Grid Forward

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