Transactive Energy Management: the Future Roles of TVA and its Distributors in Electric Power Delivery (PDH*)

Leon M Tolbert

Dr. Leon M. Tolbert 

 Chancellor’s Professor and Min H. Kao Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Tickle College of Engineering

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Recipient of the TSK-sponsored Charles E. Ferris Faculty Award, 2018 

Monday, May 8, 2023

11:30 a.m.

Crowne Plaza Hotel
401 W Summit Hill Drive, Knoxville
Price for buffet lunch is $15 (includes complimentary parking in the hotel garage).
If you choose not to eat, a charge of $7 covers parking and event arrangements.

The formal meeting begins at 11:55 a.m.


Dr. Tolbert will be discussing the principles of transactive energy management (TEM) and the challenges ahead for electric power generators and distributors to manage the technology for reliable delivery. The evolving smart grid — with increased use of renewable energy and distributed energy resources (DER) — offers the potential for significant efficiency improvements through market-based transactive exchanges between energy producers and energy consumers. Transactive Energy is the term used to describe this new approach.

TEM is crucial to the rapid evolution and economic success of DER, including microgrids, commercial structures; even individual homes. A recent report by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) found that a transactive energy system could reduce daily load swings by 20 to 44% and peak loads by 9 to 15%. That is highly significant because it is most costly to satisfy peak power demand — in economic terms and even more in environmental impacts. Until recently, only natural gas fired power plants were capable of responding quickly enough to avert impending brownout and balckout risks from spikes in demand. In a time when we hasten great efforts to reduce greenhouse gases it would be counterproductive to build new peaker plants — and pipelines to supply them — that require capital investments amortizable over decades only.

The PNNL study concluded that consumers could save about 15 percent on their annual electric bill by coordinating with their utility to control devices that use large amounts of electricity, such as heat pumps, water heaters and electric vehicle chargers. Advanced TEM software suites, particularly Athena by Stem, Inc. and Autobidder by Tesla, Inc. have seen exponential growth in the last three years. Tesla’s Virtual Power Plant (VPP) goes one step beyond demand control. Already in use in Australia, the UK, and several U.S. areas, including California and Texas, it leverages not only customer choices on the demand side. PowerWall battery owners can subscribe to join the supply side by choosing parameters in Autobidder under which conditions they are willing to sell some of their stored energy to the grid when the utility offers to pay up to multiples of average kWh prices.

Dr. Tolbert received the Bachelor’s, M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech. He worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) from 1991 until 1999 on electric distribution and power quality projects. He joined the University of Tennessee in 1999 and is a founding member and thrust leader for CURENT, the NSF/DOE Center for Ultrawide-area Resilient Electric Energy Transmission Networks. He served as head of the Min H. Kao Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from 2013 through 2018. He also is a faculty member in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research at UT and an adjunct participant with ORNL’s Power Electronics and Electric Machinery Research Center.

Dr. Tolbert is a Fellow of the IEEE and a Registered Professional Engineer in the state of Tennessee. He conducts research in utility applications of power electronics including microgrids, interface with renewable energy sources, medium voltage multilevel converters incorporating silicon carbide power devices, and electric vehicles. Read more about his outstanding professional service in IEEE and his many awards and recognitions on his University of Tennessee web page.


* This meeting is offered as a professional development hour for Tennessee-licensed engineers and architects, who attend in person. 

The presentation meets the TN State Board of Architectural and Engineering Examiners’ continuing education requirements. It will consist of at least 50 minutes of prepared presentation with discussion reserved for the time after the meeting. TSK does not guarantee approval, but strictly meets the Board-specified requirements and issues a Certificate of Attendance. (Certificates for virtual attendance cannot be issued yet.)

The State Board does not pre-approve such hours. It is the responsibility of each PE or architect to determine whether the topic conduces to proficiency in her or his field of professional practice.

For more information contact TSK Secretary, Wayne Loveday, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 865-679-9854.

Dr. Tolbert addressed the Technical Society of Knoxville on July 13, 2020 during its 100th year of existence

He discussed the performance characteristics of the national electrical grid and the challenges that grid operators face from

the growing shares of wind, solar, and biofuels electricity.

He emphasized the much increased storage requirements associated with renewable energy sources and

how they can be utilized in maintaining the grid's nominal parameters.

This video provides great background information for his coming presentation.