In Memoriam of Erich W. Gunther
On 18 June 2016, IEEE Smart Grid unexpectedly lost one of its own Smart Grid giants, Erich W. Gunther. Erich was a Founding Member of IEEE Smart Grid, where he continued to serve as an active and contributing Member to the strategic direction of the IEEE Smart Grid Steering Committee.
Erich Gunther had more than 30 years of experience in design and development in power systems, communications networks and electric power system security. Erich was a positive force and global leader in grid modernization and automation. He worked with some of the world's largest utilities and vendors on planning, designing, deploying, testing and scaling Smart Grid systems.
Erich’s leadership, vision, energy and love of all things good in live will be tremendously missed by his colleagues in the IEEE Smart Grid global community.
Below is a biography of Erich, tributes as submitted by his colleagues and a collection of his professional works.
- Biography of Erich W. Gunther
- Collection of Articles, Interviews, Webinars, Video Presentations and Podcasts
- Fellow, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
- Founding Member, IEEE Smart Grid
- Member, IEEE Smart Grid Steering Committee
- Member, IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES)
- Member, IEEE PES Intelligent Grid Coordinating Committee
- Chairman, IEEE Interharmonics Task Force
- Chairman/Facilitator, UtilityAMI Working Group and OpenHAN Task Force
- Vice Chairman, IEEE PES Harmonics Working Group
- Member, IEEE Power Quality Subcommittee
Boards and Councils
- Chairman, UCA International Users Group
- Chairman Emeritus, DOE GridWise Architecture Council
- Governing Board Member, IEEE Power and Energy Society
- Member, UTC Smart Networks Council
- Member, SGIP Governing Board
- Member, Southern California Edison Technology Advisory Board
US Patent #5,408,523 – “Electronic remote data recorder with facsimile output for utility AC power systems“
- Private pilot, single engine land – instrument rated, rotorcraft – helicopter
- Commercial radiotelephone license with ship radar endorsement
- Amateur radio operator – WG3Q
Erich W. Gunther served as the Chairman, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of EnerNex, where he helped clients define their strategic direction in basic R&D, technology and product development. Erich had more than 30 years of experience in the design and development of innovative solutions to a wide array of power system problems, most notably in ways to take advantage of communications networks and technology to improve the efficiency, operating practices and security of the electric power system. In November 2011, Erich was named an IEEE Fellow – the highest grade of membership and was recognized by the technical community as a prestigious honor and an important career achievement. Mr. Gunther was a sought after speaker for his ability to explain complex concepts associated with energy systems to a wide variety of audiences in a simple, but technically correct fashion that leads to the understanding and collaboration necessary to solve real world problems.
In 2004, Erich was appointed to the US Department of Energy (DOE) GridWise® Architecture Council (GWAC) for which he recently served as its Chairman. Erich served on several corporate boards, including EnerNex, Smart Grid Labs and the Utility Communications Architecture International Users Group (UCAIug) as Chairman, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Power and Energy Society (PES) and the Utilities Telecom Council (UTC) Smart Networks Council as a board member. He founded the UCAIug Open Smart Grid Subcommittee and he founded and chairs the Utility Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and Open Home Area Network (OpenHAN) Working Groups of the UCA International Users Group (UCAIug) and recently served as the Chairman of the IEEE PES Intelligent Grid Coordinating Committee. Erich was also a Founding Member of IEEE Smart Grid in 2011, and continued to serve as a Member of the IEEE Smart Grid Steering Committee.
As an IEEE Fellow, he was actively involved in various working groups and committees, including member and past Chairman of the PES Intelligent Grid Coordinating Committee, past Chairman of the P1159.3 Task Force on power quality data interchange, Vice Chair of the Harmonics Working Group, member of the SCC-22 power quality standards coordinating committee and Chairman of the Interharmonic Task Force. Erich was the principal author and chapter Chairman of the terms, definitions and phenomena sections of the IEEE Guide to Monitoring Power Quality produced by the P1159 Working Group. In addition to his power quality standards activities, Erich was heavily involved in international standards development related to electric power communications architecture, information modeling and cyber security.
In 2008 and 2010, Erich received the individual Smart Grid Award for Technology Leadership at GridWeek. Erich was also named by GreenTech Media in their Networked Grid 100 list of Smart Grid Movers and Shakers. In 2007, EnerNex and Erich were recognized by DOE and other organizers of the GridWeek conference by receiving the Smart Grid Implementation and Leadership Award. The award announcement stated, “Under Erich Gunther’s leadership, the EnerNex team has clearly driven how we implement and deploy smart grid technologies from coast to coast and everywhere in between.”
Most recently, Erich and his team were active in developing energy system resiliency strategies through multiple projects and thought leadership activities for utilities, Fortune 500 companies, municipalities, and non-profit institutions – each with a unique point of view and sometimes conflicting requirements. Erich and his team recently completed a study for the California Local Energy Assurance Program (CaLEAP) where a variety of scenarios, architectures and potential implementation technologies were evaluated to ensure that California cities could successfully ensure energy system resilience during the initial minutes to days, and even weeks into a widespread energy outage due to a large scale catastrophic event such as a flood, wildfire, or earthquake. His team has also recently developed methods and procurement specifications for a Fortune 10 technology company to ensure that their campus maintains business continuity through a layered system of energy resiliency methodologies for minor to major energy supply interruptions. EnerNex and Erich’s team performed a similar exercise from the utility perspective for a utility in the Northeast US to evaluate the use of MicroGrids to ensure city service and socio-economic continuity during a major storm such as experienced by Hurricane Sandy.
From 2009-2013, EnerNex was awarded $20M over multiple contracts by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to support their mandate under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 to develop an interoperability framework. Erich’s team helped NIST sustain the accelerated development of the hundreds of standards that will be required to build a secure, interoperable smart electric power grid through the creation and administration of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP). Erich devised the technical champion concept being used in the NIST project to accelerate the implementation of the Priority Action Plans in the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) organization. He lead the executive oversight group for the NIST project, as well as providing overall technical leadership, technology transfer and stakeholder outreach. Erich used his influence and respect in the industry to continuously collect feedback from stakeholders and help facilitate a spirit of collaboration, cooperation and openness. He also participated directly as an ex-officio member of the SGIP Governing Board and was elected in November 2013 to serve on the SGIP 2.0 governing board starting in 2014.
Erich was part of the original team that developed the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) IntelliGrid Architecture and led the team that refined and documented the IntelliGrid Use Case-based requirements development methodology through its first major application at Southern California Edison (SCE) for their AMI and Smart Grid programs, and subsequently, at Consumers Energy where it was further refined. He and his team were the original primary authors of a large percentage of the publically available smart grid use cases being widely applied today. He was a consultant for EPRI implementing IntelliGrid Architecture-based projects providing coordination between IntelliGrid and other organizations and implementing general IntelliGrid technology transfer activities.
Erich and his team were working with leading utilities on their AMI and smart grid projects and roadmap development efforts, including SCE, Consumers Energy, Entergy, First Energy, Duke Energy, Salt River Project, Southern Company, California ISO, LIPA and many others. He and his team were working closely with Consumers Energy in Michigan to develop their use cases for AMI and smart grid implementing a home area network device interoperability test lab and developing their overall approach to smart grid cyber security.
From 2003 to 2010, he consulted with the California Energy Commission (CEC) and has published nearly a dozen reports covering numerous aspects of AMI, demand response, distribution automation and intelligent consumer devices that set the stage for implementing these concepts in California. In 2008, Erich and EnerNex were appointed by the Illinois Commerce Commission to lead a two-year effort to develop recommendations for deployment of Smart Grid technologies in Illinois. Erich was heavily involved in the identification and deployment of innovative communication technologies to provide pervasive connectivity to power system components. Pervasive connectivity is a precursor to deploying the IntelliGrid, GWAC, CEC and other reference architectures for a modernized power grid. He completed wireless communication technology assessments for Alliant Energy, SCE, the DOE Modern Grid Initiative, EPRI’s Advanced Distribution Automation program and other clients. These concepts have recently been deployed in remote measurement and control efforts for the Utility Wind Integration Group (UWIG) in Selawik, Alaska, for DOE/New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) in Delaware County, New York, and wireless communications policy at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Erich played a key role in the development and implementation of the Power Quality Data Interchange Format (IEEE 1159.3) and the Utility Communication Architecture (now IEC 61850).
Erich served as Principal Investigator for a US Department of Homeland Security Small Business Innovative Research Phase I project examining the use of securable communication standards and protocols to secure electric power Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems against cyber-attack. He was the founding Chairman of the AMI Security Task Force under the UCAIug and he lead the team that developed a secure methodology for delivering pricing and load control signals to low cost devices such as thermostats via one-way broadcast methods.
Prior to co-founding EnerNex, Erich was the Vice President of Technology and Information Systems Development at Electrotek Concepts, Inc. in Knoxville, Tennessee. There, he was responsible for the development of hardware, software and systems technologies for use in products, research and engineering studies. After joining Electrotek in 1988, Erich was involved in the transient and harmonic measurement, simulation and analysis of power systems for industrial, commercial, utility and research organization clients. He was also responsible for the design and implementation of Electrotek’s corporate network communications systems.
While at Electrotek, Erich was also involved in the application of various communication technologies in the utility industry. He was the Principal Investigator for a monitoring system to be deployed at the TVA Regenesys 100 MW chemical battery storage system. Erich deployed monitoring and communications systems at various wind farms as a part of research projects for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). These systems use the Utility Communications Architecture (UCA – now standardized as IEC 61850) for their communications.
Erich was the Principal Engineer for the design and implementation of a new power quality monitoring system for the TVA that embeds Internet communications technology directly into the measurement equipment. The system for which Erich was the Chief Architect was a commercial success and was marketed by Dranetz/BMI under the Signature System brand name. Erich was also involved in applying the Signature System platform to condition-based maintenance and distributed generation control and management applications.
Erich was the Principal Investigator for a DOE project grant initiated in 1995 to research ways to utilize the National Information Infrastructure (the Internet) in the electric power utility industry. This project (“A Practical and Cost Effective Demonstration of Efficient Energy Usage and Quality Management Using the National Information Infrastructure”) developed the basic principles used in the industry today for web-based electric power measurement information systems such as the Dranetz/BMI Signature system.
He was responsible for the design and implementation of a power quality monitoring system for EPRI. Erich was involved in the design and specification of the hardware manufactured and marketed as PQNodes by Dranetz/BMI. He also designed the software that accompanies the PQNode (PASS), enabling the user to setup and obtain reports from the instrument. The monitoring system consists of over 200 PQNodes installed on the distribution systems of various utilities across the continental US.
Erich was the author of Electrotek’s harmonic simulation program, SuperHarm and The Output Processor (TOP). He was also the author of the web-based measurement data visualization products, WebPASS and WebPES. He developed the PC version of the Electromagnetic Transient Program (EMTP) to run under the OS/2 and Windows operating systems for EPRI. Erich developed the WinStat program for Electrotek’s PQView Power Quality Database Management program. He designed and co-developed the System Manager software for Square D’s Power Logic Circuit Monitor and BMI PASS software.
Erich directed the engineering and research aspects of the software development efforts at McGraw Edison Power Systems, Systems Engineering Group. Primary development efforts included the Power Verdict Software Series and various programs to assist McGraw’s technical marketing efforts. He was the principal author of McGraw’s V HARM Harmonic Analysis Program, V NET Network Fault Program and V FLOW Power Flow Program. Erich was also the contributing author to the remainder of the series which include the V PRO Protective Device Coordination Program, the V BASE Power Systems Database Program and the V FAULT Radial Fault Program.
Erich also performed analytical studies for utilities and consultants. Primary study areas were transient and harmonic analysis using both the Transient Network Analyzer (TNA) and digital computer programs. Erich was an expert in the use of the Electromagnetic Transients Program (EMTP), the primary software tool used for transient analysis worldwide.
Erich developed the hardware, software and procedures necessary to automate and efficiently perform power system measurements. Extensive harmonic measurements were performed for San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Consolidated Edison utilizing these techniques. Transient measurements were performed for utility and industrial clients where various switching events resulted in equipment failure.
He served as instructor for McGraw Edison’s harmonic seminar and contributed to its continuing development. Erich was recognized as an expert in the harmonic analysis field and author of several technical papers. He has also written papers in the areas of transient analysis, harmonic measurements and the harmonic and transient concerns associated with distribution automation.
Erich was a unique individual, with very diverse interests both professionally and with his numerous hobbies. We bonded for the first time while having dinner in Rome in 2003, both talking on how to prevent blackouts in the aftermath of 2003 blackouts in the US, Canada and Europe. I was proud to call him a friend ever since, as we continued interacting through IEEE and joint Enernex/Quanta initiatives. Although our companies occasionally competed, it was never an issue with Erich and, in cases, when we worked jointly, Erich showed utmost integrity and teamwork to solve any technical and business issues.
We both liked Star Trek, but Erich was a real expert, as in so many other things that he was passionate about. He knew every single episode and every single character. Star Trek TV series had 5 different incarnations, each with 5 different captains (in order of appearance on TV, Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Sisco, Archer), who had quite different personalities. As an example, if an unknown ship would attack his ship Enterprise, Captain Kirk would immediately retaliate. He was also a very charming person and would like to make his own decisions. Captain Picard would evaluate if they might not know that Enterprise is not the enemy and try to work with them to solve differences. He was dedicated primarily to work and would always consult his crew and delegate responsibilities. During our joint dinners, Erich and I would conduct a “personality test” with our colleagues asking them to name their favorite captain. Then, we would explain how it reflects their personalities. For you that know Erich, you could guess, who his favorite captain was.
I am devastated to lose a friend and a leader who has made huge contributions to our industry and IEEE.
Erich Gunther: the IEEE Smart Grid Pioneer
Erich Gunther was one of the few electric power engineers who understood the potential and promise of the smart grid very early and got involved both in its applications and technology development work. He was a driving force behind the first ever IEEE smart grid conference, the Innovative Smart Grid Technologies (ISGT) conference that was held in the Washington, DC area in 2010. He also understood the need to develop standards, without which the widespread deployment of smart grid would not be possible. His efforts to bring industry, government institutions and academia together, and his work on the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) helped to overcome many technology and regulatory hurdles in making the smart grid a reality today.
Erich’s other work was on smart grid training and education. He was a regular tutorial speaker for IEEE Power & Energy Society organized events. When I chaired the ISGT North America conferences in Washington, DC in 2013, 2014 and 2015 we depended on Erich to organize the tutorial programs. He not only arranged to find speakers for these tutorials, he himself freed up his own time to teach a few tutorials himself. His knowledge of the subject and belief in smart grid’s prospect made him a very effective tutorial presenter as we could see from the many evaluations we received from these tutorials.
Erich never said no when invited to talk about smart grid. I organized a smart grid workshop in Nanjing, China several years ago, and my colleagues there wanted to hear from Erich as he was well-known all over the world who knew the technology, standards and regulatory policies dealing with smart grid development and deployment. When I invited Erich to join us in China, he did not hesitate to make this long trip just for two days. Erich’s presentation there made a huge impact on the Chinese audience who were just beginning to learn about this new technology.
Erich and EnerNex were our partners for the US Department of Energy sponsored Smart Grid Information Clearinghouse project. Erich’s advice and close working relationship with our team helped us to navigate through this unknown territory and made our work useful to the practitioners of smart grid in many parts of the world for which I will remain ever grateful.
The news about Erich’s untimely passing, shocking as it was, caught us all in total disbelief. It arrived like a thunder after the IEEE Awards Ceremony, an event that celebrates IEEE members' life accomplishments, something that I could easily foresee Erich win one day. In his many interactions with me during his tenure at the PES Governing Board, I have learned much about his character, interests, and style: a hands-on engineer, someone who thoroughly enjoyed his work, a curious and exploratory spirit who ventured far and wide to find answers and create solutions to many problems that modern electric grid is facing. He tackled his IEEE activities with the same candor and drive that he brought to his professional work at Enernex: as one of the founding members of IEEE Smart Grid Community, he was also a Chairman or member of many Technical Committees and many Boards and Councils. He brought his energy to everything he worked on and motivated others to do the same. His curiosity extended naturally into his leisure time - he was a licensed pilot of small aircraft and helicopter, had a commercial radiotelephone license with ship radar endorsement, and he was an amateur radio operator (WG3Q). In addition, he was a passionate home brewer, and a seasoned grill master. His boundless curiosity was inspiring, and his warm and friendly demeanor creates a void in all of us who were his friends. Erich is no longer with us, but his legacy and the memory of his cheerful personality will live in all of us for a long time!
It is with a heavy heart that I write this brief note to honor the memory of a superb colleague, a pioneer, a leader, and my wonderful friend; Erich Gunther. I extend my deepest condolences to Mrs. Jane Novello-Gunther and the whole family. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
I knew Erich for 20 years. He was a unique individual. He was someone whom I greatly admired. He was a major force for collaboration, teaming and progress in areas that mattered. I consider it to have been a real privilege to have been his colleague.
While we all share in the sadness of Erich’s untimely passing, taken away at the peak of his life and pioneering contributions, we have so many reasons to celebrate the fact that Erich had a very productive, meaningful and happy life. His life enriched our lives and the life of IEEE Smart Grid.
Erich performed his service to IEEE PES and IEEE Smart Grid at both national and international levels with great passion and distinction. He gave freely to help advance progress through very productive reports and activities from workshops, training, to standards and a lot more, within the IEEE and beyond.
I greatly admired Erich’s ability to manage the complex administrative details of programs and, more importantly, provide the intellectual leadership. Erich’s success had numerous significant positive impacts on so many colleagues and the industry as a whole.
Erich’s greatest legacy are not limited to the numerous professional and technical impacts he made, but also his family, so many colleagues and friends throughout the world, which will endure for decades to come. We miss you my dear friend, you are in our hearts and will always honor you.
Erich had a goal in every debate, and we both typically came away changed from each debate. Sometimes it was to crystalize thinking, sometimes it was just a point-counter point to get the other people in the room thinking and sometimes it was, to drive the thinking on a nascent topic forward. Many a magazine article or white paper came from these debates over the years. Much of the NIST Domain model came from Erich poking at the other people in the room to force crystallization of thinking. Each member of the LA-15 who developed the model had to at one point or another confront an Erich challenge on their thinking.
My first debate with Erich was in 1996, I no longer remember where or which conference, but we were on a panel with 3 other people, it was the first time I met Erich. The moderator threw out a question and Erich took the first stab at an answer, the next two people agreed with Erich, and I did not. At that point the other 3 panel members might as well have left the room, because Erich and I were back and forth on the topic for the balance of the panel. I really feel sorry for the other 3 people. It was the first of many public debates between Erich and I. Respect, friendship, and comradery grew out of these debates over the years.
I would like to think that Erich got as much out of this as I did.
The Erich I will best remember will be the one that provoked me to think, and to be unafraid to challenge conventional thinking. The friend that would wind me up and chuckle at the results. Over the years I have learned not to get wound up with most people, only Erich knew where the triggers were.
I will miss his counter point to my point. No one will even replace him in my mind. My understanding, conclusions, opinions and presentations were always better after an Erich debate. I am not Erich, nor will I ever be, but I am better because I knew and worked with him. I already miss the debates.
My friend Erich Gunther died last Saturday, and I promised myself to lift my attention from my myriad tasks and distractions to write a few words about him. He wasn’t my friend of decades, or of daily or even weekly contact, but I consider him my friend just the same. Another thing: when I say “myriad” referring to the many things I’m involved in, irons in the fire and all that, it isn’t jack compared to what Erich would consider myriad.
The man was amazingly engaged: on dimensions of time, space and technical depth in so many forums that it makes me dizzy to contemplate them all. I smile a bit thinking about the number or organizations, standards groups, thought leadership circles, national and international conferences, issue forums, and commercial and government confidants writing in remembrance about Erich’s leadership, personal touch, and critical role he played in helping them understand and navigate their own complex landscape. If we printed them all out, I expect the stack would rival the three-foot-high one he often cited that comprised the important parts of the standard for the USB port - that paragon of interoperability that makes “plug and play” understandable.
I was walking near the beach with my wife and two daughters Monday night, and was treated to the sight of a beautiful yellowish full moon rising over the ocean, still low in the sky and creating a path of light on the water. That led me of course to thinking of the word moonshine, which of course led me to think of Erich. For all I know he made it as biofuel for his aircraft hobby, but it tasted good too! (Apple pie scented contrails??) Anyway, I got a bit sadder thinking that he was no longer alive to see such a sight, but chances are he would not have been looking at the moon. He would be at some late evening meeting, some large communal dinner, some gathering being part of a vibrant exchange of ideas. Erich, an architect of many things, was an architect of salon culture in our world, an essential ingredient to any human endeavor some laptop-at-night-in-the-hotel-room people should try. Wikipedia states: “A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation….Salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, were carried on until as recently as the 1940s in urban settings.” As an instigator or as a participant, Erich was a man in his element in these settings, and my fondest memories of him are from times like these.
I thought momentarily of ways we remember people we respect, and briefly imagined “The Erich Gunther Award”. Yes, The Erich Gunther Award would be bestowed each year upon the individual who best embodied Erich’s work ethic, tireless dedication, intellect, technological know-how and expert grasp of the human dynamic in advancing energy systems the world over. The problem is, I’m not sure anyone could win it…ever. When I heard about Erich’s passing and the shock and personal tragedy worked their way through my mind, one of my next (slightly ashamed) thoughts was, how are we going to replace him? We can’t – not for a long while – it will take a dozen or more people to fill those voids from a professional standpoint, and it won’t be the same. When a very large tree in a forest falls, it isn’t “replaced”. Other smaller trees fill the space and the forest moves on, but if that was one of your favorite trees, you’ll know where it once stood every time you walk by. I will miss my friend Erich Gunther.
What a pleasure it was to work with Erich. Aside from IEEE and SGIP, I spent over four years as a member of the EnerNex team (or more accurately the EnerNex family), and Erich made sure we worked hard – and played hard. He was all about having fun in your work and fun in your life. While his stature and influence in the power industry are without question, I will most fondly remember the long evenings of wide ranging group discussion after meetings (usually taking over the hotel bar, or in the form of his scotch parties!), his famous annual company barbecues, and the more personal time together as he made sure to spend time with those of us from out of town whenever we were in Knoxville, either dinner out, or at his home, with his wife Jane and a few colleagues. His influence and inspiration will stay with so many of us for a very long time.
Steven E. Collier
I did not know Eric for very long, nor can I say that I knew him particularly well. What I did know of him was that he was extremely knowledgeable and well informed, thoughtful and engaging, cheerful and enthusiastic, and more than often than not outdoors somewhere. The fact that he was an IEEE Fellow is an indication of how well he was regarded by his peers and his industry. It will likely take several people to fill the gap that he leaves in many things, including IEEE Smart Grid. I will, we will, miss Erich. My thoughts and sympathies are with his wife and his friends.
Erich was a consummate professional - his dedication, commitment, and contributions to our industry are immeasurable. He was part of a breed of engineers that came from the Gannon University / Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute educational background, during a ‘golden age’ of power engineering talent development. Many of us, myself included, who share this special bond unanimously respected and regarded Erich as one who ‘set the bar’ for all of us in terms of his accomplishments, and more importantly in the way he went about it. His drive, his integrity, and his will were unmatched. He was a great friend, peer, and colleague to so many of us, but also a trusted mentor to many more. Erich was very special in many ways. He truly was a ‘giant’ of the power industry, providing the type of leadership, teamwork, and ‘get-it-done’ attitude that led to many breakthroughs and advances that have had longevity and impact, and he did much of this at a time of importance and need. His shoes cannot be filled - but his legacy will surely live on.
Eric Gunther, a true Visionary for Smart Grid is not among us today. He really thought and worked for Advancements in Power. Really shocked by the sad news. He has shown us the way to future in Power advancements. His contributions are not only for IEEE Community but to the whole world are unforgettable. Though, I was never with Eric Gunther, I only following. His work impressed me a lot, so I am just putting some highlights of what I know about him, which led me to think towards Smart Grid.
Erich Gunther, co-founder, chairman and chief technology officer of Knoxville-based EnerNex. Continuous work for IEEE has given the community of engineers new and unique ways of dealing the problems for Smart Grid, helping technology towards a new horizon of Smart Grid to manage power and utilize to the best possible way.
As we know Mr. Gunther had more than 30 years of experience in design and development of innovative solutions to a wide array of power system problems, most notably in ways to take advantage of communications networks and technology to improve the efficiency, operating practices, and security of the electric power system.
In 2011, Erich was recognized for his career long work in the field of electric power quality by being named an IEEE Fellow - the highest grade of membership and is recognized by the technical community as a prestigious honor and an important career achievement. In 2014, Erich was appointed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) a “Disaster Resilience Fellow” – a program to bring in industry subject matter experts to provide review and input to their Disaster Resilience Framework.
In 2008 and 2010, Erich received the individual Smart Grid. In 2008 and 2010, Erich received the individual Smart Grid Award for Technology Leadership at GridWeek. He and his team are the primary authors of a large percentage of the publically available smart grid use cases being widely applied today. He was a consultant for EPRI implementing IntelliGrid Architecture-based projects providing coordination between IntelliGrid and other organizations and implementing general IntelliGrid technology transfer activities.
He was an extremely knowledgeable person who always went the extra mile for the benefit of the industry. He helped his clients define their strategic direction in basic R&D, technology and product development.
I really followed his work. He has really shown us the way, particularly for the Smart Grid. Condolences to all members of his family and colleagues.
I met Erich about 3 years ago (so I don’t know him, as well as most other folks), but had a great deal of respect for him. He had endless energy, was smart and articulate, was earnest in everything he did, a lot of fun, and really enjoyed pushing the grid envelope. We were all on this journey together and I had anticipated so much more engagement. I will miss him and all the things that were possible with him.
Alan C. Rotz
Erich’s passing is a tragic loss to the industry. I’ve never known anyone who was more passionate about his professional life and life in general than Erich. I appointed Erich to be a Member-at-Large on the Power & Energy Society Governing Board in 2010 as an expert on Smart Grid, and that was the beginning of a very rewarding professional and personal friendship. He was my “go-to” guy ever since when it came to Smart Grid, and many other subjects in the power and energy industries as well. Erich was always there when you needed him, whether it was just information, or you needed a speaker for an event. He was so well known and so well respected around the industry and will be greatly missed. His presentation at the 2010 PES General Meeting Student-Faculty-Industry Luncheon was a classic and had lots of valuable career development information for the students. I’ve affectionately called it the “I am a geek and proud of it” speech.
But some of my fondest memories of Erich will be from a more personal perspective. Erich was a self-admitted “geek” in his personal life as well as his profession. He enjoyed brewing his own beers and distilling his own spirits, and I enjoyed his tales of how he made those in his garage. He was very proud of his products, and rumor had it there was “Gunther Beer” on tap in his office. He even flew his plane to New Orleans several years ago so he could deliver his friends a taste of his latest spirits. In addition, his stories of his beloved Great Danes are legendary, from having their own sofa to eating a raw chicken every day. But what I will miss most about Erich is the after-hours camaraderie, relaxing at an outdoor table along a street and enjoying a single-malt of cognac with him. Erich, this one’s for you!
I continue to have a hard time accepting the fact that Erich is gone. When I joined McGraw-Edison Power Systems in Pittsburgh, PA in early 1982 I met and worked with Erich, as well as Mark McGranaghan, Roger Dugan and Charlie Smith. Erich was full of energy, having a passion for everything he did, and being involved in many activities. Usually when people are involved in as many activities as Erich was involved in, they typically don’t have time to get into the details of many of their activities. Erich was different. He always had extensive valuable information and insights on many different subjects.
I worked closely with Erich for over five years with the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP). In 2009 when NIST established the SGIP, Enernex (particularly Erich) was the advisor to NIST to prepare the governance material for establishing SGIP as a government-funded organization. In our first SGIP Board Meeting in late 2009 Erich was an important advisor to NIST to explain the new SGIP organization, its governance, organization, goals and objectives, etc. When the SGIP Board elected me to be Board Chair in early 2010 I worked closely with NIST and Enernex (especially Erich) to build the new SGIP organization. Two years later, in 2012, we formulated the business plan to take SGIP to a member-funded organization, SGIP 2.0, Inc. We then spent 2013 and 2014 building the new member-funded organization. During the five years I was SGIP Board Chair I worked very closely with Erich, who always had time for my needs and was always very helpful.
Though Erich had previously been a candidate for IEEE PES elected offices, he wasn’t successful in getting elected. Early last year Erich asked me to help him prepare the five minute candidate speech he was giving for IEEE PES President-Elect last July at the IEEE PES General Meeting. Erich told me he had transitioned out of many of his industry activities and was dedicated now for the six year IEEE PES President-Elect, President and Past President commitment. He was serious about “going all out” to win the election. Erich and I worked closely to develop his strategy, and Erich asked me to review drafts of his five minute talk.
After over 34 years of working together with Erich on so many industry activities I never considered the fact that Erich may not be around. He has left a huge void for many of us, who miss his valuable insight, sense of humor and friendship. He has also a left a huge void for our industry, who will miss his expertise and active participation. We treasure the fond memories we have of the times we spent together with Erich. His contributions have left a strong legacy on the industry he loved so much.
Erich was the first volunteer I worked closely with when I joined the PES staff in January 2010. Smart Grid was the hottest topic going and Erich was at the forefront of developing great tutorials to educate the industry. He led EnerNex in the creation of an entire series of Smart Grid tutorials that are generously shared with PES. These tutorials are always among the most popular and well-attended at our conferences. Getting the materials on a timely basis from Erich was always a challenge though! I always seemed to be printing his materials last minute on site. I never minded though, he always came through – and for our last tutorial he even did get it to me on time! We were both impressed by that!
Erich had such a great sense of humor and great laugh – I can still hear that laugh. One time we were having a lot of difficulty exchanging a file and had tried various methods. I was giving him a password over the phone. The password ended in an exclamation point, so as I relayed the password to him, I ended with the word “bang” and he cracked up! When I asked what was so funny, he said he doesn’t usually hear that, as usually only programmers call exclamation points “bang.” That gave me a laugh and I told him my husband was a programmer, so I was used to hearing that!
Erich’s joy for life always came through in conversation, whether talking about work, technology, flying, dogs, biking, etc. A particularly memorable conversation we had was during a closed door session at an ExCom meeting – as we sat outside on the floor and ate lunch!
At the T&D Conference in Dallas in May, I was decked out in my cowboy duds, walking the exhibit floor to invite people to the closing reception. When Erich saw me he loved it! That great big laugh and he called me over to take photos. He even tweeted one of them! The last time I saw him was at the reception, where we joked around and took more photos. I still can’t believe he’s gone.
For our vacation this year my husband and I have a weeklong bike trip planned. We’ll be biking the 237 mile long Katy Trail end to end. It is a rail trail in Missouri. I am going to dedicate that ride to Erich’s memory.
Ride on Erich! You will truly be missed. But you’ll be remembered, not just for the innovation, creativity, and technology you brought to the world, but for the joy you brought to those of us lucky enough to know you.
Wayne Bishop Jr.
I had the honor and privilege of meeting Erich while serving on the IEEE PES Long Range Planning Committee. IEEE PES is a better Society because of Erich! He was a true gentleman and very passionate and dedicated to the betterment of IEEE PES and our entire industry. My condolences and prayers to his family and co-workers on this tremendous loss.
I have known Erich since we were both in graduate school at RPI together many years ago. Besides his obvious intellectual prowess, he processed a unique ability to see a future world which pushed the envelope of convention thinking. His belief in what a new world of utility reality could be was a driving force behind what we all have come to call “Smart Grid”. Whenever and wherever a significant discussion was being held on how the industry and technology was going to change, it seemed that Erich was part of the discussion. He was always engaged and made his team available to the industry to influence the future direction of our new utility world. We appreciated his work in the Smart Grid area, his guidance and direction on the roadmaps which the industry so desperately absorbed and his energy on organizing the transition through new standards and updating of old ones. He was truly a technical leader and a committed member to the industry and PES and we will truly miss him. His impact on the industry will be felt for a long time. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and all those who worked with Erich over the years.
The first time I met Erich, he came across a geek, who would know any apps developed for the human race. Now I know that he was a big believer in himself and he was very comfortable about it. What he accomplished, proves that he was an inspiring, resilient, visionary, perfectionist, learner, teacher and a great human being. Who doesn’t know “The Vodka” discovery by Erich? Great stuff, believe me if you are not one of the lucky ones. He used his technical abilities not only for smart grid but also to produce other products for consumption. He was a man of integrity. He will not “sugar coat” and deliver the message as it should be.
His early departure is a serious loss and he is going to be missed. With his contributions to our profession, he will always be with us. Erich, this is not good bye but a salute to you.
Paul De Martini
Erich left us far too soon, but his legacy will be with us for many decades to come. He was a renaissance man with a huge capacity to share with so many people professionally and personally around the world. His contributions in the power industry fill volumes, his ability to bring people together to transform the electric industry are legend, but his greatest impact was through his fantastic personality. Erich was an instigator, geek translator, educator, mentor, advisor – but most of all, a great friend to so many of us.
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” ― Thomas Campbell
Lina Bertling Tjernberg
Erich was a great IEEE PES friend and colleague I got to know him in the Governing Board meetings and different Smart Grid activities. Erich was always full of energy and activities. He knew to live life and generously shared his time and efforts. One of our joint interests was to fly, and I used to ask at every meeting if he came by his own machine.
I lost my friend,
You were like a brother to me.
You're so sunny,
Seraph in the sky of mine,
I don't see what a world could be without your shine.
I sat and thought about your talks,
Always make me smile,
Push me to walk that extra mile.
You were the best part of me,
Thank you for coming into my universe even if you couldn't stay long.
Numerous articles and interviews on IEEE Smart Grid, Search “Erich Gunther”
“The Convergence of High-Tech and So-Called Low-Tech”, IEEE Smart Grid Newsletter, Inaugural Issue, January 2011
“Distribution System Planning for Pervasive DER”, February 25, 2016
“Cyber-Physical Infrastructure for Transactive Energy”, July 9, 2013 at Transactive Energy Conference
“Modernizing the North American Grid”, EnergyCentral Grid Insights podcast, February 6, 2013
“Gunther on Smart Grid”, The Green Living Guy Blog Talk Radio, June 30, 2011
“Building a Better Electric Grid”, NPR Science Friday with Ira Flatow radio broadcast, June 10, 2011
“GridWeek 2010 Leadership Award”, November 18, 2010 at GridWeek in Washington DC
“Creating a Clean Energy Future”, US Embassy London, October 20, 2010
“Smart Grid, Utilities, and Internet Protocols”, Google Tech Talk at Google Headquarters, April 2010
“Gunther on Smart Grid”, Energy Priorities Podcast, April 23, 2007 at GridWeek
“Energy assurance planning: Why and how California cities are preparing for the worst”, Smart Grid News, Sep 3, 2013
“Grid Modernization and Cyber Security Trends”, Remote Site & Equipment Management magazine, June 18, 2013
“Resiliency: The New Mantra in the Face of Devastation”, Utility Horizons Quarterly , June 2013
“Smart buildings 2.0—Business continuity drives microgrids for corporate campuses”, Electric Light and Power Magazine, June 2013
“The Future Smart Grid Today”, FierceSmartGrid, March 2013
“Smart Grid Security Loopholes Hit the Enterprise”, CIO Insight, December, 2013
“Smart Grid: Intelligence can mean unintended consequences”, Government Security News, September, 2012
“India: smart steps it can take”, Inteligent Utility, August 2012