SGS People: Spotlight on Graham Ault

Graham is a founder of Smarter Grid Solutions and now serves as our Executive VP. Previously he obtained a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Electrical Power Systems (2000) from the University of Strathclyde and progressed to become a full professor before joining SGS full-time in 2013. He served as Director & Trustee for Community Energy Scotland to 2012.


Tell us a little about your background

After completing an undergraduate degree in Electrical & Mechanical Engineering at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland I joined a gas turbine manufacturer and turnkey power station contractor and did stints in electrical design and on site in the UK, Malaysia and Morocco. Those early experiences got me hooked on the pivotal and growing role of power systems in modern life in developing and developed economies. That led me into research, back at Strathclyde, on distributed generation grid integration – at that time an early stage topic way ahead of what we now know about the revolution in decentralised clean energy nearly 25 years later. Research on Active Network Management was a research topic that grew fast for me and others and eventually led to the opportunity to commercialise some of the research into Smarter Grid Solutions with co-founders Alan Gooding and Bob Currie. As Smarter Grid Solutions grew, the growing gravitational pull away from academic research led me into the company full time …

What motivates you about your work with SGS?

I think most folk in SGS have a number of motivations. My main motivation now is the clear mission, purpose and role we have to provide some of the solutions needed for the clean energy transition. The opportunity to have a real impact on the energy transition on a day-by-day basis is also a real privilege and motivator.

What do you like best about working at SGS?

Exploring, developing, analysing and deploying the smart solutions that the energy system needs and doing those things with talented, motivated people to fulfil our mission of accelerating the energy system transition to a cleaner, smarter system. I’m an analytical person at my core but I increasingly enjoy creating and telling the story of our role in the climate challenge.

What has been your biggest achievement so far at SGS?

Playing roles in teams that are continuously developing and doing great things themselves, ranging from system studies, innovation, product development, operational systems implementation and support – all to serve our customers, the energy system and society. One of the recent stories we have been polishing and sharing is the carbon, energy and financial benefits that SGS products have enabled.

What are your hopes for the clean energy sector in the coming months and years?

One year into the climate decade my big hope is that the pace picks up. Many of the technologies are in place and investment is growing but we now need to translate that interest and those core ingredients into real change in energy systems across the world. My hope is that this transition now accelerates to make a real dent in energy’s climate problem this decade. Another other hope is that at the same time, the energy system is much better for customers with more choice, information and agency in their hands – with the new clean energy technologies for most of life’s aspects becoming available and digital solutions becoming prevalent, there should be no barrier to a much fairer, customer-centric system.

Looking forward, what impact are you hoping SGS will have?

Enable many 100’s MW more clean energy assets to play their full role in the electricity grids and energy markets and to see smarter, more flexible energy systems built with our products playing their role alongside the many other necessary elements in the climate and customer friendly grid.

What inspired you to first become involved in clean energy?

Science - from underpinning early interests in Maths and Physics, through academic research to push the bounds of applied knowledge and into the facts behind the negative impacts of the energy system. Science sheds light on the problems but also points to the solutions needed. I feel lucky to have the chance to join those two sides of science together to do something useful to the global grand challenge of clean energy solutions to address climate change.

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