Engineer elected to US Energy Association board of directors

Friday, July 9, 2021

Nathan Johnson, an associate professor of engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, has dedicated his research to energy innovation since joining Arizona State University in 2013. His extensive experience has earned him several accolades, including his recent appointment on the board of directors for the United States Energy Association, or USEA.

“I am looking forward to co-creating, advising and deploying ideas that help advance energy access and energy security in developing countries,” said Johnson, who is also the director for the Laboratory for Energy and Power Solutions located on the ASU Polytechnic campus.

USEA is a nonprofit, apolitical, nonlobbying organization founded in 1924. USEA’s mission has two pillars of equal importance. Domestically, the organization convenes energy stakeholders to share policy and scientific and technological information that fosters the advancement of the entire energy sector. Internationally, USEA supports global energy development by expanding access to safe, affordable and environmentally acceptable energy in partnership with the U.S. government.

The goal of USEA and ASU’s growing relationship is to allow both organizations to provide greater innovation to the energy sector and increase global solutions. Knowledge-sharing is central to both organizations’ vision to create public-private networks that accelerate energy access and rapidly transition ideas into implementation, something Johnson believes to have “direct and scalable benefits to humanity.”

On the same front, he hopes to expand relationships with research-to-deployment institutions to demonstrate and evaluate new technologies for modernizing grids.

“The years ahead will be a time of profound transformation for the global energy industry,” said USEA Executive Chairman Vicky Bailey. “Nathan will help ensure a promising future for USEA by helping navigate the changing energy landscape. I welcome him, and I look forward to working with him.”

USEA’s members include more than 100 organizations from the U.S. energy sector, including governmental entities, nonprofits and Fortune 500 companies that encompass every type of energy source. It is governed by a 25-member board of directors composed of senior executives from U.S. energy corporations, trade associations and other organizations.

Johnson says he looks forward to addressing challenges with a cross-disciplinary approach. Along with contributing his expertise in distributed energy resources, smart networks, microgrid controls and off-grid solutions, he plans to involve authorities in technology, business, regulation, training, customer service, regional energy and more to devise solutions from all angles.

“I congratulate Nathan on his appointment to the USEA Board, and I am eager to begin working with him,” said USEA Acting Executive Director Sheila Hollis. “USEA is honored to have an exceptionally dedicated and well-respected board of directors. Our executive chair and board have been invaluable during my tenure, and I am grateful for their wise counsel and tireless support during unusual times.”

“Given the global pandemic, changing international energy patterns and accelerating technological innovation, USEA continues its important mission to inform and promote a nonpolitical dialogue on energy policy and technical developments,” Hollis said. “The arrival of Nathan diversifies and strengthens the already outstanding experience we are fortunate to have on USEA’s board.”

Helping underserved communities with energy access

Johnson has led several impactful efforts to advance energy security in developing countries through microgrid technology.

In 2019, Johnson and his team in ASU’s Laboratory for Energy and Power Solutions (LEAPS) deployed the ATLAS Containerized Microgrid, a 40-foot shipping container converted into an off-grid, solar-powered medical care clinic designed to provide consistent power and purified water. The container, equipped with microgrid and water-purifying systems, was delivered to a refugee camp in Uganda, where it provides primary care to more than 200 South Sudanese refugees each day.

The success of this replicable project, funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, earned Johnson and his team a Microgrid Greater Goods Award in June 2021 for its value to refugees facing conflict and its potential as a global disaster-response solution.

Most recently, Johnson and his team at LEAPS have partnered with SOLAD, one of Nigeria’s leading distributed energy solutions providers, on a project to enable the deployment of 25 new mini-grid sites across Nigeria. The goal of this project is to expand access to reliable, affordable and renewable energy to underserved communities.