PA573 The Smart Grid and Sustainable Communities

April 2022

Portland State University’s Center for Public Service is pleased to announce that its popular and widely praised course, The Smart Grid for Sustainable Communities, will once again be offered in the Spring term. It explores a set of emerging concepts, technologies, applications and business models that are in the process of transforming the nation’s century-old, centralized power grid into a more decentralized and climate, consumer, and renewable energy friendly “Smart Grid.” These concepts, technologies, and models hold the promise of a significant new paradigm for the generation, use and delivery of electric power that is more efficient, sustainable, robust, flexible, and environmentally sound, and that encourages a much higher level of consumer participation and control.

NOTE: In response to state and university policies and recommendations to encourage social distancing to support containment of the coronavirus, PSU has moved all its courses to remote delivery through Mid-April (at least). As a result, this course will be offered via live-stream. It will also be recorded for those who prefer later viewing.

Graduate Credit

  • PA573: The Smart Grid and Sustainable Communities
  • CRN: 64683
  • Earn 3 graduate credits
  • Tuition: $1,302 and additional university fees


Earn a Professional Development Certificate

Cost: $1,302 and no additional university fees

Registration will remain open for mid-career professionals until 5:00pm on 4/16/20. Since all sessions will be recorded and placed in the course archives, anyone who registers for the course after the first session will still be able to view the recordings at their convenience on their devices. 

Having trouble with registration/payment? Contact Josh Metzler at


This interdisciplinary course is co-taught by a team of academic and private sector specialists, supported by national and regional experts who will participate as guest speakers. The course will include “real world” projects that will allow the student teams to explore if and how the Smart Grid and related technologies and approaches can support sustainable development and a cleaner energy future. In addition panels of expert advisors will help the faculty guide the student teams. Optional field trips may also be provided if there is sufficient student interest.

The course will help prepare students to contribute to grid modernization as project developers, engineers, program managers, policy analysts, business analysts, attorneys, economists and other key positions. It will also serve as a valuable resource for those who may not want to focus their careers on energy related issues but appreciate the value of knowing more about how the transformation taking place in the energy sector can support other aspects of sustainable development.

Who Should Register?

This course is designed to serve three key audiences:

  • Graduate students from a variety of programs interested in receiving graduate credit from PSU‘s College of Urban and Public Affairs; and
  • Mid-career professionals interested in advancing their careers and receiving special Certificates of Completion from PSU’s Center for Public Service.
  • Students pursuing PSU's new Graduate Certificate in Energy Policy and Management, for which PA573 is one of the Focal Area Courses 

Course Details

  • Classes on Tuesdays, March 31 - June 9, 2020, 6:40pm-9:20pm
  • Classroom: On campus (room TBD)
    Distance learning option available - Learn more here
  • Led by Dr. Hal Nelson and Mr. Mark Osborn, plus many guest speakers including Mr. Jeff Hammarlund who have taught the course for many years.
  • Continuing Legal Education Credit will be available

Smart Grid Public Forum

The class will conclude with a Smart Grid Public Forum during the final class session. At the Forum, student teams will present their findings to many invited leaders from the Northwest energy community.  Previous Public Forums have developed a well-earned reputation for advancing the region’s knowledge of the challenges and opportunities associated with the smart grid, grid modernization, and a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.

Course Withdrawal Policy

Please see the Center for Public Service's course withdrawal policy for details.

Contact Information

Josh Metzler
Program Coordinator

Course Topics

This course explores many cutting edge topics that have just recently emerged or are just now emerging.  As a result every edition of this course is differs significantly from the earlier ones. Edition 7.0 is not exception. The course syllabus is still being refined and guest speakers are still being recruited. However, here is a set of topics we expect to explore:

  • An introduction to the existing grid and the grid transformation process that is currently underway;
  • Formation of interdisciplinary student teams and recruitment and assignment of expert advisors for these teams;
  • The emergence of new (and some say “disruptive”) technologies and financing approaches, the resulting calls for new business and regulatory models associated with the “utility death spiral”, and their relationship to the Northwest’s energy profile;
  • The impact of climate change on the transmission grid and grid outages;
  • How grid modernization and energy storage can enhance the value and effectiveness of wind, solar and other valuable but intermittent renewable energy resources;
  • Key energy policy issues, challenges and opportunities that have already impacted or are now emerging as a result of the smart grid and  grid transformation;
  • Oregon’s unique approach to identifying and adapting to major changes in the electricity sector;
  • Demand response technologies and results; (Mark or Hal, please elaborate a bit on what you plan to cover here; there are so many directions this could go.)
  • Advances in solar technology, the debate over net metering, and the fight over how to value the costs and benefits of solar;
  • Challenges and opportunities associated with “Internet of Things”, communications standards, interoperability, and cybersecurity concerns;
  • The challenge of ensuring grid stability and reliability: the role of synchrophasors and other tools for grid monitoring and control;
  • California’s role as an energy innovation hub and the implications for the Pacific Northwest;
  • The emerging role of distribution system planning in the face of grid modernization and the popularity of solar, wind and other distributed energy resources;
  • New technologies and approaches to energy storage, microgrids, and community solar;
  • Emerging and next generation technologies and approaches.