WNC is a target for grid CleanTech and a testbed for the NC Clean Power Plan

Responsible, evidence-based strategy and innovation is not the same thing as bipartisanship or creating a solution that’s the aggregate of multitude beliefs, or derives from the beliefs of a few folks. An evidence-based solution that renders the greatest value has to be the outcome of everyone’s time and energies. The supporting responsible innovation roadmap emphasizes ethics, governance, and community-wide performance on behalf of the public trust while the first options set may have obscure parameters and far riskier outcomes.

Let’s define a ’Next New Deal’ sustainability strategy for North Carolina together. Sustain NC is the cumulative definition of sustainability innovation that I have come up with through my research, management consulting work, and producing CleanTech events at Duke University and UNC Charlotte. North Carolina citizens and those with ties to our state interested in what an NC Clean Power Plan might look like and what the impacts can be are welcome to participate via the current major Sustain NC strategy: develop a Smart Grid, Distributed Energy, and Efficiency Program (Smart Grid DEEP).

Download the Next Steps PDF with more details on the Sustain NC Consortium. A Sustain NC Smart Grid DEEP / Smart Cities and Towns event has been proposed for UNC Asheville. Joining Sustain NC means moving forward on North Carolina’s sustainability innovation agenda.

As Sustain NC develops we can make more of these connections and expand the Sustain NC innovation ecosystem.


Grant Millin, InnovoGraph owner and Sustain NC developer



Smart Grid DEEP and Smart City strategy works for the WNC region

Charlotte has used an innovation ecosystem approach to develop its Smart City initiative, Envision Charlotte. The White House has made Envision Charlotte a template for national Smart City strategy with the Envision America initiative. While Envision America has an IT focus and sustainability innovation is more than a question of what software code is needed, InnovoGraph submitted an Envision America application October 14, 2015.

North Carolina needs a Smart Grid, Distributed Energy, and Efficiency Program connected to the many possibilities of Smart City strategy. The primary mission of Sustain NC is to see Smart Grid DEEP and the Smart City and Towns programming come into being for our state. The following strategy map is the preliminary rendering of this strategy. In the upper left corner of this strategy map are researched elements from the National Association for Clean Air Agencies Implementing EPA’s Clean Power Plan: A Menu of Options (NACAA, 2015), a 400+ page document with model state clean power plan options. The lower left corner of this strategy map are researched elements from ISO 37120:2014 Sustainable development of communities — Indicators for city services and quality of life, a global benchmarking document for Smart City strategy with focus beyond Smart City IT issues only.

The context and overall strategy of sustainability issues is paramount over smart city IT choices only. Read the full length version of Grant Millin’s recent Raleigh News and Observer commentary Buncombe County is at the center of the NC Clean Power Plan on Smart Grid DEEP issues. Sign up for a Smart Grid DEEP webinar.

The rest of the map is about justifying Smart Grid DEEP and the Smart City and Towns as well as governance mechanisms. Asheville can be a center for this level of regional sustainability innovation and already is on several levels. While the central and eastern regions of North Carolina rate their own Smart Grid DEEP and the Smart City and Towns centers of excellence, Asheville and WNC citizens and organizations should be encouraged to further develop sustainability innovation capabilities and technologies that can be exported in support of the climate change fight and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This is the kind of economic development strategy Asheville and WNC needs and more often than not our people are demanding. UNC Asheville has been invited to host a Smart Grid DEEP Consortium event where CleanTech firms and Department of Energy / National Laboratory subject matter experts help WNC communities derive the optimum electrical grid modernization solution in partnership with Duke Energy, the NC Utilities Commission and other State of North Carolina decision makers.

This doesn’t just happen. Join Sustain NC.

Download PDF


Podio and the NACAA Menu will assist in developing the NC Clean Power Plan

Face-to-face events and 1:1 communications (emails, other correspondence, phone calls, meetings, etc.) are still part of how people get things done. The ‘Future of Work’ as of 2015 includes online social business environments like Podio. Create a free Podio account and after becoming a Smart Grid DEEP / Smart Cities and Towns Consortium member you will be invited to the Podio workspace.

On the energy front documents from the Obama Era on clean power planning give us excellent overall energy strategy. One of these documents is National Association of Clean Air Agencies study Implementing EPA’s Clean Power Plan: A Menu of Options.

Podio is an Intranet workspace with features like Facebook, Microsoft Project, with a searchable relational database for collaboration around the development and progress monitoring of the NC Clean Power Plan. A short overview PDF on using InnovoGraph Open Strategic Innovation on Podio is available.



Some ideas on strategy

“A good strategy does more than urge us forward to a goal or vision.  A good strategy honestly acknowledges the challenges being faced and provides an approach to overcoming them.  And the greater the challenge, the more a good strategy focuses and coordinates efforts to achieve a powerful competitive punch or problem-solving effort.”  […]

”A talented leader identifies the one or two critical in the given situation–the pivot points that can multiply the effectiveness of effort–and then focuses and concentrates action and resources on those issues.”

“The core of strategy work is always the same: discovering the critical factors in a situation and designing a way to of coordinating and focusing actions to deal with those factors.” Pg. 2

“Good strategy is coherent action backed up by an argument, an effective mixture of thought and action with a basic underlying structure (called) the kernel.

Aspects of a Strategy Kernel (starting point):

  • A diagnosis that defines or explains the nature of the challenge.
  • A guiding policy for dealing with the challenge.
  • A set of coherent actions that are designed to carry out the guiding policy. – Good Strategy, Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt

Evidence-Based Policy

The Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015 (S. 991) is desperately needed to help set the bar higher for struggling states like North Carolina. 

Whatever happens folks in Asheville need to know this evidence-based policymaking approach and solutions like a WNC Public Advocate Office exist. Evidence-based policymaking isn’t a be-all and end-all solution, but done well it’s going to add a great deal of value to community innovation.

The closure of GroWNC and AdvantageWest create an opening for a program like Sustain NC. The opportunity to significantly upgrade our electrical grid for NC Clean Power Plan needs also makes us a more desirable location for advanced business and research activities. Each of the three major regions of North Carolina—East, Central, and West—all have universal challenges, and then more specific regional ones. Sustain NC means collaboration for sustainability innovation.


  • WNC Public Advocate Office: Based on ombud principles.


  • Sustain Asheville / Sustain WNC: With AdvantageWest closing, a new dynamic, free-thinking, yet strategic nonprofit program similar to the successful but prematurely terminated GroWNC initiative is needed. That’s where Sustain Asheville / Sustain WNC comes in.


  • Open Strategic Innovation for Communities (OSIC): InnovoGraph’s approach to civic engagement and community strategy paralleling and supporting government.