Hardin sees a sustainable energy future

Major changes to power grid needed first
May 30, 2023

Dave Hardin loves electricity. He is an encyclopedia of electric and power grid information.

From his home office in Lewes, he can watch power grid market fluctuations by the minute on his large, curved computer screen.

“You can use electricity everywhere if it’s cheap and reliable and sustainable,” he said.

But the power grid needs some work before that happens.

A Wilmington native who graduated from University of Delaware in 1973 with an electrical engineering degree, Hardin immersed himself in the world of transducers, microprocessors and the birth of the personal computer before he landed a job at the Getty oil refinery in Delaware City. He worked as an instrument engineer and then as a technical team leader on the refinery’s 20-year digital modernization program, surviving the plant’s many changes from Texaco to Star Enterprises to Motiva. During the mid-1980s, Hardin and his friends rented a home in Dewey Beach, regularly making happy hour after the Friday workday.

Hardin looks back on his years working in the oil and gas industry as some of his best. “We were heads down but had fun every day,” he writes in an autobiography he published in 2023. 

After helping digitize the refinery and surviving the Y2K turnover, Hardin took a job as a system architect for what eventually became Invensys in Foxboro, Mass., and off he went with his wife, Linda, and their son and daughter.

The software programming world opened more connections to him in the energy world, eventually with a seat on the Gridwise Architecture Council, a Department of Energy think tank on the edge of the smart grid and renewable energy push.

He later led an industrial-to-grid domain expert working group, attending regular conferences with energy experts and writing papers on solar roof power, battery storage, industrial automation and smart homes. 

The concept of the smart grid hit him, and he took a job with EnerNOC as a senior director, helping companies lower energy costs through demand response programs.

Today, Hardin believes the same demand response programs that help commercial buildings and industrial facilities save on energy costs can translate to individual homeowners. He is working on a game based on the beat-the-peak concept, an energy company program that asks consumers to conserve energy during high-demand periods. But instead of relying solely on customers voluntarily conserving energy, Hardin’s game would quantify electric usage and give residents valuable points in return. Those rewards would be similar to credit card points and could translate to money, bill credits or some other prize.

“It’s got to be a win-win to the utility and the customer,” Hardin said.

When electricity usage is up and costs the most for a utility company, game participants would get points in exchange for reducing energy by turning up their thermostats in the summer or putting off running appliances. 

His game software is being tested, Hardin said, but he hopes to partner with someone to help further define the graphics and player details, and eventually approach a municipality or electric cooperative to implement it on a small scale.

Creating an electric game isn’t the only thing on Hardin’s mind.

After moving to Lewes permanently in 2018, he and his wife created a smart house equipped to meet their growing needs. His sharp mind, however, soon realized a flaw in the design of all homes with solar roof power. Without the ability to store the daylong solar rays, in the event of a power outage, residents who can afford it end up relying on fossil fuel generators. Battery storage is essential for a truly reliable energy-efficient home, he said.

Then there is the macro problem all the new, individual solar panel systems are placing on the greater power grid. As more homes install solar panels and hook into the grid, electricity input surges on bright, sunny days – an issue for the grid that likes a predictable flow of current.

To harness power created by all the independent solar units, Hardin said, a transactive energy system is needed.   

“Maintaining grid reliability while transitioning to high levels of distributed energy resources is a serious challenge, especially since there are many [very] loosely coordinated moving parts at the national level, the regional level, the state level, the county level and the town level,” he said, swinging back to the need for power grid improvements as the nation moves toward a sustainable energy future.

“We can’t just focus on EVs; we’ve got to push hard for a reliable, sustainable grid,” he said.


  • TThe Cape Gazette staff has been featuring Saltwater Portraits for more than 20 years. Reporters prepare written and photographic portraits of a wide variety of characters in Delaware's Cape Region. Saltwater Portraits typically appear in the Cape Gazette's Tuesday print edition in the Cape Life section and online at To recommend someone for a Saltwater Portrait feature, email

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