Q: Tell us about yourself and your background.
I started working at an energy storage startup called Xtreme Power (“XP”) back in 2010, which was basically the very beginning of large-scale stationary battery storage as we know it today. XP installed some of the world’s largest batteries in places like Hawaii and Texas, and was ultimately acquired by Younicos and then Aggreko. Things could be chaotic, but that was just life at a very new tech startup and I loved it.
I was one of XP’s earlier employees so I wore many hats. Originally I was an engineer because my background was in industrial engineering, but through the company’s growth and ownership changes I was able to work on several different teams starting with operations engineering, which focused on manufacturing and deployments. Then I became interested in our commercial function and began inching my way closer to the front of the business as a sales and application engineer. When Aggreko came into the picture, I took on a business development role for the Caribbean and Latin America.
Q: What is your job at Stem?
My title is Director of Business Development, and I lead Stem’s U.S. business development efforts in front of meter (FTM) markets east of the Rockies, as well as our international market expansion. There are two key aspects of my job. The first is to identify new markets or ways we can expand in existing markets. So we develop initiatives in response to emerging opportunities, whether they’re in a new country, or for a new type of customer, or a new use case for storage such as e-mobility. The goal is to be the “tip of the spear” and to time our entry just right so we’re not too early or too late. The second main part of my job is to work with Stem colleagues and our customers and partners so that Stem can effectively sell into new markets and ensure new projects are successful.
I joined Stem because I’d previously worked with Ryan O’Keefe, Stem’s SVP of Market Enablement and my current boss. He reached out to me about the opportunity to help structure Stem’s thinking and approach around FTM markets, and it’s been great to work together on that and see it take shape over the last 18 months or so.
Q: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve worked on lately?
Developing Stem’s offering for electric cooperatives is definitely my recent highlight. Lots of work went into defining the market and our strategy before winning our first big project, and it was really exciting to see something that began as a conversation with Ryan come to fruition. It’s a big market for Stem to sell into, and it’s a textbook example of how business development can lead companies in new and exciting directions.
Interestingly, the way distribution co-ops procure power isn’t all that different from how big companies do it, and they both face significant demand charges. Stem is well known as a global leader in helping customers reduce demand charges with energy storage, so it’s a very natural fit for our business.
Another reason I’ve really enjoyed working with co-ops is that I’m from rural Texas and have lived in areas served by electric cooperatives. Their mission to bring affordable, reliable power to their members is something I really appreciate and understand.
Q: What recent industry trends have made a big impression on you?
Energy storage has come so far in the last decade. As the market has come to understand the technology better, storage is being called upon to do more, but there’s still so much more it could do. I’ve heard my colleague Ted Ko, Stem’s VP of Policy & Regulatory Affairs, say that “solar is hardware, storage is software,” and I think it’s an apt analogy but one that hasn’t fully permeated electricity markets yet. At first, developers and utilities just thought about storage as hardware that would charge from solar and then discharge later in the day. But the use cases for storage keep expanding – for example, California is starting to lean much more heavily on storage to maintain reliability for this year’s wildfire season and heat waves – and as more and more renewables come online storage will be the “software” that enables a zero-carbon grid to function.
Speaking of hardware, as someone who began his career at a startup that had no choice but to make everything ourselves – batteries, racks, containers, inverters, you name it – it’s really remarkable to see how the technology landscape and the players providing those technologies have evolved over the last 10 years. And the evolution of the electric vehicle (EV) market has been a real catalyst for stationary storage technologies.
Overall I just love the concept of energy storage and what it can do for the world in terms of enabling a brighter future. I was lucky to get in early, and I basically never left!
Q: Any advice for younger professionals interested in this space?
I serve on the Industrial Advisory Board at the engineering college at Texas State University, my alma mater, so I take mentoring really seriously. One saying that’s been true for me and that I pass on to others is “good luck is when hard work meets opportunity.” I originally started at XP as a college intern; I was lucky to find that opportunity, but after a lot of hard work I earned a full-time job in a company and industry I became really passionate about.
If you’re interested in clean energy technology, I would say pursue it! Electricity markets are fascinating and there is such a bright future for careers focused on building a sustainable grid. And if you’re more on the technical side, there are tons of cool opportunities in product development and project execution and operations.
Whatever you end up doing, do it with conviction. Be resourceful. Be someone other people want to work with. Realize that almost nothing worth doing comes quickly or easily. Don’t be afraid of being uncomfortable, because growth requires discomfort.
Q: What about Stem would you want our customers and partners to know?
The most impressive thing about Stem is that we’re really committed to providing the highest level of support – I mean, truly world-class support – to our partners and customers. And talk about the value of experience in an emerging market! By now, Stem has more than 950 projects operating or contracted, so we’re among the very best in the world at getting storage projects in the ground and operating.