Q: Tell us about yourself and your background.
I’ve been working in the clean energy and renewables industry since 2008. Originally I had a politics and policy bent, and I started my career as an aide to Gov. Newsom when he was the mayor of San Francisco. This was during a time in the industry that I’d call “Cleantech 1.0,” as far as the initial excitement in venture-backed companies and people like Al Gore and Tom Friedman getting people interested in climate action. My original plan was to attend law school, but I got excited about this industry and decided that the future I saw for myself was in the cleantech business.
My first job was a position at Silicon Valley Power, which is the City of Santa Clara’s municipal utility, where I became very familiar with California’s electric grid, wholesale energy markets, and the grid operator’s perspective. From there, I took a job developing solar power plants with Recurrent Energy and worked on numerous successful projects that were considered large at the time, but small by today’s standards! Since then, I’ve held a series of roles commercializing new cleantech products at ARPA-E, GE Grid Solutions, Opus One, and now Stem. I’m especially interested in how technology, business models, and incentives can work together to achieve the overlapping goals of grid reliability, emissions reductions, and cost savings.
In terms of my educational background, I received an undergraduate foreign affairs degree from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
Q: What is your job at Stem?
I’m the director of front of the meter (FTM) product marketing at Stem. In that role, I’m responsible for defining and releasing all of our FTM product offerings, as well as determining our go-to-market strategy for FTM projects and working with our sales team to find winning solutions for our partners and offtakers. I lead a team that works collaboratively with Stem’s experts across states and markets, which is really exciting because I get to collaborate with colleagues to find the right opportunities for Stem and help drive the growth of energy storage and renewables across the country.
Q: What’s the most interesting thing you’ve worked on lately?
I’m working on several California community-scale storage projects that offer multiple benefits: clean energy generation, wholesale market revenues, resource adequacy for the grid, and better local resilience. Energy storage introduces interesting new dynamics to the traditional renewables project development landscape: because storage is modular, it can be integrated into the grid in a much wider array of areas and better serve critical load pockets than can large renewables projects. As a result, energy storage projects are evolving to stack multiple benefits onto batteries, which are increasingly being seen as critical flexible assets and starting to permeate the grid. For me, getting to work on this in the early days and helping to address the needs of different intersecting communities is really interesting, and I think these projects will help define a model for how energy storage can evolve the grid going forward.
Q: What recent industry trends have made a big impression on you?
I think the way that energy storage will evolve the grid will draw in a lot of players who haven’t been involved in renewable energy development directly. Traditionally, a utility or a large corporation would sign an offtake agreement for the output of a wind or solar farm located away from load centers. This is called “‘greenfield’ development” and is still an exciting part of the market as large volumes of renewable generation are coming online.
But as a renewable-based grid evolves, energy storage assets will start to be installed all over the grid, especially in load pockets. This trend of having storage assets across the grid will bring many more players – from businesses and industrial players, municipalities, even homeowners – who are interested in having energy storage at their locations, and using those assets not just to benefit themselves but also their local communities and the grid overall, particularly in the context of wildfires and extreme weather.
Consequently, I think you’ll see vendors that are currently outside of today’s renewable energy ecosystem – commercial and industrial companies, real estate firms, energy efficiency providers, etc. – being drawn into offering FTM storage projects, which can basically go anywhere on the grid to meet a host of different needs. And corporate offtakers that in the past might have just signed offtake agreements with far-away power plants projects may want to host large batteries that the utility also counts on to maintain local reliability. So in general, I see a lot of different players coming together in the FTM energy storage space over the next few years.
Q: Any advice for younger professionals interested in this space?
With careers, there are always many possible roads to travel. To me, it’s important to have a dream and at least a rough idea of where you want to go – a vision for how your skills can help you grow into the kind of professional you want to be. And don’t be afraid to take steps immediately in that direction.
As a young person, you get a lot of different signals and received wisdom, but those can be a distraction from pursuing your own dream. If you’re clear about your direction and willing to do whatever it takes, you can hold true to that – and ultimately I think you’ll get there, and be glad about your choices even if you zigged when everyone else zagged.
Lastly I’d say that even though cleantech has a reputation for being an engineering-heavy field, in my experience anything that’s important requires the full gamut of skill sets, often in roughly equal proportion. So don’t be discouraged by the mistaken belief that you need an engineering background to work in cleantech (or software, or technology more broadly for that matter). If you are willing to learn and you believe in yourself, any background – be it engineering, business, or liberal arts, or anything else – can be the foundation of your success.
Q: What about Stem would you want our customers and partners to know?
What I appreciate most about Stem is how much partner service we provide and how much being a partner-focused company is in our DNA, which enables us to support a wide range of traditional and new entrants to the energy storage space. As a partner and ally to the developers in the Stem Channel Partner Program, we’re able to work creatively with them and their offtakers so that every project can be a win across the board. Providing our energy storage expertise across procurement, design and operations and being there every step of the way is a big part of our model.