Welcome Kevin Myers: New Expert in the Energy Efficiency Community - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Expert Interview]
- Jul 22, 2020 10:58 am GMT
Energy efficiency is one of the rare true win-wins between companies and customers. What customer wouldn’t want ways to save on their monthly bill that are easy and pay for themselves time and time again? And what utility wouldn’t prefer the cost-effectiveness of reducing demand slightly across its customer base rather than go through the costs, planning, and headaches of building new plants only needed occasionally to meet peak demand?
Despite that inherent nature of utility energy efficiency, reaching customers with the messages and programs that can deliver those results can often be a challenge. Customers are busy, they have limited time and energy to engage more than they have to, and some simply don’t realize the potential of these programs. Because of these challenges, the marketing of efficiency programs can be just as critical to the success of a utility program as its technology and design.
Kevin Myers deals head-on with these challenges all the time as a Manager of Marketing at Santee Electric Cooperative. With so much experience in the energy efficiency space, Kevin has also recently been recognized as the latest member of Energy Central’s Network of Experts within our Energy Efficiency Group. Rather than tell you about all the expertise he brings to the table myself, the best way to see the value Kevin will bring this community moving forwards is by having him sit down in a Q&A interview as a part of our Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’
Matt Chester: Our readers value these interviews as one of the easiest ways to get to know the experts we’ve brought into our communities, so let’s start broad. Can you please give a quick overview of your background? How did you get started in utilities, what experience do you bring to the table, and what is your current role?
Kevin Myers: I graduated in 2007 from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. I hired on immediately out of college to an electric cooperative, Pee Dee Electric Cooperative, in Florence, South Carolina, in the engineering department as a staking technician. Of course, I didn't have a good knowledge of distribution design straight out of college, so I actually went to work with the construction crews for nine months, before coming back to do staking for five years.
I left the co-op and went to an electric engineering firm based out of Oklahoma City doing electric engineering work in the oil fields of Oklahoma, Texas, Wyoming, and Kansas. I did that for three years, and then my wife told me it was time to come back home, so I moved back to South Carolina. A position was open at Santee Electric Cooperative in our dispatch center, and knowing distribution systems as I did made me a good fit for that. I worked as a dispatcher for three years, moved over into engineering, again, doing distribution design and mapping. Then, I moved into the Manager of Marketing position in October of 2018.
The Manager of Marketing position is in actuality oddly titled. It would probably be better suited if it was called "Manager of Energy Services." I handle everything from our community solar project to our energy efficiency programs such as "Help My House," which is our on-bill financing energy efficiency program. We go in and run blower doors, test homes, depressurize homes, determine where their level of efficiency is currently, and then we work with contractors to make the necessary upgrades while financing that directly on the power bill.
MC: Your utility experience has really taken you all over the industry—from energy efficiency programs to field engineering to distribution system design to emergency management and more. Do you think having been able to get your hands in so many different aspects has given you a unique and valuable perspective of the industry? Was there any aspect that surprised you with what it entailed vs. what you expected?
KM: The staking or the design side of the electric utility is very complex. There are many pieces of information that design engineers must know to do their job efficiently and effectively. That was probably the most challenging aspect, but since I was ultimately able to grasp those concepts and do that job well, it helped in making me more confident in my current position. As a dispatcher, dealing with hurricanes, floods, and ice storms while also having that background in design, I am well prepared to answer any question, or at least help our members obtain the information they desire.
MC: Energy efficiency should theatrically be easy to market to customers because it’s one of the rare times a company is genuinely getting its customer to purchase less of its product, and yet there are still challenges. What do you think creates these difficulties in marketing utility efficiency programs?
KM: That's a very good point, though we don't necessarily have any challenges per se as driving interest from our membership. The challenges that we see take place (1) from initiation of the service order to (2) making it through completion and signing the loan documents. There are several policies that have to be checked off-- ownership, credit, all of the things that the member and the home have to qualify to make it through the program. That's the direct challenge when it comes to our energy efficiency program.
We're having discussions with members about the implementation of solar and how that compares with the direct retrofit to a home for efficiency and lower usage. We're explaining to our membership, instead of paying for the solar installation on the home to offset your usage, let's address your actual issues within your home that are causing the usage, and then we can make the home a better asset to you through the retrofits or upgrades.
MC: There’s so much going on in the utility industry today that’s opening up new opportunities, from smart meters to demand side management to EVs and more. What technological advancement is yet to come out in full force but you think will provide the most exciting opportunity for utility managers? What about what will great the most difficult challenge?
KM: That's a great question also. One thing that we're excited about in the electric co-ops of South Carolina is an Amazon store where members of the electric co-ops can go on through their state-wide organization and purchase energy efficiency equipment such as Bluetooth-operated, WiFi-enabled breakers for load management on their home, where they can open breakers in their panel through their phone.
We also implemented a smart thermostat load management program here at our co-op through our state-wide organization. We control the thermostats, on average, between three to six times per month during our peak demand period, and in turn, they are getting a smart thermostat at a reduced rate. We've got 44,000 meters on our system, and we've currently installed 120 thermostats on our system.
MC: As you get more involved with the Energy Central community, what do you hope to learn from your peers? And what value do you hope to bring to the community?
KM: I'm always interested in looking at demand management on the side of energy storage. I've been to Duke Energy's Mount Holly microgrid facility where they've got some Tesla batteries to look at demand management and storing solar-generated power through that battery pack. That has always interested me, and I'm going to continue keeping up with that.
That's what I would like to continue reading and following on. I’m also interested in keeping up with developments with on-bill financing programs throughout utilities in the nation.
I also think the things I would be able to bring to the table is just my direct experience running and managing our own on-bill financing programs and how we're rolling out our smart device projects and programs to our membership.
Please join me in thanking Kevin Myers for his time in this interview and for his accepted role as an Energy Efficiency expert in the Energy Central community. When you see Kevin engaging with content around Energy Central, be sure to say hi, ask a question, and make him feel welcome!
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