Getting to Know Your Experts: Rich Philip and Jenny Roehm, Members of the PLMA Board of Directors—Part 2 of 2 - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Expert Interview]

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Matt Chester's picture
Energy Analyst Chester Energy and Policy

Official Energy Central Community Manager of Generation and Energy Management Networks. Matt is an energy analyst in Orlando FL (by way of Washington DC) working as an independent energy...

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  • Oct 9, 2019

If you didn’t read the first part of my interview with Rich Philip and Jenny Roehm, two members of the Board of Directors for the Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA), and Co-chairs of the PLMA Thought Leadership Group, stop what you’re doing and read that part first here.

In this second part of this entry in the lauded ‘Getting to Know Your Expert’ Interview series from Energy Central, we conclude the interview with these two load management professionals as they share more wisdom about load management practices, the future of utility demand response, and more.

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Matt Chester:  The 40th PLMA Conference is coming up in November—what do you expect to be the most pressing topics that you and your colleagues will want to discuss? Is this more of a time to celebrate successes in the past year and share those lessons learned or is it a time to be more forward-looking on those future strategies I asked about before?

Jenny Roehm: This industry is kind of funny.  Generally, the utility industry is slow. Everything kind of moves at a glacial pace, but just like a glacier, the path it carves is a pretty significant path, and so when a change actually happens, it's pretty significant.  The big things I think we’ll be talking about include integrated demand-side management.  As you're talking about demand response, the next thing out of somebody's mouth is usually something about energy efficiency, and within the last several years, it's grown to include distributed resources of all kinds. We're not talking about any one of these things in isolation.  They impact each other and they have to work together.  How do you bring all of those pieces together at multiple levels: at a policy level, at an implementation level, and at the physical level of the building or where you're implementing all of these different pieces?  It's that connectivity that's probably the biggest theme that I see coming about as these professionals meet.


Rich Philip: I talked earlier about what communications has done in the advent of the internet of things and related technology.  That's made it so that there are technologies we used to think of as being just a DR asset or just an EE measure that now cross the line--like smart controls, WiFi-enabled thermostats, etc. that can provide both energy efficiency and demand response benefits, as well as a distributed energy resource. There are still jurisdictions and states out there where they don't know how to deal with something that's neither “fish nor fowl(providing both EE and DR benefits).  Duke has been successful in dealing with that issue in our jurisdictions.  We have a small business program that does exactly that, and we get a report from both value streams.  That doesn't happen everywhere.

If you're stuck in one of those locations and you hear other utilities talking about where this is going, it can be frustrating.  But the opportunity to talk to others about the real experiences, learning about where it's changing already, finding out who can I talk to, and what was the engagement message you used can be very powerful.  I go to these conferences asking who can help me “push this wagon up the hill” by trying the conversation going so that we can fully leverage what technology is enabling. 

MC: As community members and experts on Energy Central, you’ve clearly also seen the value in what this digital solution to bringing together industry professionals can be. Why are these connections and this time of community so important to the modern utility industry? How does Energy Central help you accomplish those goals?

RP: For me, Energy Central is another valued spot for us to be able to connect to information and people.  That's the construct that I wake up in the morning thinking, if somebody says Energy Central, I say it's a source for me for both information and to get to other people that are involved.  I think this initiative that you're doing, bringing these community experts to bear is a great step forward to give people the opportunity to be able to connect a little bit deeper.  That's what Jenny and I have experienced in PLMA to a great extent. You can walk away with a stack of business cards from a conference, but the truth of the matter is just to know who's who, who could I talk to, who is living in a similar world is invaluable.

I spent 45 minutes this week talking to someone from one of our neighboring utilities that manages the sales of their demand response programs trying to understand some things that we do here.  We had a great conversation, and we found that their program, which is only like 4 years old, has a lot in common with our award-winning PowerShare® program that we've developed and operated for about 20 years in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.  So, there were a lot of things that we were able to share, and there are things that they're doing because they have a new program that I wish I could do because I've got this huge installed base of existing programs and participants that has some inertia around it.  I'm sure he got my contact information because of my role with PLMA. And now, Duke’s Product Manager for the Midwest programs has this connection to that utility and they're setting up more of a continuing line of communication. This gets me to think about how we can make that tent bigger so that we know more people and become more comfortable with people to be able to share the information. Connectivity to others within the industry is just as important as all this connectivity stuff that we talk about from a physical infrastructure DER type of standpoint.


JR: We talk a lot about the benefits of the PLMA conference and that you get to actually connect with people, but not everybody can travel to the conferences.  PLMA does offer a lot of other opportunities to connect, and I think what Energy Central brings is another easy way for people to connect who maybe cannot travel to a conference and see lots of different people all at once.  They can do that on Energy Central.  It's like a digital conference; but instead of walking across the hallway to chat, you find them and you contact them.  I think one of the things that I'm always fascinated by is people outside of the U.S. who are doing cool stuff, and on a digital platform you aren’t bound geography; you can talk to everyone.


MC: To wrap this up, is there anything else you’d want to be sure to share with the community that we haven’t already touched upon in this great conversation?

RP: To go back to the PLMA conference, I do want to note that we provide a training course on the Monday of the conference week.  For newcomers to the industry, we're providing this training on demand response fundamentals and evolution. We have a series of presenters, each taking bits and pieces of this agenda and taking the opportunity to go out and talk to people in the room that are new to this area.  That training is a way for people in the industry to meet others. They get a little bit grounded before some more technical stuff starts coming out of the conference on Tuesday and Wednesday.  It is just a snapshot of a bigger training curriculum that PLMA has available for folks that we're covering in 45-minute snippets. It's another thing that PLMA is doing for the industry to try to let people get grounded because from a utility standpoint, the more people from the industry side of things that are trained and understand and can talk the talk about load shapes and why it's important to the utility --and I don't have to train them, we're a whole lot better off.  From a utility manager standpoint, when I get somebody new into the groups to know that I have a place that I can send the trainee that's going to talk the right language and I can be able to build them from there, that is the foundation.  It's a big benefit. 


Thanks again to Jenny and Rich for graciously answering my questions and for continuing to be valued experts on Energy Central. If you’re not able to attend the 40th PLMA conference in November, note that the PLMA website will feature links to the presentations and other resources. So, while that’s not a replacement for being there in person, PLMA encourages you to attend their webinars, read their reports, and take advantage of their resources.


You can read the other expert interviews that we’ve completed in this series here. If you are interesting in becoming an expert then you can reach out to me or you can apply here.

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Oct 9, 2019

Digital Conference !

Amazing difinition of energy centeral.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 9, 2019

Agreed-- you get to tap into the brilliant minds across the industry, but you don't have to fork up the funds (or time) to fly across the country and stay in a hotel near a convention center!

Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Oct 29, 2019

Rich and Jenny, I am excited to have you as experts in our Energy Central / PLMA Load Management Community group.  I beleive the community platform is a great way for you to share stories and insights gained from your PLMA leadership positions. See you in the community! 

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