Energy Central Power Perspectives™: Welcome Kristen Jaeger, New Expert in the Generation Professionals CommunityPosted to Energy Central in the Generation Professionals Group
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- Dec 1, 2020 12:30 pm GMTDec 1, 2020 12:35 pm GMT
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Generation is really the lifeblood of the utility sector, as producing reliable and affordable power to ensure the lights will turn on whenever customers flip the switch is the basis of everything we’re doing in this community. And, of course, it’s not just about making sure the lights can turn on, but all the daily necessities that require that stable power source to ensure health, safety, and productivity are allowable.
That essential function of the generation sector of utilities isn’t going away any time soon, but the way it looks certainly is changing. Central generation sources are increasingly being supplemented or even replaced with small-scale distributed sources. Coal plants are shutting down in favor of cleaner power plants and generation sources. And customers are even getting in on the game as efficiency, demand-response, and on-site generation are becoming recognized as just as critical assets as traditional generation sources.
Amid this changing face of generation, the expert presence in the Energy Central Generation Professionals community will become even more important. Today, I have the privilege of welcoming a new key expert to this group’s official Network of Experts: Kristen Jaeger, Senior Analyst at ISO New England. Kristen has worked in both supply and demand for ISO New England, with a focus today on new generation projects that will bolster the bulk grid and provide needed resources to the wholesale markets. Given this experience, she surely has a lot to offer to the Energy Central Community—and that all starts with this interview as part of the official Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’
Matt Chester: These interviews are always a prime opportunity for our readers to get to know the experience and knowledge that makes our experts such thought leaders. So can you kick us off by sharing a bit about your background and the pathway that took you to your role in the utility sector today?
Kristen Jaeger: Matt, first I want to say thank you very much for the opportunity for me to join this group of talented professionals!
My background is not in the energy industry, and I ended up in this profession by chance. I was a finance major in college and then went on to get my MBA. I began my career in the insurance industry and needed to look for a new job when I moved across the state. I turned on my computer and literally Googled companies in the area where I was moving, and ISO New England was looking for a customer support representative. Even though I had no industry experience, I thought I had the core skills needed to do the job and could learn the rest along the way.
ISO New England hired, and I have been with the company for 14 years. During my tenure, I had the opportunity to explore many different roles in the organization and I currently spend the majority of my time guiding project developers through the process to bring their generation onto the bulk power grid and into the wholesale markets. This is such an interesting industry to be a part of, and it is so fast paced and constantly changing. I am learning new things all the time.
MC: Your focus these days is on generation projects in the New England area—what are the trends you’re seeing in this region today and what unique challenges and opportunities are these states facing compared with perhaps the rest of the country?
KJ: We are continuing to see a large number of solar and wind projects, as well as energy storage. In my opinion, the biggest challenge in the New England area as compared to the rest of the country continues to be the high cost of energy and the pipeline constraints. It is interesting to me that overall, natural gas is quite inexpensive, yet in this area, due to the difficulty in transporting it, the prices are the some of the highest anywhere and no one seems to want to take the steps necessary to do anything about it.
MC: You’re also active in the area of demand response and energy efficiency programs across the grid. Many people expect these areas to play a hand at dampening the growth of the demand profile moving forward. What are the challenges with this approach though? Does this put too much of the onus on the customer to participate and be a part of these programs?
KJ: I would say that maybe 10 years ago or so, yes, it was very necessary to sign up customers to participate in Demand Response programs, and they were heavily incentivized to do so. Today, not so much. Demand Response in New England is now activated mainly during contingencies in a specific area (locational reserves).
One of the challenges I see with Demand Response going forward is that the economic incentives are not at the levels they have been in the past, which means less interest. Also, there are issues with demand assets participating as a forward capacity resource because of the need to plan a project three plus years in advance. If, for some reason, the capacity is not delivered in the commitment period, the penalties are harsh and this risk may not outweigh the benefits.
MC: Based on your time in the industry, you’ve seen some massive changes in a traditionally inertia-filled industry. How do you see that evolution changing in the coming decade? What are the biggest trends you have your eye on?
KJ: Now that Joe Biden is President-elect, I think that there will be a continuing push to focus on renewables and move away from fossil fuels. I also think we will see more of a trend toward zero-emission vehicles. I do not see this trend becoming as dramatic across the country like it is in California, where the state is attempting to transition fully to non-emission vehicles by 2035. I can see challenges with this aggressive approach because the vehicles are still going to need batteries to run. Owners will plug these vehicles in to charge on daily basis, which will add to the load profile, and this added demand will need to come from somewhere.
MC: Can you share what it is about Energy Central that compelled you to get involved and integrated with the community? And what should community members look forward to you bringing to the table as our newest expert?
KJ: I am studying to become a Certified Business Energy Professional with the Association of Energy Engineers, and during the course of my study, I found myself wanting to learn more about energy audits and measurement and verification. I signed up for Energy Central because I found the community to be very engaging and it seemed like a great place to do research as well as ask questions of people who have a lot of knowledge and experience in their respective industries.
I hope to get involved in many of the engaging discussions I have seen so far in the community, as well as have the opportunity to engage with colleagues across the nation and the world, and mentor younger people who may be interested in a career in the energy industry.
Thanks so much to Kristen Jaeger for joining me in this interview and for his participation as a Generation Professionals expert in the Energy Central community. When you see Kristen engaging with content around Energy Central, be sure to say hi, ask a question, and make her feel welcome!