Energy Central Power Perspectives™: Welcome Christian Bedortha, New Expert in the Utility Management Community
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- Jul 7, 2020 12:00 pm GMT
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The business side of utilities is undoubtedly going through much change. And whether that change is being forced because of evolving market dynamics or is being championed by innovators inside utilities, the fact remains that this new utility of the future will require leadership, insight, and guidance.
It’s because of those facts that the Utility Management Community of Energy Central is so important and the dynamic voices chiming in on how to usher the business of utilities into the coming decades is critical. Particularly, the evolving landscape of utilities will require a particular focus on the laws, public policies, and changing marketplace, all of which may be a landmine for the uninitiated. Helping to navigate these new unchartered waters, though, are members of the Energy Central Network of Experts, which includes our latest addition to the esteemed group, Christian Bedortha.
Christian is Assistant General Counsel at Texpo Energy Group, and his leadership in the energy industry stretches from regulatory and policy compliance, business development, intellectual property, and more. His perspective on the issues facing utilities today and tomorrow can be invaluable, so I’m thrilled to present the following interview he agreed to do with me as a part of our Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series’:
Matt Chester: I’m thrilled to introduce you to the Utility Management community of Energy Central as our newest expert, Christian. Can you introduce yourself quickly so your fellow members know where you come from, your history in the utility sector, and what expertise and experience you bring to the table today?
Christian Bedortha: I'm an attorney in Houston, Texas, and I have been in the industry for the last twelve years doing retail electricity and retail natural gas in several states and jurisdictions. My expertise is all of the contracting that comes around the wholesale power deals that we engage in to buy our product, and then we resell to customers at the home and business. We have large industrial customers, and the regulatory that comes along with it is another big part of what I have done. I've led projects into market expansion and set up in different jurisdictions. For retail choice, there's only so many jurisdictions, and we're in about half of them. Negotiating with the public utility commissions and the government relations that go along with it are a big part of what I've done in the past as well.
MC: What’s been the most challenging area of the field for you to work in as an attorney in energy? What have been the most difficult topics to navigate?
CB: Probably the biggest challenge is overcoming reputations that some people hold for attorneys. Most people's experience is in a more personal setting. To really be a successful attorney in any business, you have to know the business backwards and forwards. You have to love it. You have to love that part of it. Really, the main job for the attorney is to facilitate the will of the ownership. By doing that, it's about balancing the risk. Obviously, our industry has a ton of risk associated with it, being that it's a commodities market. We see events all the time that reaffirm that this is a risky business in a lot of ways.
I think when I was initially coming into the industry the challenges were to translate to the business and not be seen as an attorney in a suit. From there, the real challenge is just staying up to speed on the developments of the legislature and the different statutes that come out. For instance, with COVID-19, there was a huge amount of statutory legislation that was put out to give people relief. 40 million people out of work, and electricity being a necessary thing for everybody, every household, and the programs that were put together were on-the-fly. They weren't perfect. They were developed day-by-day, but it was our job to interpret these, to make sure that our group of companies was following them to ensure that we were in compliance with everything. To turn that around in a week or two, that's a recent challenge that's pretty easy to look at. Really, the rules and the markets and things change pretty rapidly in this space. Keeping up with that is always a welcome challenge.
MC: As you note, the energy sector and the legal world can both be so complex and ever-evolving. How do you find you keep on top of industry developments? What are the best ways other people can stay informed on these topics?
CB: I certainly subscribe to several newsletters, which is how I came across this community. The legal world has requirements that I have to take continuing legal education every year. It's about 15 hours of classes. A lot of those are in person, and in Texas, there are a ton of great opportunities to get together, conferences, and so forth where you can meet the requirements of your license but also stay up-to-date on the true cutting edge. I try to look at that every year to find something that's going to get me up to speed on the new developments. There's a lot out there. It's just a matter of reading and being present and finding a good industry event to introduce you to some of the new areas that are out there.
MC: As a longtime attorney in the energy sector, what do you foresee being some of the most critical legal issues surrounding utilities in the coming few years?
CB: In my view, the greatest developments and the biggest challenges are going to be centered around the energy storage industry. Right now, it is a burgeoning sector with batteries. There's been traditional storage, pumped water storage, and some other fly wheels, compressed air. There's a lot of ones that have some great attributes but then some takeaways, and really, what they're trying to do right now is they're trying to find something that really makes sense on the whole. The batteries are 95% of the market right now. Of course, like any battery you have in your life, it runs out and needs to be replaced, so there's a tremendous cost with it.
Right now, the challenges in that industry are continuing to push the technology to really serve the needs of, more than anything, the renewable sector. Wind blows at night in Texas, and people are asleep, so to be able to capture that energy production and release it in the mornings when people are getting up and turning on their coffee makers, that's the future. That gives more stability to the grid; it takes away more fossil fuels. We see coal plants retiring every few months, and we continue to see the solar and the wind grow, but it's kind of at a point of backlog with solar in Texas. And Texas, to be clear, has the highest solar capacity of any state in the union just because of the sheer landmass and it's sunny 300 days a year in Texas. The question is what do you do with that energy? Most of the places are remote. Do you store it and release it at certain times? Certainly, with the wind, which is up in the north of Texas, the heavy-duty CREZ (Competitive Renewable Energy Zones) transmission lines were put in, and that was a huge project to unleash the wind power of Texas which is the leader in wind generation across the country.
There's a lot of that generation that's lost without the storage. They're really trying to figure it out. They're getting closer, but really, you can just generate so much more than you can store, and being able to have longer-term, bigger-capacity storage that can really support utility-scale solar and wind. That's the biggest challenge I see.
MC: As you’ve started to get involved with Energy Central, what do you find to be the value that the platform brings to you and to the industry? Why do you participate and stay so engaged, and how do you hope to bring value based on your experience and knowledge to fellow Energy Central users?
CB: There are so many topics and so many emerging areas, that there's always going to be somebody out there that has been there from the beginning and is fully-engaged in that one particular area. In finding a resource like Energy Central with it’s groups of experts readily available, it's just a great resource. Somebody may not know about utility-scale solar, but you can find people who have been working on that for 30-40 years. The amount of knowledge that they forget is probably more than most of us have. To have those kinds of resources pooled is just great. You guys always stay topical, and you follow the industry closely, so it's definitely a good resource for anybody.
Please join me in thanking Christian Bedortha for his time in this interview and for his accepted role as a Utility Management expert in the Energy Central community. When you see Christian engaging with content around Energy Central, be sure to say hi, ask a question, and make him feel welcome!