Top Voices in the Energy Central Community for 2020 – Energy & Sustainability Network

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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...

  • Member since 2018
  • 11,158 items added with 1,599,538 views
  • Dec 18, 2020

A few years ago, Energy Central created a Community Platform with the idea of connecting every power industry professional in a collaborative environment.  Our goal was to give professionals in the industry a way to share, learn, and connect.  Since that time, our communities have grown, engagement is at an all-time high, and we are seeing more and more collaboration and sharing.  Making all this happen is you!

We know there are plenty of places and ways in which you can stay up-to-date on what is happening in the utility industry, but what makes Energy Central unparalleled is the true sense of Community created by every one of you.  Whether you engage by contributing posts, sharing links, asking questions, adding your events to the EC calendar, conversing and debating issues in the comments section, or even just reading, it is your voice and your involvement that make Energy Central Communities thrive. So, thank you for that!

As we look back on a noteworthy year, the Energy Central Team wanted to recognize the members on Energy Central who went above and beyond—frequently sharing news and content, reliably starting conversations across the site, and providing genuinely high-value contributions.

Each day this week, we’ll be publishing an article highlighting the Top Voice of 2020 for each of our 6 Networks. As part of this recognition, we asked each of them to answer some quick questions to highlight the past year in the industry and give us more of an insight into their lives—I hope you enjoy!

So, without further ado, thank you and congratulations to the following Top Voices in the Energy & Sustainability Network in 2020!

See the already published Top Voices Articles here:


Joel Stronberg – President of The JBS Group

Link to Joel’s Profile

What drives you to engage with your fellow Energy Central Community members on a regular basis?

“I’m a sole practitioner, so posting ideas on Energy Central allows me to get feedback on things I’m thinking and that I would otherwise get from someone working in my office. It’s not just about giving ideas. I also get ideas from the Energy Central community. I look at the work of others. When something someone has written sparks a conversation, it tells me something is important or will resonate.

Energy Central is not the only place my writings show up. My work regularly appears on other sites. However, Energy Central is the most concentrated group of energy professionals. I try to write in a way that crosses multiple sectors and perspectives. The collective feedback I get from readers gives me a more holistic understanding of what’s going on energy/environment field.”


What topics do you hope to read/write about more in 2021?

In recent months I’ve started keeping tabs on solar and electric vehicle stocks. The performance of both has been just short of startling amid a pandemic-induced recession. In part, their performance is tied to what’s actually happening. In part, the market is anticipating what the future holds. The stocks in both sectors—especially EVs—are bubbly and not like champagne. Both could come crashing down without a moment’s notice. Transportation and power generation are the number 1 and 2 contributors of carbon emissions. In 2020, new generation sources in the utility sector have largely been solar and wind. Decarbonizing the transportation sector is going to be hard because it includes planes and shipping. Decarbonizing autos and light trucks has already begun. It’s noteworthy that it is happening during a pandemic-induced recession.

I’ll also be following Environmental Justice (EJ) issues. Energy and environmental justice have made it front and center onto the policy stage. Black Lives Matter and the youth climate movement have joined forces to become a powerful political block. They came out in huge numbers to vote and are expecting something in return. The Biden administration and Democrats in Congress will make EJ a part of any climate-related legislation.”



When you’re not espousing thought leadership in the utility sector, what are your favorite ways to unwind and pass the time?

“I read a lot. I think most writers do. I like a good mystery, although I never try to figure it out. It’s a corollary to the way I write. If I do figure it out by the middle of the book, it disappoints me. Historic fiction is also on my list of things to read.

I’m also a gym rat. I’ve thought through a lot of ideas on the treadmill or while I’m lifting. When I get stuck on what I’m writing, I often deal with it by going to the gym. Working out also lets me keep some of my bad habits like eating, so it’s a win, win.”


Richard Brooks – Co-Founder and Lead Software Engineer at Reliable Energy Analytics LLC

Link to Richard’s Profile

Is there a post or exchange on Energy Central that you’re most proud of?

“No doubt it has to be the 2019 Insights article introducing the Always on Capacity Exchange (AOCE) and the associated podcast. AOCE  is now under consideration by NEPOOL as a possible pathway forward to address wholesale capacity issues across New England. AOCE addresses the need to satisfy State based energy goals in New England, while also ensuring that we have a reliable electric system for all, at a just and reasonable cost. AOCE never could have received the traction and momentum that it now enjoys without Energy Central. I’m certain of this.”


What has been the most interesting utility-focused story for you to follow this past year?

“Without a doubt it’s been the debate over carbon pricing of electricity and the need to address real issues in the wholesale capacity markets. This is an extremely important matter as it is fundamental to the pathway this energy transition takes. In my opinion, the industry needs to open up and embrace the energy goals of States and Green Buyers, like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Walmart and others.”


When you’re not espousing thought leadership in the utility sector, what are your favorite ways to unwind and pass the time?

”My wife and I love to golf – that’s our favorite past time.”


John Benson – Senior Consultant at Microgrid Labs

Link to John’s Profile

What has been the most interesting utility-focused story for you to follow this past year?

Without a doubt PG&E’s sins and (hopefully) redemption.


When you’re not espousing thought leadership in the utility sector, what are your favorite ways to unwind and pass the time?

In the summer, splitting wood in Arnold for the winter. In the winter, cross-country skiing (also near Arnold at Bear Valley).


What drives you to engage with your fellow Energy Central Community members on a regular basis?

Payback – I’ve had a very successful and exciting 40 year career in the energy industry, and feel obligated to help others understand and perhaps participate in this industry.


Sebastian Kennedy – Founding Editor of Energy Flux

Link to Sebastian’s Profile

What has been the most interesting utility-focused story for you to follow this past year?

“The relentless push for decarbonisation and ‘net zero’ has given rise to several fascinating narratives in the energy sector this year: the gas industry’s full-scale embrace of a renewed global attempt to create a ‘hydrogen economy’; the overarching reliance of industry and governments upon carbon capture and storage (CCS) to achieve this and their wider decarbonisation ambitions; and the growing awareness of the urgent need to tackle fugitive methane emissions.

These issues are all intricately connected. As hydrogen hype has ballooned, numerous credible voices have emerged questioning the economics, efficiency and greenhouse gas savings implicit in pursuing hydrogen-based solutions in the heating, transport and power sectors. Two of the major shortcomings of ‘blue’ hydrogen derived from natural gas are: the reliance on CCS, which remains a long way from commercial viability in most applications; and the upstream gas industry’s large methane footprint, which cannot be addressed by CCS technology, so must be the subject of coordinated, targeted regulation.”


What’s something that your fellow community members might not know about and would surprise them?

“There has been a lot of talk about Nord Stream 2 this year, which has been delayed by US sanctions. Not many people are aware that this natural gas pipeline is being ‘future proofed’ to be able to carry up to 80% Russian hydrogen into Europe, which the Kremlin hopes to produce from various fossil and renewable sources in the coming years. This was covered in some detail in the very first edition of Energy Flux.”


Is there a post or exchange on Energy Central that you’re most proud of?

“My Energy Central post from my newsletter Energy Flux about CCS, which took a hard look at the hype and economics around carbon capture, triggered a fascinating debate among Energy Central readers. I hope to continue in that vein in 2021 and beyond.”



Congratulations once again to our Top Voices in the Energy & Sustainability Network, and thanks to all Energy Central Community Members for enabling the community and platform to thrive this year!

Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Dec 18, 2020

Thank you, Matt. I'm honored by this recognition and I'm grateful to Energy Central for all you do for the energy industry. EC has become an invaluable part of my daily life. THANK YOU.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 18, 2020

All the thanks to you and the rest of the community that keeps this place vibrant! Makes our job quite easy :)

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