Alumni Spotlight: Stephanie Gardner of EnerNOC

IEE alum Stephanie Gardner in front of the network operations center at EnerNOC.

IEE alum Stephanie Gardner in front of the network operations center at EnerNOC.

Stephanie Gardner was a Research Associate at the Institute for Energy and the Environment while working towards her Masters in Environmental Law and Policy (MELP ’14) and a certificate in Energy Law. In her time at the Institute, Stephanie worked on the Smart Grid team, researching and contributing to articles about smart grid projects. Today, she is an Account Manager at EnerNOC, a leading company in the burgeoning demand response sector.

We caught up with Stephanie during her lunch break, and learned more about her work at EnerNOC, her time at the IEE, and her passion for electric cars.

Talk to us a bit about EnerNOC. What do you do?

EnerNOC is a emand response, energy procurement, and energy intelligence software company in Boston. I focus on demand response, where we help end-use electric customers reduce their electricity use during critical periods of peak demand on the grid or high power prices. It reduces the stress on the grid and the customers are compensated for the capacity they provide.

And what do you do there—what’s the job and what’s the nature of your work?

I’m an account manager, helping demand response customers, and I’m also the PJM lead for my team. [Note: That’s the PJM Interconnection, or the RTO that serves the mid-Atlantic region.] Not only do I work with customers in the PJM footprint, but I also work with the internal groups at EnerNOC that carry out the demand response programs throughout PJM. For instance I work with the Program Manager on planning and the Dispatch Response Team on execution of the programs.

And my team—the customer facing team—we help coach customers through demand response events, and help get them prepared for different DR seasons, educate them on the program rules and the specifics of how the programs operate.

So how does it actually work in practice? Do you turn off a customer when you get a signal from the grid operator?

There are very few customers that we actually toggle from our NOC (Network Operations Center). We do have that ability, but most customers would rather make that call on their own, so we typically give about a 30 minute to 2 hour advanced notice of an event [a critical peak period for the grid]. And then they are responsible for enacting an energy reduction plan.

What’s the energy reduction plan?

We help our customers develop an energy reduction plan. It consists of what steps they’ll take when they get notice of an event. So, maybe adjusting their HVAC temperature settings, if they’re a commercial real estate customer. A manufacturing customer might shut down some production lines. Many customers will toggle their electric load to a back-up generator.

Do you have to train the customers on their plans?

We provide training and education—we’ll install our own electric meter and walk through the plan with them. Our meter allows them to view their demand in real time, in five minute intervals in our online application. And when there’s an event, they’ll get emails and text messages from us, and by being able to see their demand with our online software, they can maximize their performance in the program and earn the most revenue.

So let’s talk a bit about you and your time at the IEE. What did you work on here?

I was a Research Associate, and worked on the Smart Grid team. My research was on smart grid projects in Germany.

From smart grids to demand response—that’s a pretty nice transition.

Yes, definitely. The industry I’m working in—demand response—is a huge part of making the grid smarter. The grid still needs to become more flexible and be capable of balancing loads in an intangible “in the background” way. It’s so exciting to work for a company where I see that happening. My company is at the forefront and continues to be at the forefront of those changes and innovations.

While at VLS, I really discovered a strong interest, if not a passion, for how our energy system works. I’m definitely the go-to person on our team for understanding how utilities and regulatory agencies are structured and interact within the broader energy system. Having taken those energy classes at VLS and working at the Institute, I think I understood a lot more about those topics than others entering the energy industry.

Any other ways IEE helped prepare you for the job?

I actually first heard about EnerNOC when the IEE sponsored a few of us to attend the Harvard Energy Symposium back in September 2014.  One of EnerNOC’s employees was a featured panelist at the event. I kept an eye on the company as I worked toward graduation, and applied for a few different roles.

Also, not directly related to my current career tasks, but definitely related to my broader professional interests, the smart grid team played a big role in my ability to collaborate with co-authors and write articles. I’m very passionate about EVs [electric vehicles] and have published two articles in peer-reviewed journals about life cycle costs of EVs and vehicle-to-grid services over the last couple years.

That’s great. We’ll pass them around the IEE. Thanks for taking your lunch break to talk to us!

You can download Stephanie’s articles here:

 

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