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ENEP Administration and EEPSA facilitated a group of undergraduate (1) and graduate students (8) to a career and academic learning visit at an energy systems management company called Customized Energy Solutions (CES) in Philadelphia. The students were accompanied by Tara Schleiniger, the ENEP Academic Support Coordinator.
This visit was organized with the support of an ENEP alumni, Chad Dixon who works with Customized Energy Solutions as a Consultant on Emerging Energy Technologies.
CES has been in operation since 1998 and has grown into 5 offices located in USA, Canada and India with 170 staff. The CEO of the company, Stephen Fernands explained in great detail to the students, the current context of the energy sector in USA and globally. He observed that the industry can broadly be viewed into two broad categories;
Stephen explained that policy aspects of the energy industry including aspects related to regulation of independent system operators, and regional transmission operators which for the North Eastern Region is run by PJM, a regional transmission organization (RTO). Other aspects of energy policy include; policy analysis (especially on how new policies are likely to affect businesses and domestic clients) as well as policy advocacy for non-state actors such as the World-Wide Fund (WWF) and Green Peace (GP). CES is involved in these various aspects of energy policy work.
The CEO also explained that CES's main engagement at the moment is related to managing of energy operations. This sector involves activities related to; power generation (particularly from wind and natural gas resources), retail and distribution, emerging technologies as well as demand side management. He explained that emerging technologies include; power software development to manage a blossoming prosumer community and power storage related to Solar PV, lithium batteries and lead acid flow batteries as well as pumped hydro.
CES provides several services related to energy policy and energy operations including managing of power generation centers, retailing, forecasting and analyzing emerging opportunities, technology development as well as power utilities administration through Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). He explained his difficult journey starting the company which included bootstrapping for over 2 years with a single laptop and an office based out of his car.
The students then undertook a company tour where they were introduced to the company operational units spanning three floors in central Philadelphia. The units the students visited included the Power Control Center which remotely monitors and manages 8000MW from several power generation units on behalf of several clients including; nuclear plants, oil producing plants, landfill, wind, and biomass energy. The students also interacted with the legal team, market operation team and Market price modelling team.
Throughout all these interactions the feedback from CES staff included the need to master the use of MS EXCEL which is now increased widely in the industry. Later one of the ENEP students from the visit, Sashwat Roy shared free elearning resources on Ms EXCEL which can be accessed here; https://excelexposure.com/ and here https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/excel2016/.
The CES Staff also advised on the need to acquire soft-skills including willingness to work with limited supervision and making things happen, a good sense of humor, working with difficult personalities, open mindedness and communicating effectively. They noted that while one's academic major is important; sometimes these soft skills can be overriding factor to employability. They also noted the need to acquire some basic understanding how energy markets work. In this regard, they advised the students to take advantage of the free learning online resources offered by PJAM here https://www.pjm.com/training.aspx
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