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Welcome New Expert Interview Series: Katherine Johnson, New Expert in the Energy Efficiency Community

Energy Central

Energy Central’s Energy Efficiency Group was fortunate to add a new expert to the wings in Katherine Johnson. As an expert in the community, Katherine will serve to share her insights into the energy efficiency sector, answer questions that come up in the community, and generally bring her wealth of experience to the benefit of Energy Central’s community members, as is the case for everyone in our network of experts.

Knowing the type of experience that informs her expertise will only serve to bring more value to the community, as you start to see her pop up around the platform, so it’s time to share a bit about Katherine and her perspective in this latest contribution to the  ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series’:

Matt Chester: I really appreciate you taking the time for this interview and for agreeing to be an energy efficiency expert on Energy Central. Can you introduce yourself to our community in terms of how your career path led you to energy efficiency and what you’re working on in the industry these days?

Katherine Johnson: My first job after MBA school was to work on a huge market research project for Detroit Edison. So, I spent two years digging into all aspects of electric utility operations, including new product development. That was a great introduction into the industry and started me on my career in Evaluation, Measurement & Verification (EM&V) work. Nearly 30 years later, I am still focused on helping energy organizations improve their programs, but I also provide technical guidance to public service commissions as well. 

 

 MC: One aspect of your experience that jumps out is that you’ve participated in energy efficiency programs for IOUs, rural co-ops, and municipal energy utilities. Do you find that the efficiency programs in these different types of organizations are more similar than they are different? Where, if at all, are there unique considerations or challenges?

KJ: The municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives have a lot more flexibility in developing programs, so they tend to be more a bit more adventurous. Once they have proven that a concept works, then the IOUs try out the same approach. For example, I spent quite a bit of time working with rural electric cooperatives to promote geothermal heat pumps. This included developing on-bill financing programs. Now, with beneficial electrification, heat pumps are becoming more attractive to IOUs. On-bill financing has also become much more mainstream too. So, the munis and co-ops provide good ways to test ideas, and then adopt them to the regulatory framework for IOUs. 

 MC: Same question for regions, as you’ve worked with Arkansas utilities, New York utilities, California utilities, Texas utilities, and more. Are there differences regionally between customers and how you have to approach energy efficiency with them?

 KJ: Absolutely. There are lots of differences in customer attitudes about energy efficiency and conservation. These differences are based primarily on the degree of familiarity these programs have in each region. For example, customers in California and New York have been exposed to all types of utility programs and differing approaches. Customers in the Southern states may not have as much experience, but they are every bit as sophisticated in using them, once they find out about these programs. One interesting difference is that the behavioral comparisons programs, such as comparing one to their neighbors, doesn’t go over too well in the South. It’s considered rude so those programs have had to shift their focus beyond neighborhood comparisons to gain market acceptance. 

 

MC: In your opinion, where are industry efficiency initiatives right now? By that I mean, do you see that EE programs have reached maturity and it’s just a matter of getting those successful roadmaps implemented elsewhere, or is there a lot of new and exciting type of work going on, or do we maybe not even know where this market is yet headed?

KJ: There is such a convergence right now between technology, communications, and energy efficiency that there are likely innovations that we have yet to consider. There are a few indicators about the types of program designs that will be appealing to combining these forces to provide better information to utility customers. For example, Strategic Energy Management (SEM) programs show a lot of promise, as do the advances in connected homes. I think this is a really exciting time as customers find new and better ways to interact with their energy providers. 

 

MC: For you as a deeply experienced and already connected professional in the field, what do you think is the value of connecting with the community at Energy Central? What will keep you coming back and what value do you hope you leave with fellow community members?

KJ: I’m naturally curious and I love to learn. The Energy Central Community provides lots of ways for me to learn from my colleagues and to dig deeply into topics that are of particular interest to my clients or myself. I think of this as a “virtual” network, and together we can all keep learning and improving these programs. It’s a great way to exchange information and I hope I can provide some interesting perspectives as well. 


 

Thanks again to Katherine for hopping aboard as an expert and sharing her thoughts and experiences in this interview. You’ll surely catch Katherine throughout the Energy Efficiency Group on Energy Central, so please do say hello, thank her for her contributions, and let her know if you have questions on which you think his expertise would be valued!

The other expert interviews that we’ve completed in this series can be read here, and if you are interested in becoming an expert then you can reach out to me or you can apply here.

Matt Chester's picture

Thank Matt for the Post!

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Discussions

Sarah  Myers's picture
Sarah Myers on Nov 11, 2019 5:48 pm GMT

I agree. In fact our electric co-op customers are some of the most progressive and future facing electricity providers.

Katherine Johnson's picture
Katherine Johnson on Nov 15, 2019 6:44 pm GMT

I agree. Munis and co-ops are able to leverage their unique business structures to really test out new ideas. And we can still learn from them. I just completed a review of innovative on-bill tariffed loan programs offered by munis. It's just one more way utilities are trying to lower the hurdles to energy efficiency measures. 

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