Energy People: Julia Hamm

Deck: 

We talked with Julia Hamm, CEO of SEPA

We talked with Julia Hamm, CEO of SEPA

Fortnightly Magazine - April 2017
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Julia Hamm started at SEPA soon after college, finding the organization a natural fit for her talents. She is the brains behind one of the largest trade shows in the industry, and has emerged as one of the foremost experts on the nexus between utilities and distributed energy resources. Hamm believes that solar can't be siloed, and that power generation is just the beginning for her organization and its members. As she explains, most customers don't care about a specific technology. They care about an outcome.

PUF's Steve Mitnick: SEPA is twenty-five years old. How did it start?

Julia Hamm: The organization was formed in 1992, originally under the name Utility PhotoVoltaic Group. UPVG was the acronym. The three utility trade associations, EEI (Edison Electric Institute), APPA (American Public Power Association) and NRECA (National Rural Electric Cooperative Association) founded it. EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) and DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) were also involved, and so were SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association), and a handful of individual utilities.

Ken Doyle, COO, SEPA; Julia Hamm, CEO, SEPA; Sharon Allan, CEO, SGIP; Tanuj Deora, Chief Strategy Officer, SEPA.

The individual utilities all recognized that at some point, solar would be relevant to utilities. But at that point, there was no solar market in the U.S. It was very much more of a research and development issue. Because it was so niche, it wasn't something any of the existing groups were going to put a focus on.

Collectively, they decided to form a new nonprofit that would have the mission of monitoring what was happening with solar and keeping the utility industry abreast of it. They would be prepared when the time came for solar to be a significant resource for them and their customers.

Through a public/private partnership with DOE, UPVG paid for the hardware for the significant majority of the first eleven hundred grid-connected PV systems in the country.

EES North America

It was done through what we called Venture Teams, and every team had to have a utility as part of it. In exchange for getting the money to put the PV systems in the ground, the teams had to provide all their data back to UPVG.

That included their cost data, their operations and maintenance data, and their performance data. There were four, five, six categories of data. We would collect all this data from all eleven hundred PV systems, do the analysis and put it back out in the industry.

So that really was the story of SEPA's foundation, and how we got our start. That's a story that very few people in the utility industry and the solar industry know. That the U.S. grid-connected solar market got started by a partnership between SEPA and DOE that funded those initial projects and helped get the early solar companies in the U.S. market.

That was what really gave them their start in the industry and helped utilities begin to learn about the technology and what collaboration could look like with the solar industry.

PUF's Steve Mitnick: When did you start working with SEPA?

Julia Hamm: I started working with

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