Profiles of Rising Stars
Steve Mitnick is President of Lines Up, Inc., Editor-in-Chief of Public Utilities Fortnightly, author of “Lines Down: How We Pay, Use, Value Grid Electricity Amid the Storm.”
What's the first whole number that's both a perfect square and a perfect cube? Why, it's 64, equal to 8 times 8 and 4 times 4 times 4 as well.
64 is the number of squares on a chess board, and also a Nintendo standard, as in Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64. It's the maximum number of strokes in any Chinese character (wow), and in the song about old age on the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The 64-bit register in computing can hold a whole lot of numbers, greater than 18 quintillion different values, or more precisely, 2 to the 64th power of them. The ASCII code 64 is the extremely useful symbol, @.
And, 64 is how many rising stars of our industry — each nominated for Fortnightly Under Forty 2020 — that we're celebrating in this year's feature on our next generation.
These 64 rising stars hail from twenty-seven different industry organizations. They're from ten investor-owned utilities, two public power utilities, two rural electric cooperatives, three associations of utilities, two technology groups, three vendors, four professional firms, and a state utility commission.
Thirty-six of the Fortnightly Under Forty class of 2020 are from investor-owned utilities throughout the country, from Arizona Public Service, NorthWestern Energy, and Xcel Energy in the west to CenterPoint Energy, Entergy, and Southern Company in the south to Con Edison in the northeast to Alliant Energy, Ameren, and ITC Holdings in the nation's middle. The 2020 class includes rising stars from public power utilities in the big state of Texas (CPS Energy) and the empire state of New York (the New York Power Authority). And Texas is represented again by a rising star in a rural electric cooperative there (Sam Houston Electric Cooperative). The neighboring state of Oklahoma is represented too (Northfork Electric Cooperative).
As you'll see on the following pages, we're celebrating rising stars from three associations of utilities, the American Public Power Association, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Smart Electric Power Alliance. And from two technology groups, the Electric Power Research Institute and Energy Impact Partners. And from three vendors, Burns & McDonnell, Itron, and Urbint. And from four professional firms, 1898 & Co., (the consulting arm of Burns & McDonnell), Dentons, Guidehouse, and Quarles & Brady.
And finally, from the Illinois Commerce Commission. Next year, we're determined to have more representatives from our regulatory community. We know there are plenty of rising stars at the commissions and at the consumer advocate agencies as well.
This year, exactly half of the Under Forties are women and half are men. This continues the trend that we've seen in recent years of strong gender diversity.
Of the 64 rising stars, we selected eleven of them to highlight. These eleven exemplify the impressive record and pace of accomplishments of the best of our industry's next generation. The inspiring stories of Haben Goitom of Alliant Energy, Jennifer Wischnowsky of Ameren, Keegan Odle of Burns & McDonnell, Delevane Diaz of EPRI, Sean Meredith of Entergy, Illinois Commissioner Maria Bocanegra, Aaron Curtis of ITC, Ana Stachowiak of NYPA, Lisa Dailey of Northfork Electric Cooperative, Abbey Roy of Southern Company, and Brian Van Abel of Xcel Energy are told in part in the interviews that follow. These unique up-and-comers are already leading the industry's transformation and mission-critical groups within their organizations, in some cases as a COO, CFO or division VP.
Haben Goitom, Alliant Energy, Director – Business Transformation, heads the Affordability Innovation Center, which advances customer affordability initiatives across the company. Her team leads the evolution to new business processes, culture and capabilities, with the goal of making sustainable changes that help customers. See our interview with Haben for more details on her outstanding accomplishments.
Melissa Kehoe, Alliant Energy, Assistant Controller, is responsible for the completeness, accuracy, and timeliness of Alliant Energy's internal and external financial reporting. Melissa has enabled the development strategy for bringing robotic process automation to Alliant's financial processes, which results in eliminating lower value manual work, and in lower cost processes and improved engagement with employees. cess automation to Alliant's financial processes, which results in eliminating lower value manual work, and in lower cost processes and improved engagement with employees.
Sarah Martz, Alliant Energy, Team Lead – Engineering Solutions, is spearheading several research and pilot efforts related to energy storage integration with power distribution. She showcased her problem-solving ability when she approached a situation in which customers had connected so much solar to a distribution system that additions were not possible. Sarah led the charge on finding a solution that not only solved the problem, it provided research findings and future studies that would come to benefit others in a similar situation.
Gisele Antonelli Tallman, Alliant Energy, Senior Strategic Project Manager, helped lead some of Alliant's largest strategic projects, such as the Golden Plains Wind Project and the Kossuth Wind Project. Gisele also led the Ottumwa Generating Station Selective Catalytic Reduction project, with an excess of seven hundred and fifty thousand manhours, without a single recordable injury.
Ryan Gibbs, Ameren, Director – Governance, Risk, and Compliance/Cybersecurity, leads several governance, risk, and compliance teams at Ameren and has established a governance model enabling digital transformation across the enterprise to manage cyber and digital risks while meeting regulatory standards. Ryan has championed a security culture across Ameren, ensuring his coworkers understand how to watch out for potential security threats.
Andy Parker, Ameren (Illinois), Supervising Engineer, provides leadership and support for the Ameren Illinois voltage optimization program, which will deploy and operate more than one thousand cost-effective distribution circuits to produce one-and-a-half percent cumulative energy savings by 2025. He works with groups to determine optimal circuit selection, completion of engineering activities, and implementation of circuits to ensure cost-effective voltage optimization investments, so these changes maximize energy savings for the company.
Semir Vajzovic, Ameren (Illinois), Supervising Engineer – Illinois Asset Management, coordinates with stakeholders to aid in analysis and management of a seven hundred million dollar annual capital budget. He is responsible for support of capital investment planning, capital budget management, investment planning software administration, business case review, and various studies and analytics related to asset performance and lifecycle cost analysis.
Bill Davis, Ameren (Missouri), Director – Energy Solutions, leads Ameren Missouri's energy solutions efforts to save customers money, protect the environment, and generate economic benefits for the region. He leads Ameren Missouri's two hundred and twenty seven million dollar cash incentive program for homeowners and businesses who install energy-efficient upgrades, as well as its voluntary renewable energy options. He is an Eisenhower Fellowship participant, having spent a month in China in 2018 exploring energy issues and solutions, as well as exchanging best practices in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Marco Tipton, Ameren (Missouri), Community Development Executive, assists Ameren Missouri programs promoting economic development, sustainability, renewable energy, and electrification efforts. He organized a twenty five thousand dollar effort to provide new Ring cameras outside of homes to reduce crime in low-income neighborhoods in north St. Louis County.
Jennifer Wischnowsky, Ameren, Director – Digital Strategy and Transformation, and also strategic advisor to the chief digital information officer, oversees four teams of thirty employees responsible for the design, development, deployment, and measurement of the company's digital strategy, as well as the center for excellence for robotic process automation. See our interview with Jen for more details on her outstanding accomplishments.
Sam Rozenberg, American Public Power Association, Director – Engineering Services Security, has been instrumental working in cyber and physical security on behalf of the nation's more than two thousand not-for-profit, community-owned public power utilities. Starting mid-March, Sam served as the incident commander for APPA's COVID-19 response. He worked with member utilities, the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, industry, and government partners to help facilitate the public power utility response during the crisis.
Greg Cameron, Arizona Public Service, Director – Communications and External Affairs, manages employee communications, external relations, public outreach, and community affairs at the Palo Verde Generating Station. He led Palo Verde's sponsorship of nuclear science week in 2019 and is responsible for selecting attendees to tour Palo Verde during biannual refueling outages.
Melissa Cole, Arizona Public Service, Chemistry Operations Supervisor at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, leads a group of nuclear professionals responsible for the preservation of essential plant equipment. She is a founding member of the station's Engaged, Thinking Chemist, which is an employee engagement group aiming to connect nuclear professionals focused on chemistry with the broader success of her company.
Katy Gil, Arizona Public Service, Manager – System Engineering at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, leads a group of nuclear professionals responsible for the long-term reliability of equipment important to both nuclear safety and electricity production. In 2015, she became Palo Verde's first female shift manager.
John Hernandez, Arizona Public Service, Director – Controls and Innovation Engineering at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, leads the engineering group responsible for management of instrumentation and control systems, physical security systems, and cybersecurity.
Nathan Hogue, Arizona Public Service, Director – Radiation Protection at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, leads a team of nuclear professionals responsible for the safe and effective use of radioactive materials. Under his leadership, the department achieved numerous accomplishments, such as record lows in cumulative radiation exposure for station employees and record-setting low cumulative occupational exposures for workers during refueling and maintenance outages.
Alyssa Koslow, Arizona Public Service, Director – Federal Affairs and Compliance, maintains regulatory compliance, while ensuring her company and its more than sixty-three hundred employees understand the federal regulatory rules and standards of conduct.
Mallory Lebovitz, Arizona Public Service, Chief of Staff to the CEO, played a key role in the company's announcement of its commitment to become one hundred percent clean by 2050. She manages an executive support staff and is responsible for representing CEO Jeff Guldner's perspective on issues and initiatives.
Meagan Vamos, Arizona Public Service, Senior Attorney, provides recommendations, collaboration, and advice for balancing risk mitigation steps with her company's goals. She investigates safety incidents and contributes to the development of process improvements.
Matthew Lind, Burns & McDonnell's 1898 & Co., Director – Resource Planning and Market Assessments, and his team specialize in system planning and market congestion studies. He worked with municipal, cooperative, investor owned utilities, and regional transmission organizations on projects such as FERC Order 1000 and competitive regional transmission development.
Keegan Odle, Burns & McDonnell, Director – Substation Projects, oversees the largest substation design group in the U.S., with three hundred and forty project managers, engineers, designers. and project assistants that complete more than a thousand projects annually. Following the physical attack on a substation in the western U.S. in 2013, Keegan pioneered a new approach to substation security. See our interview with Keegan for more details on his outstanding accomplishments.
Nathan Turner, Burns & McDonnell, Director – Sales and Regional Operations, is responsible for the management of more than seven hundred people in the firm's regional offices. He manages sales of five hundred million dollars and grew sales by twenty four percent from 2018 to 2020. He serves on the EEI executive committee, is actively engaged with IEEE, and recently completed the two-year Kansas City Tomorrow civic leadership development program.
Jamie Herdocia, CenterPoint Energy (Texas), Director – Gas Engineering, leads a team that is responsible for a three hundred million dollar capital budget and ensuring the safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to nearly two million customers in the Texas region. She also leads a group that validates technology and business cases to provide monitoring deeper into the gas distribution system than currently available.
Alex Buell, Consolidated Edison, Manager – Strategy and Planning Department, Energy Efficiency & Demand Management, was instrumental in shaping the electric utility's 2030 vision, by working with senior leaders and operating organizations to develop a long-term strategy outlining the grid and customer of the future. Alex currently leads the development and implementation of a rapid energy efficiency growth strategy. As a result of his leadership, Con Edison more than doubled the savings customers achieve through the company's energy efficiency programs.
Elizabeth Griffin, Consolidated Edison, Manager – Electric Transmission, helped develop new electric transmission projects that will facilitate clean energy supply to meet current and increasing demand for clean electricity. She played a critical role in the creation of Con Ed Transmission, leading a team that established the HR policies, IT and financial systems, and initial budget.
Dana Lazarus, Consolidated Edison, Project Manager – Energy Markets Policy Group, has successfully advocated for Con Edison's positions on transmission issues at the New York ISO and the New York Department of Public Service. She has taken the task of coordinating with stakeholders and the evaluation of jurisdictional models for siting, owning, building, and recovering costs for the construction of transmission needed to support offshore wind.
Devi Kumar-Nambiar, CPS Energy, Director – Managing Senior Counsel, oversees regulatory mandates and recently helped propel the move into solar and battery storage development in Texas. With her expertise and insight, the company announced the Flexible Path generation model providing actionable flexibility to integrate additional renewables and new technologies.
Matthew Bly, Dentons, Managing Associate, represented one of the largest wholesale generation and transmission cooperatives in the U.S. in its transition to becoming a FERC-jurisdictional public utility.
Ivy Lyn, Edison Electric Institute, Director – State Regulatory Affairs, leads EEI's engagement with state utility commissioners, commission staff, and other industry stakeholders. She organized and hosted a women's leadership breakfast during NARUC's Winter Policy Summit, where two hundred enthusiastic attendees listened to a panel of successful women in the energy industry.
Richard Ward, Edison Electric Institute, Senior Director – Government Relations, is the point person between the electric and telecommunication sectors. Rich educates members of Congress and Hill staff, as well as state policymakers, on security, resilience, and preparedness issues.
John Bistline, Electric Power Research Institute, Principal Technical Leader – Energy Systems and Climate Analysis, leads analysis and development of EPRI's Regional Economy, Greenhouse Gas and Energy (US-REGEN) energy-economic model. He was on an EPRI team that created state-of-the-art modeling to understand drivers and impacts of highly electrified futures.
Ben Clarin, Electric Power Research Institute, Senior Project Manager, is responsible for managing community-scale demonstration projects and the collection of operational data to better understand how customers and their devices are impacting energy system planning, operations, and management.
Delavane Diaz, Electric Power Research Institute, Principal Technical Leader – Energy Systems and Climate Analysis, leads initiatives on climate resiliency and risk management strategies as well as the social cost of carbon. She recently led a team of EPRI technical experts and diverse industry stakeholders in a high-impact two-year study on New York State's electrification opportunities through the year 2050. See our interview with Delavane for more details on her outstanding accomplishments.
Ashley Lindeman, Electric Power Research Institute, Senior Technical Leader, Nuclear Sector – Fire Probabilistic Risk Assessment, developed, led, and delivered on an aggressive two-year research plan to improve realism in nuclear plant assessments.
Sara Mullen-Trento, Electric Power Research Institute, Strategic Issues Lead – Technology Innovation, is leading a new project focused on integrated energy system modeling tool development and linking. Sara is the lead for EPRI's new Resilience Valuation Interest Group.
Bobby Noble, Electric Power Research Institute, Program Manager – Combined Cycle Turbomachinery, leads EPRI's participation in ground-breaking work in areas such as combustion monitoring, combustion monitoring, understanding, and mitigating effects of autotuning on combustion health signatures, developing testing protocols to understand compressor blade lock-up that can lead to devastating blade liberation, and building digital twin simulations to produce better diagnostic and prognostic capabilities. He holds a patent for applying data analytics and machine learning in combustion monitoring.
Jeffery Preece, Electric Power Research Institute, Program Manager – Water Management Technology R&D, named a 2019 Fortnightly Top Innovator, leads a team of five subject matter experts responsible for developing technology roadmaps and conducting research, development, and demonstration activities for water treatment and cooling system applications.
Brian Reil, Edison Electric Institute, Director – Media Relations, plays a critical role in coordinating unity of message among key industry and government stakeholders during business continuity exercises and emergency situations. After Hurricane Maria destroyed much of Puerto Rico's energy grid, Brian spent more than fifty days on the island, helping to tell the industry story that we were one team, with one mission, restoring power for the people of Puerto Rico.
Jeremy Renshaw, Electric Power Research Institute, Program Manager, Nuclear Sector – Used Fuel and High-Level Waste, led several impactful projects, such as the High Burnup Demonstration project, Aging Management of Dry Casks Storage Systems, and the Used Fuel Thermal Modeling Project, all of which had global industry-wide impacts.
Cassie Bowe, Energy Impact Partners, Vice President, played a crucial role in shaping EIP's investment in the electric transportation sector, having a hand in EIP's first investment in this sector with Greenlots, and managing cash flow while growing its business platform.
Sean Meredith, Entergy, Vice President – Entergy Louisiana Power Plant Operations, called on his experience as chief engineer on a submarine in the United States Navy to transition into this new role. Sean oversees the evaluation of the plants, making sure they are operating to his company's standards. See our interview with Sean for more details on his outstanding accomplishments.
Michelle Bebrin, Guidehouse, Associate Director – Energy, Sustainability and Infrastructure, currently leads NYSERDA's REV Connect facilitation team, and has helped REV Connect engage fourteen hundred companies on three hundred and fifty innovative ideas for partnerships between utilities and the market.
Maria Bocanegra, Illinois Commerce Commission, Commissioner, was appointed by the Governor on April 8, 2019 and confirmed a few weeks later by the Illinois Senate on May 31. In her first year she has focused on electrification policy and of course the dockets before the five-person regulatory body. See our interview with Maria for more details on her outstanding accomplishments.
Luke Scheidler, Itron, Senior Product Manager, in his work with Itron Idea Labs created possibilities for increasing clean energy in the home by giving smart appliances the data needed to automate load shifting decisions based on availability of clean energy.
Aaron Curtis, ITC Holdings (Fortis), Senior Project Manager, is responsible for Cardinal-Hickory Creek, a hundred mile, 345 kV transmission line in Iowa and Wisconsin, crossing the Mississippi River. This high-profile and complex project is in the last stages of approvals from several regulatory authorities. Aaron also manages the Huntley-Wilmarth project, to construct a fifty mile, 345 kV line in southern Minnesota. See our interview with Aaron for more details on his outstanding accomplishments.
Karen Gibbons, ITC Holdings (Fortis), Director – Accounting Policy and Transmission Revenue, managed a large project that included the implementation of the new Revenue and Lease accounting standards. She oversees accounting for all technical accounting areas and transmission revenue and settlements.
Joseph Stephanoff, ITC Holdings (Fortis), Manager – Financial Services, develops and maintains his company's five-year business plan and has taken on several special projects, such as modeling regulatory and complicated tax changes and its impact on the business. He leads ITC's corporate new business development efforts, including developing and managing economic project models.
Ana Stachowiak, New York Power Authority, Project Manager, led the team for the North Country Energy Storage project, a twenty megawatt lithium-ion battery system to be integrated at a transmission yard, and the Smart Path project, rebuilding a hundred mile, 230 kV transmission line. See our interview with Ana for more details on her outstanding accomplishments.
Lisa Dailey, Northfork Electric Cooperative, Chief Operating Officer, led the co-op's transition to a new software protocol, harnessing the data from the automated metering infrastructure, and had a key role in the partnership with a neighboring rural electric cooperative in southwest Oklahoma to form a limited liability corporation to develop a stream of non-traditional revenue opportunities. See our interview with Lisa for more details on her outstanding accomplishments.
Brandi Hellwinkel, NorthWestern Energy, Asset Management System Integrity Superintendent, and her team created a new standard for its capital budgeting process for portfolio management. This asset management group utilizes a scoring system that prioritizes one hundred and eighty million dollars of annual capital expenditures. Brandi is a mentor for engineers in the asset management group.
Jordan McNaught, NorthWestern Energy, Billings Division Supervisor – Electric Operations, leads a team of twenty-six employees in Billings Montana, ensuring they have sufficient inventory and the correct equipment to keep the lights on for their customers. He works closely with the communities served, working with customers to find solutions, and supporting STEM education opportunities in local schools.
Lori Shaw, NorthWestern Energy, Government Relations Specialist, embraced her role through building relationships with policymakers in Montana, and advocating for policies that ensure there is reliable, responsible, and affordable energy for the people of Montana.
Danie Williams, NorthWestern Energy, Manager - Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Management Services, leads a team that provides efficiency plus offerings to NorthWestern Energy's Montana customers. Her team offers incentives for energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy installations, training for customers and trade allies, energy audits and weatherization programs, among many others. Danie is a key figure in providing testimony and data request responses to regulators during rate reviews.
Gerardo Delgado, Quarles & Brady, Associate, has worked in diversity, traditional ratemaking, rulemaking, natural gas, and nuclear. He was formerly the legal and policy advisor to Commissioner Oliva at the Illinois Commerce Commission.
Rachel Frey, Sam Houston Electric Cooperative, Communications Specialist, is involved in NRECA's young adult member engagement, developing strategies for reaching electric cooperative members in the twenty-five to forty-five year old age group. She led successful efforts to educate the co-op's fifty five thousand member-consumers through implementation of an AMI project, which included installation of seventy three thousand meters in six months. Rachel developed a messaging campaign to inform member-customers about a rate restructure that included a seven dollar base charge increase.
Brenda Chew, Smart Electric Power Alliance, Senior Manager – Research, although relatively new to the role, has had tremendous impact as leader of the research team. Brenda and her team launched her company's utility carbon reduction tracker, which provides visibility into utility self-initiated and stated emission reduction goals.
Jim Heath, Southern Company, Director – New Ventures, is a key player in strategic investing and the development of new products and services, and leads cross-functional digital initiatives aimed at reimagining the customer experience, providing customers with enhanced tools for DERs and sustainability, and empowering customers and Southern Company with data and analytics.
Abbey Roy, Southern Company, Director – New Ventures, is responsible for developing the company's commercialization strategy for energy storage, distributed generation, and microgrids. She supported the development and deployment of more than eight hundred million dollars in energy technology projects, deployed a first-of-its-kind technology to market, and provided oversight to the most complex microgrid in North America. See our interview with Abbey for more details on her outstanding accomplishments.
John Smola, Southern Company, Director – New Development and Growth at Alabama Power, led successful recruitment efforts to bring startup accelerator Techstars to Alabama. John and his team focus on providing customers with solutions for energy efficiency, connectivity, and smart cities.
Corey Capasso, Urbint, Founder and CEO, named a 2019 Fortnightly Top Innovator, helps utilities change how they think about and address risk. His company uses artificial intelligence so utilities and infrastructure operators can predict and prevent threats.
Mishal Thadani, Urbint, Director – Market Development and Policy, leads his company's regulatory strategy, working with state utility commissions across the country on issues such as performance-based regulation for safety, regulatory treatment of cloud-based computing technology, and new standards for pipeline risk modeling.
Brian Van Abel, Xcel Energy, Chief Financial Officer, has held several important roles at his company. Starting at Xcel in 2012 in the regulatory group, Brian was promoted to treasurer, then vice president of finance, planning and analysis. The board recently elected him chief financial officer. See our interview with Brian for more details on his outstanding accomplishments.
Lauren Gilliland, Xcel Energy, Director – Gas Governance, provides strategic leadership for gas compliance and quality assurance/control programs across Xcel Energy. She solidifies her team's understanding of new policies and procedures that have been put into place. She was a team leader for her company's day of service, an event where employees and customers volunteer their time and effort in delivering charitable projects.
Megan Scheller, Xcel Energy, Senior Director – Customer Strategy and Experience, has been with her company since 2016 and has worked her way into the customer experience function. She redesigned Xcel's digital channels, launched the mobile app, and led the cross-functional transformation of the Outage Experience. With her leadership, the company brought the customer to the front of every process, allowing delivery of high value experiences and technology.
Steve Mitnick and Alexandra Revel of the PUF team laud two dozen of this year's Fortnightly Under Forties while giving a shout-out to the entire 2020 class of sixty-four young stars of our industry: