During their first week on campus, Energy Graduate Group students participate in an orientation program–Power Trip– to learn about the wide variety of energy related research and policy work being conducted at UC Davis and in the Sacramento/Bay area through discussions with researchers and leaders from industry, government, public interest groups, and academia. PowerTrip is made possible by the generous support of individual donors.
Tuesday, September 13th
After a quick introduction from Alissa, the dozen or so EGG students got busy with a very intense Connect 4 tournament. After I was bested in the quarterfinals, Daphne came out on top as our victor. She reports her experience was “absolutely riveting. Everyone was out for blood and I don’t think I would have made it past the final round if I didn’t just close my eyes and drop the pieces.”
Following our icebreaker, Annemarie, Alan, and Alissa each gave short talks introducing the EGG and the current pressing issues regarding energy systems. Annemarie, charming as always, ensured us of the many resources available through our time at UC Davis. Alissa and Alan covered broad energy concepts in their talks, such as wasted energy in typical Sankey diagram style, energy injustice, and the all-famous duck curve.
For lunch, Sandy Berg joined us, the Vice Chair of the California Air Resrouces Board. Her refreshing friendliness reflected her interests in environmental justice and small to medium businesses. She genuinely saw the future in our interests, and clearly has hope for our generation to accept the environmental justice baton from her own. On a technical note, Sandy showed us the CARB’s 2022 Scoping Plan, where it recommends policies to be passed to comply with AB 32’s 40% emissions reduction mandated by 2030. She left us on this: “What changes the world is truly how we’re going to implement changes,” rather than getting lost in minutia.
After lunch, the folks from Pacific Gas and Electric gave a virtual talk about their plans and policies for the decade. Aaron August, the VP of Business Development and Customer Engagement spoke broadly about PG&E’s values, as well as dove deep into bidirectional EV charging and duck-curve reduction. Next, Vanessa Bryan, the Senior Manager of PSPS Customer Engagement and Strategy, spoke about mitigating wildfire risk and enhanced power line safety settings (EPSS). Chris McNeece, the Director of Short-Term Electricity Supply (STES), introduced the cohort to bidding and pricing of energy, as well as CAISO and day-ahead markets. Finally, Marlene Murphy-Roach, the Director of Income-Qualified Programs (IQPs) and Disadvantaged Communities, described the ever-pressing balance of providing aid to those in need while keeping prices fair for others.
The first day of Power Trip was concluded with a quick history of notable folks in energy by Kelly. Peppered by pictures of his longer-haired days, he taught the cohort the power of creative thinking in the energy industry. He ended his talk with a powerful quote to propel us into our degrees: “If you believe in something, stand up for it.”
Wednesday, September 14th
Solar is to our clean energy transition, as kittens are to happiness – you can’t have the latter without the former.
On the second day of Power Trip, the 2022 EGG cohort took a trip west to the Putah Creak Solar Farm owned by Valley Clean Energy (VCE), the community choice aggregator serving Yolo County. The solar farm is located just outside of Winters adjacent to a PG&E substation. The cohort was welcomed by VCE staff and Dan Noren, CEO of Summit Energy, the engineering firm that designed and constructed the solar farm (Dan is also an UCD alum!). The facility is a 3 MW solar plus storage installation that will help provide Yolo County residents with clean electricity during the day and the evening when the sun goes down.
While the solar farm was the focus of the trip, it was admittedly difficult with kittens demanding attention.
After the tour, the cohort returned to Davis for lunch. The lunch de jour was Alibaba, a local restaurant on the Davis campus that serves a quick bite that will last you all day. The newly minted UC Davis graduates in EGG introduced the cohort to the informal exchange rate on campus when assessing a purchase – one Alibaba burrito. I know kilowatt-hour is about as entrenched as a unit of measure that exists, but I think there’s room for one Alibaba burrito in the energy world.
Once we finished lunch, the cohort participated in an insightful training from Eric Sanchez, Diversity and Inclusion Educator in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, called Making the Unconscious Conscious: Understanding and Mitigating Bias. The training helped to highlight how bias informs our perceptions and reactions to people and environment around us and recognize the different microaggressions that we may unconsciously commit and helpful ways to prevent them.
The day finished up with Meg Slattery, Kabian Ritter, and Prof. Alissa Kendall discussing the EGG DEI student run group. EGG students are committed and focused on DEI issues to make the program as welcoming and comfortable for all students. EGG students run an Energy Justice seminar during the Winter quarter to inject justice principles into student’s curriculum and research projects.
Thursday, September 15th
Thursday began with the EGGs driving to the campus central heating and cooling plant to take a guided tour with Joe Yonkoski. After discussing important developments in the plant’s progression towards full electrification, we discussed topics like the “Big Shift” and new natural gas legislation for CA. Exploring the control room, the EGGs learned how the campus is provided with conditioned air around the clock.
Returning to the home office, a beautiful shift in weather led to a catered lunch from Dos Coyotes being enjoyed outside on picnic benches.
After lunch, the EGGs met with Jose Bodipo-Memba via Zoom. Jose is the director of Sustainable Communities at SMUD. The group explored the myriad of issues relating to vulnerable and low-income communities with respect to community electrification and energy equity. Future goals were outlined including and not limited to electric vehicle charger proliferation, removal of gas stoves, and installation of solar panels in under-represented communities. The students were able to dive deeper and discuss the socioeconomic factors that impact the desirability of updated energy systems, and the importance of education and access to transparent data and information.
Following SMUD’s presentation, the group walked just a few yards down the street to the Western Center for Cooling Efficiency. David Vernon, the Co-Director of Engineering walked the group through the center, highlighting new technologies such as aerosol building sealants, indirect evaporative cooling, liquid desiccants, and HVAC component efficiencies in different climates.
For the second time in the day, the EGGs took the vans for a field trip. Driving across town to the California Lighting Technology Center (CLCT), Jae Y. Suk warmly welcomed us. The center is involved in multiple interesting, interdisciplinary research projects. Whether through the implementation of new technologies, the development of building energy standards, or research and development, the lighting center has a wide portfolio regarding the way we understand and use lighting fixtures.
Friday, September 16th
Friday morning was spent meeting with and furthering our understanding of the array of government organizations and NGOs that produce, promote, and enforce energy policy. The EGGs were able to meet Commissioner Shiroma from the CPUC, Chair of the Board Angelina Galiteva at CAISO, and Commissioner Gunda from the CEC. Freely able to ask broadly ranging questions to prominent figures in Energy Policy, the EGGs were given an amazing opportunity to develop their own ideas and envision the ways in which they would participate in some of the world’s most pressing climate initiatives.
After a delicious lunch catered from Musette, the students have the brain food necessary to process the well formulated arguments from NRDC’s famous Ralph Cavanagh. Ralph eloquently discussed some of the nation’s most heated topics with ease, integrating policy, technology, economics, and sociology. Ralph has more than 40 years of experience at the NRDC, and is a wonderfully engaging speaker. Even Professor Kelly Kissock sat down stating, “I never miss a chance to hear you speak”.
After breaking for lunch, we had the pleasure of hearing from David Phillips, the Associate Vice President of the UCOP discussing the UC’s plan for becoming net zero carbon over the next decade. While every campus differs in policy and planning, he congratulated UC Davis for leading the charge on many important electrifications projects.
Our day ended with a lightning introduction session from a variety of programs on campus. Hearing from directors, managers, professors, and other graduate students, the new EGGs were presented with many ongoing research projects at UCD. Whether interested in ecology, EVs, cooperatives, or industrial applications of energy technologies, all the new students heard from talented people in their area(s) of interest.