Melissa Chan has over 20 years of experience advising, planning, deploying, and evaluating energy infrastructure deployment from centralized coal to distributed energy resources and microgrids. She holds a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon, and a dual degree in Chemical Engineering and Engineering and Public Policy from the same institution. Currently, Melissa is the Director of Grid Solutions & Strategic Partnerships at Fermata Energy.
What are some of the biggest challenges your company/organization will be tackling in 2023 and beyond?
My day is a mix of strategic and tactical, with a focus on relationship building and sharing technical expertise in a way that simplifies the complexities of V2X bidirectional charging. I’ve been focused on two key items: (1) working closely with utilities to help them understand and design programs that unlock the value of EV batteries and (2) designing programs to increase equitable access to EVs. Equitable access is an important goal for many utilities and it’s important to me and Fermata Energy. EVs and the clean and reliable mobility they enable should be available and affordable for everyone.
My ongoing responsibilities towards supporting these two areas are:
- Utility market design: with the team evaluate the value stack for our technology and use cases
- Program design with utilities: how this fits into their existing energy efficiency, demand response, and DER programs; who the right customers are for these offerings that can use V2X
- Policy and regulatory: energy storage and EV policy at State and Fed level comments; discuss strategy with contacts at utilities and regulatory commissions; stay on top of/inform grid interconnection policy
- Infrastructure deployment: work with utility partners to design interconnection processes; work with our deployment team and customers to ensure safe and reliable deployment of our tech within interconnection requirements
What are some of the biggest challenges Fermata Energy will be tackling in 2023 and beyond?
We have three major areas that we’ll be focusing on in 2023:
- Scale-we have real projects. I’m thrilled to have joined FE at the time I did, Aug 2021, we had 20 projects operational for 1 year by that point and I am now working with our grid operator and utility partners to interconnect more V2X resources that when aggregated can provide grid-scale services
- Interconnection-to scale quickly we and others in the industry need to figure out the best pathway and methods to connect as many storage resources to the grid as quickly as possible
- Working with utilities, non-profits, and service providers to manage the details needed to make car-share programs for underserved communities
What was a successful project or implementation you worked on at your company that you can share? Do you have any tips that would help colleagues at other companies who are contemplating similar projects?
Since 2020, we have been operating vehicle-to-grid projects across the country. Our customers save about $200 a month, and some customers in the Northeast US have earned $4,000/year with one EV and one Fermata Energy charger by providing vehicle-to-grid energy to their utility. That’s a significant percentage of the cost to own and insure a car!
This gets me to the project I am most excited about. We are helping a low-income driver get a new EV at a below-market monthly lease. The car is providing vehicle-to-grid services at a low-income apartment building when the grid needs it most. These critical peaks account for about 5% of the entire year. There are 8,760 hours in a year. Five percent of 8,760 hours isn’t that much time but the skyrocketing price of electricity during those hours really adds up. When the car isn’t doing vehicle-to-grid discharge, it is available for the driver to use. Seeing someone have access to reliable and emission-less transportation in a neighborhood that sorely needs it is very satisfying!
What trends do you expect to see in the market in the next few years? What challenges will the industry face and what technologies or organizational changes will overcome them?
I think we are going to see a huge shift in how we think about EVs.
Many states have transportation electrification and grid energy storage deployment goals. While commendable, both of these goals could be at odds to access the same battery supply chains. Utilities and their regulators are going to have a lot of thoughtful conversations about the inclusion of vehicle-to-grid resources in integrated resource planning and vehicle-to-grid interconnection and infrastructure development in order to access the batteries onboard the EVs that will be in our driveways, parking lots, and parked along our curbs. Imagine the power that could be harnessed from one million driveways, if that driveway only had one EV in it! Given the average EV battery is about 50kWh, this would be a 50GWh aggregatable battery!
With the increasing pressure on commercial building managers to meet net-zero mandates, I expect to see more commercial real estate developers and building managers rethink EVs, extending their value from sustainable transportation to affordable, easy-to-dispatch energy storage assets that help with their ESG goals while providing a car as an amenity for tenants.
Connect with Melissa and the rest of her team at Fermata Energy.
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