We are inspired by people who are passionate about technology that solves pressing global challenges. In this interview series, our chief actuary, Sherry Huang, talks with friends of NER whose work makes a difference, and whose journeys will inspire you, too.

 

A Conversation with Audrey Lee, PhD, Clean Energy Senior Executive

By Sherry Huang, Chief Actuary
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity

 

I first ‘met’ Audrey through a few shared online interest groups. One day I saw that she had posted about being a co-chair of Clean Energy for Biden. (I subsequently found out that Matt Lucas, NER’s managing director of business development, is also involved in the same organization.) This piqued my interest, and I then learned that Audrey has an impressive background with a wealth of diverse experiences. She has done everything at work from scientific research, policy and regulation, big data and analytics, product and market development; she is now a Board director for ArcLight Clean Transition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company with a focus on sustainability and clean energy. I spoke with Audrey on the eve of Election Day with great anticipation. Audrey is personable, open, driven, and enthusiastic about the work she is doing to promote the clean energy sector.  

When did you first start working on energyrelated technologies? Was there a pivotal opportunity or individual who led you to working in the renewable energy sector? 

I first discovered energy policy in graduate school while struggling with my PhD in electrical engineering. I took classes in public policy with Professor Denise Mauzerall at Princeton and I loved how directly impactful to society it is. Professor Valerie Thomas was also an early believer in me and she helped give me a lot of confidence. When I graduated, I joined the Department of Energy through a Presidential Management Fellowship. I highly recommend that program, which targets recent graduates with an advanced degree for federal government public service. At the DOE Policy Office, under the guidance of Carmine Difiglio, I found a way to be the bridge between the technical analysts and modelers at Brookhaven National Lab and White House policy decision-makers.  

Can you tell us about the most rewarding project that you worked on in the last few years? Between being an advisor to the California Public Utilities Commission, running Sunrun’s Energy Services group, and co-chairing the Clean Energy for Biden initiative, I am sure it’s hard to talk about only one! 

I love proving that something new can be done. At Advanced Mircrogrid Solutions, we replaced fossil fuel power plants with an aggregation of batteries at customer sites.  With Sunrun, we entered the ISO-NE capacity market with the aggregation of rooftop solar and batteries. Most recently, it has been great to be involved in Clean Energy for Biden  volunteer organization – and witness the impact that we made from hundreds of active volunteers and 10,000 members.   

Tell us a little more about the Clean Energy for Biden initiative. 

We have three goals: fundraise, get out the vote, and provide policy recommendations.  We leverage diverse skills of volunteers, across the country with more than 30 state/regional/affinity teamsCheck out the upcoming policy summits on November 16 (4-6pm PT) and November 23 (4-5:30pm PT):
https://www.cleanenergyforbiden.com/policysummit 

Do you have any advice for women who are pursuing a STEM career, who wish to maximize their impact using their backgrounds and skills? 

Personally, my education in applied physics and electrical engineering provided a good foundation. I would encourage women to explore, talk to people, and understand the problems they are trying to solve. I’ve always loved learning from other people – including from my own family. My Dad is a physicist, and my mother is an entrepreneur. My general advice is never be too comfortable; ask yourself how can learn more, how can I apply a quantitative, analytical approach to solve a problem.  

Which areas require the most work in advancing clean energy solutions? Policy/regulation, innovation in technology solutions, or private investment? 

Many technology solutions are economically competitive for clean energy already, and private investment, such as ArcLight, is ready to deploy investment and reduce the cost of capital. On the technology innovation front, we need more technology solutions for negative emission, such as carbon capture, to help achieve a rightfully aggressive clean energy goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. I think we have the most need for policy at this moment. Policies that set the rules of the game, set mitigation goals, and let competitive technologies and market solutions participate. Such policies can go hand in hand with economic recovery as more jobs are created in the clean energy sectors. 

 

Thank you, Dr. Lee, for talking to me for this interview series!  

 

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