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Emerging leaders look toward creating a more equitable energy future

Emerging leaders look toward creating a more equitable energy future
Jan 23, 2023

Energy consultants Abhishek Jain and Katie Van Horn are using multidisciplinary approaches to drive innovative clean energy solutions with equity top of mind

Forging a path to a clean energy future requires fresh perspectives and innovative leadership.

And two of our rising thought leaders, energy consultants Abhishek Jain and Katie Van Horn, bring just that. They were selected to participate in the 2022 class of the Clean Energy Leadership Institute (CELI) Fellowship. This annual program develops and fosters a community of diverse change-makers charged with guiding the transition to a clean energy economy.

“Clean energy is the next revolution in our time,” says Abhishek. “And although it presents some challenges, it also creates exciting opportunities.”

The CELI fellowship equips emerging leaders like Abhishek and Katie with systems expertise, energy equity principles, and an adaptive leadership approach.

Abhishek and Katie were selected for this influential fellowship because of their experience and enthusiasm within the energy sector—including their support of clients implementing flexible load management (FLM) programs, or demand response programs that shift electricity use during peak demand times to reduce the cost and environmental impacts of peak load times on the grid. Though they both work to achieve critical clean energy goals in grid resilience and decarbonization, each now brings a unique perspective to their work from their experience in the fellowship.

Rethinking DER programs and technologies for an equitable future

Abhishek jain headshot

For Abhishek, it’s all about bridging technical gaps to, as he puts it, “help the sector further navigate the enigmatic world of energy markets.” With a background in both mechanical engineering and energy management, Abhishek finds this multidisciplinary approach is what brings excitement to the field.

“I don’t work in just one area—tomorrow I may be in stakeholder engagement with landowners and the next day I could be thinking about how to better design incentives for folks to adopt heat pumps,” he says. “The tangible impact on people’s lives is very motivating.”

As an analyst, he specializes in developing analytics for utility-sponsored clean distributed energy resources (DER) programs, honing in on DER technologies that hold promise for the future. As part of the CELI Fellowship, Abhishek focused on ways to unlock modern utility programs and how early stage data can better inform all aspects of cost-effectiveness and full program realization.

“Today, a utility’s role in the clean energy transition is not solely about traditional energy efficiency programs. It’s about rethinking our approach to create more holistic programs that both build grid resilience and serve utility customers.”

Abhishek Jain

Abhishek also brings a personal understanding of the importance of energy equity, a key focus area of the fellowship. Growing up in India, he experienced energy poverty up-close, so he understands how everyday electricity decisions impact load use and monthly bills.

“Working in a firm where we design and implement energy efficiency utility programs, I understand how important it is to allocate fixed resources to low- and moderate-income customers while developing any program,” he says. “Energy equity means that your access to clean, safe, and reliable energy will not depend on your wealth, race, class, or any other social indicators.”

Creating an equitable BTM framework through collaboration

Katie Vanhorn headshot

Katie embarked on a career in clean energy to make an impact on climate change.

After working in the solar development field, her drive to create meaningful impact for all—which is at the heart of our mission–led her to ICF. As part of the FLM team, Katie helps utilities develop pilots and programs that leverage customer-sited clean energy technologies to provide services to the grid, lower customer costs, and incentivize clean energy development—all with a focus on customer-centric program development.

“I felt like I had an opportunity to make a difference at a higher level by creating the systems that make clean energy,” Katie says. “This means technologies work for everybody—not only technically, but from a financial and policy standpoint.”

As part of her CELI Fellowship, Katie focused on a western utility’s programs that are designed to scale clean energy deployment without compromising equity. With a keen eye on the intersection of finance, policy, and energy, she’s inspired by collaborative solutions that provide a more equitable framework for scaling behind-the-meter (BTM) resources, i.e., energy production and storage systems that provide electricity to homes and businesses. This cross-sectional approach to clean energy underscores her passion for making clean energy programs more accessible.

“As we work to decarbonize—especially equitably—there needs to be more collaboration across different segments within our industry,” she says. “The utility’s program provides a mechanism for communities to get involved in the clean energy projects they want to see deployed.”

That sense of collaboration continues to drive innovative solutions for clients, drawing from as many sources as possible.

“At ICF, we have the opportunity to be in the room with so many different utilities, policymakers, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy. They come to us for our expertise and it’s awesome to be able to offer it to so many different folks across the industry who can influence making positive change.”

Katie Van Horn

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