Team Q&A: Brenda Chew – Director of Product Management
For seasoned utility professional, Brenda Chew, finding innovative ways to fight climate change is half the fun! As our Director of Product Management, Brenda researches everything from the demand response market to how to better serve the needs of our utility partners. Join us in formally welcoming Brenda to the Virtual Peaker team!
How did your previous life prepare you for Virtual Peaker?
It prepared me quite a lot! Before Virtual Peaker, I built up the demand response (DR) research practice at the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and created the Utility Demand Response Market Snapshot reports, which provided a national view of utility demand response programs and highlighted key learnings and best practices.
In 2017 when I was working on the first iteration of the demand response market report, we were just starting to discuss the opportunities that demand flexibility affords, and the evolution of demand response beyond what it was over the earlier few decades (of emergency, manual 1-way switch programs) into this opportunity to derive value and flexibility from distributed energy resources (DERs). I had the opportunity to develop a deep understanding of utility’s pain points when standing up DR programs, and the various opportunities and challenges with the technology, customer adoption, and balancing different objectives and stakeholder needs.
At the time, I’d place us as a broader industry much more squarely in the DR 1.0 to DR 2.0 phase. At the time, we were excited about DR 3.0 and may have even seen a few bleeding-edge innovative pilots, but the technology and the broader interest in DR 3.0 were just not quite there yet to see and discuss this at scale.
A big impetus for my decision to leave the research and consulting space was the desire to roll up my sleeves and see what the technology and capabilities are behind the curtain.
What is super exciting from my perspective today – based on what I’ve seen on the ground with utilities and from the role I am in now on the Product team at a software company – is that the technology is very much here, and there are far fewer technological obstacles than what I observed as a researcher in 2017. The appetite and interest in deriving value from DERs is growing rapidly at utilities, and customer adoption of grid-interactive devices continues to grow. What seemed like very innovative pilots that I would cover just a few years ago (e.g., behind-the-meter virtual power plants with customer-owned batteries) are now extremely easy to stand up and scale from a technological standpoint.
The past consulting projects helping utilities assess customer DER adoption rates, and the previous demand response market research leaves me feeling like I’m at the right place at the right time. I’m ready and excited to work with my talented team members at Virtual Peaker in building out our technology roadmap and expanding the value we as an industry can harness from flexible, distributed energy resources. And to do so in a way that will support the transition to a carbon-free future and provide value to our utility partners and their customers.
Tell us about your role at Virtual Peaker.
I sit on the product team at Virtual Peaker. As the Director of Product Management, I own the development and strategy for Virtual Peaker’s Shift DERMS and Envision Forecasting product suites. Beyond just staying connected to our shifting energy landscape or EV/demand response markets, my research background comes in handy with customer discovery interviews to help inform what we build next and the existing needs and pain points utilities and other industry stakeholders are experiencing.
How do you personally engage in sustainability efforts?
I have long sought to contribute to the fight against climate change through my work in the electric power industry. All of my work has focused on helping the industry transition to clean energy and help decarbonize the electricity sector.
I also try to participate in my local utility’s demand response programs 😉 and help in local community sustainability initiatives whenever possible.
What can you tell us about yourself?
I love trying different artistic mediums – – my latest obsession has been ceramics/wheel throwing. I was on a 4-year waitlist and loved the pottery studio I was in DC (mildly devastated to have moved away and lost that spot). But I’ve enjoyed watercolor, acrylic, and oil painting among other mediums.
Beyond that, I love to hike, rock climb, bike outside, and in general do all things outdoors!