Team Q&A: Eric Van Orden – Sales Director
Our Sales Director Eric Van Orden is no stranger to the utility industry, having studied and worked professionally in the field for more than a decade to help deliver affordable clean energy. Eric is a self-proclaimed “energy geek,” meaning he fits right in with the team here. Please join me in a warm if a little overdue welcome for Eric as one of the newest members of the Virtual Peaker team!
How did your previous life prepare you for Virtual Peaker?
I stumbled into the energy industry about 15 years ago. The technical aspects of the industry plus the opportunity to improve the environment motivated me at first. Little did I know that it would lead to a fruitful career.
For the first few years, I worked on the implementation side of clean energy technologies with GridPoint and SolarCity (now Tesla). Then, I went back to school at the University of Colorado’s Global Energy Management program, while also leading the Energy Efficiency Business Coalition (EEBC), an industry association championing demand-side management policies and regulations.
Throughout this time, utilities were key to the growth of these businesses and benefited energy consumers. So, I went to Xcel Energy, where I developed multiple EV programs across the 8 state territories and later managed solar and storage programs in Colorado.
I bring all of that experience of understanding energy users, utility operations, and regulatory matters to Virtual Peaker to empower utilities to manage the increasingly complex grid through customer engagement, distributed energy resources (DERs), and load forecasting.
Tell us about your role at Virtual Peaker.
At Virtual Peaker I build relationships with investor-owned utilities to develop an appropriate scope of work to help tackle their challenges.
Broadly speaking, most utilities are working toward the same future with increasing renewable energy, while continuing to provide safe, reliable, and affordable clean energy. Yet, each utility has its unique challenges. The local geography, economy, climate, and policies play a big role in the energy supply mix, daily load profiles, and energy markets.
So, one utility might be aligning energy usage with the time that low-cost wind is blowing and another is reducing the impact of increasing EVs that are causing local grid constraints. Each day is an effort to solve this puzzle in coordination with program managers, distribution engineers, and market analysts…not to mention some great help from our knowledgeable Virtual Peaker team.
How do you personally engage in sustainability efforts?
I’m a total clean energy geek at work and home. I enjoy testing new technologies and participating in utility programs to learn about the customer experience firsthand. I drive an EV, am enrolled in Renewable*Connect from Xcel Energy, and have many connected devices like thermostats, LED light bulbs, and plugs with timers and reminders to conserve energy.
I also volunteer for organizations like Environmental Learning for Kids and Thorne Nature Experience teaching our kids to appreciate the environment and to treat it with care.
What can you tell us about yourself?
I spent the first 18 years of my life outside of Philadelphia, plus a couple of stints in California after high school and then after college in Massachusetts. But, have settled in Colorado for the latter half of my life. Colorado has been a great place for getting outside, enjoying nature, and raising two kids with my wife who I’ve known since elementary school.