Interview with Brett Feldman of Navigant

How long have you worked at Navigant?
I started at Navigant at the end of October 2013, so still relatively new. I enjoy the change of pace from my prior job, and I work from home, which is nice, especially in the winter in Boston!

What is your role at Navigant?
I am a Senior Research Analyst at Navigant Research. I write in-depth research reports, primarily focused on Demand Response. I will be writing about four reports per year. In-between reports, I work on custom research projects for clients, write blogs on the industry, and attend/present at industry events. We will have a webinar on Automated Demand Response in March which is free and open to all.

How long have you been involved in demand side activities?
I studied Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at the University of Michigan and have worked in the field since 1997. I worked at ICF on EPA Energy Star projects in Washington DC; Nexant in Wisconsin and California (cleaning up after Enron); NSTAR (after the East Coast blackout of 2003); and Constellation Energy in its Demand Response group. I got my MBA at Boston University where I pretty much created my own Energy MBA program.

What challenges have you faced as a DR professional both at your organization and within the industry?
A lot of people in the energy industry still don’t understand DR and don’t view it as a real resource. Also, it doesn’t have the same “sex appeal” as renewable energy. I think it can pigeon-hole you a little bit from moving into other areas or main-stream roles.

What changes have you seen in the industry as it relates to DR and EE over the last few years?
Despite my last answer, DR and EE are becoming a bigger part of the conversation. They take up an inordinate amount of time at stakeholder meetings given the relative size of the resources. Now that they are becoming more integrated into the energy markets, they are falling under a bigger microscope as well.

What do you expect to be the biggest challenge with implementing DR in the next decade?
If DR wants to be a big part of the solution to coal and nuclear retirements and solar and wind integration, it will have to meet increasingly stricter operational requirements. It’s not just a once-a-year call for customers anymore; there will be multiple events in the summertime and an elevated chance of events in the winter as well. We will find out where customers’ limits lie and what new technologies and strategies DR providers develop to minimize pain and maximize performance.

What advice or guidance would you give to young professionals who are considering a career in demand response and smart grid?
It’s an exciting time to enter the energy industry, which wasn’t always the case. DR and SG are still very niche markets, so I would recommend getting broader experience before honing in. You also need to have self-awareness about what type of work environment you prefer, because working for a utility or government is much different than working for a service provider or a start-up. But there should be opportunities for all types!

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