Originally published in AESP Strategies.
“How did you get your start in demand-side management?” It’s a common question among our industry colleagues, and everyone has their own story about how they were introduced to this niche industry. Some people benefited from on-the-job training with seasoned and accommodating industry veterans, where they may have learned the ropes on topics like capacity planning, cost-effectiveness testing, or portfolio planning. Many others, however, did not have this type of hands-on support. Instead, they were given a stack of binders and folders to root through (or maybe a bunch of PDFs and PowerPoints to review), along with a contract to manage—and that was the onboarding experience.
The onboarding process helps professionals not only understand their core job functions, and the associated responsibilities and processes, but also comprehend why an industry exists in the first place. This context orients practitioners to industry norms and accepted practices. Without it, they rely on trial and error or become dependent on others to navigate their way–a counterintuitive method of approaching work in an industry centered on increasing efficiency.
AESP is launching its six-course (plus a capstone project) Certificate of Excellence in DSM Program Management this month. It’s designed to help industry professionals thoroughly understand the industry they operate within while growing core competencies that they can apply in their day-to-day work. The certificate program is useful for professionals new to industry or for industry veterans who may be missing a few pieces needed to complete their understanding of the big picture.
For many of us, part of our responsibility in leading a team that provides client-driven services, is to ensure that our staff has a solid understanding of industry basics and emerging trends, and how they impact our clients. The certificate program offers valuable insights and context that professionals of all ability and experience levels can benefit from. Here are five topics covered within AESP’s DSM certificate program that I found important for today’s DSM professional to know.
1. Energy Generation & Transmission
You can’t understand demand-side management if you lack an understanding of energy basics. In Course 1, a broad range of topics are covered, including how energy is generated from the source and transported to an end-user. The explanation of how distributed energy resources are interconnected to the grid is very helpful, as this area will continue to become a focal point of the industry for years to come. There is also a module on measuring energy, which touches on basics such as the difference between a watt and a watt-hour, and simple desk calculations.
2. Obligation to Serve
The regulatory compact, and its transformation into accepted policy between utilities and their federal, state and provincial entities, and local regulators, remains an important fundamental building block for comprehending how the utility industry functions. This is covered in depth during Course 2, along with emerging policy changes that are guiding the future direction of the industry.
3. Demand-Side Management Economics
This course addresses the economics of why a utility wants to pay their customers for using less of their product, a concept that’s challenging to convey without proper context. I’ve had to explain the economics of DSM to home owners and renters since I began working in this industry and will continue to for years to come. Course 3 also covers how utilities recover their costs for delivering demand-side management programs. These concepts are explored in more depth later in Course 5.
4. Implementation & Evaluation
No matter your job function, it’s become imperative to understand the basics of evaluation, measurement, and verification, especially as EM&V begins to blur the lines with implementation. The new normal is coordinated program planning and design with evaluators and implementers working together to ensure success from the start. Advancing your understanding of the interplay between these two historically siloed job functions is integral to life as an evaluator or implementer moving forward. This information is covered in Courses 5 and 6.
5. Future of DSM
It’s interesting to see how far we have come since the days of selling CFLs and debating whether heat pumps would take off. In this module within Course 5, we look into a crystal ball to discuss how some of today’s industry hot topics, such as strategic or beneficial electrification, decarbonization, connected devices, and the increasing power of the customer, are impacting future planning and programs. The modules on the future utility industry outlook (Course 2) and the utility customer experience (Course 3) are especially relevant for the issues and trends we are collectively encountering today.
These are only a small sample of the breadth of material covered within the certificate program. Regardless of your years of industry experience, there’s something included for everyone. This certificate program came to life with contributions from past utility executives, engineers, policy experts, program planners, evaluators, implementers, researchers, marketers, and other professionals. Their contributions combined will help many within our industry construct the big picture on their own, helping to establish the next generation of leadership.