The Ad Hoc Gist: Meet Our New Partner, Julia Hamm

The Ad Hoc Gist: Meet Our New Partner, Julia Hamm

March 2024

This month, I’m thrilled to announce that longtime senior advisor Julia Hamm is joining the AHG team as our newest partner. Julia brings decades of experience as the former CEO of the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), founder of RE+ (now the largest energy trade show in North America), and much more.

Read on to learn about Julia’s career highlights, her vision for breaking down barriers between startups and utilities, and life in southwest Florida.

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- Jim Kapsis, CEO
The Ad Hoc Group

Meet Our New Partner!

There are many things you could be doing right now. Why are you deepening your involvement with AHG?

I've been a senior advisor for two years and I’ve loved branching into climate tech. I’ve had the chance to engage with so many different startups, whether it’s increasing adoption of wildfire detection technology with Pano or future-proofing utility platforms with Octopus Energy. I’ve worked with hundreds of utilities, all types and sizes, and knew I could have an even greater impact by helping AHG clients partner with the utility industry. It’s a tough nut to crack, but so important.

The other part of it, which I think is equally important, is that I love the people at the company and the culture AHG has built.

Why is it so important for utilities and tech providers to find ways to work together?

When I started working with utilities back in the '90s, their mission was “safe, affordable, and reliable.” Today, something like 80% of US customers are served by an electric utility with a 100% carbon reduction target. And it’s not just about clean; it’s increasingly about adapting to the impacts of climate change. Green Mountain Power in Vermont is a great example. They recently announced a Zero Outages Initiative, which will use new and existing technologies to eliminate extreme weather outages.

While some utilities are moving faster than others, there’s a real sense of urgency around carbon reduction and resilience. Utilities will need new technologies, many of which are being developed by startups. And utilities can help startups scale much faster by deploying their technology. There’s a crucial role for AHG to break down the barriers that have prevented them from working together effectively.

What are some of those barriers?

On one hand, you have the utility industry, which is highly regulated, and on the other hand, you have tech, which is not. That creates very different cultures. Utilities are naturally risk averse, slower to move, and need to put a lot of time and effort into justifying every decision. Startups are much more agile – they're able to move faster and failing isn’t always seen as a negative thing. There are other barriers, as well, but that’s a biggie!

Can you think of any standout examples from your career when these two sides collaborated?

I’m dating myself, but in the ‘90s, there was a program called TEAM UP (Technology Experiences to Accelerate Markets in Utility Photovoltaics). At the time, there was no grid-connected solar market in the US. So, the Department of Energy started this public-private partnership and, in order to receive funding, you had to have a utility on your team.

In the end, the program launched the US market by funding the first 1,100 grid-connected PV systems. It’s a great example of utilities and technology companies coming together to learn and do something that hadn’t been done before. DOE knew if utilities weren't comfortable with the technology, they could be a roadblock, but if they were comfortable with the technology, they could help accelerate its deployment.

You’ve held many leadership roles in a male-dominated field. What changes have you observed? What needs to happen to make this space more diverse and inclusive?

I remember hosting a dinner back in 2005 to bring together utility CEOs and solar CEOs. I stood up to welcome everyone and instead of saying, “Welcome,” the words that came out of my mouth were, “Holy crap, I’m the only woman in this room.”

If I had the same dinner today, the room would look totally different. IEA has some good data on gender diversity in different segments of the energy industry and utilities have made more progress than others. While there is plenty of room for improvement, there are several utilities with female CEOs now – Duke Energy, PG&E, Portland General Electric, Puget Sound Energy, just to name a few.

What it takes is intentional focus on the hiring process to be sure you’re starting with a diverse pool of qualified candidates. If you don’t start there, you’ll never get the diversity of thought, much less diversity of backgrounds.

I can’t help but ask, how has moving to an island off southwest Florida made AHG’s work feel even more urgent?

We moved to Marco Island in 2022 and, just two months later, were evacuated for Hurricane Ian. It was wild. Our whole island flooded. Fortunately, the storm surge didn’t make it into our house, but it came within six inches of our garage door. Many people weren’t as fortunate – parts of Fort Myers, just 45 minutes up the road, are still without power 18 months later.

I think what strikes me most is it doesn’t seem to drive people to action here. If people want power when the grid goes down, they get a fossil fuel generator. It’s extremely rare to run across somebody who's even aware they could have solar on their roof and batteries in their garage.

We need to find a way to change that and to educate people about ways they can be part of the solution. The action I’m being driven to take is to dive head first into AHG’s work and continue to have an impact during this next stage in my life.

News from Our Network

From our clients:

Rondo Energy announced a partnership with EDP to develop 400 MW of wind and solar projects to power up to 2GWh of Rondo Heat Batteries.

​​Time Magazine named America's Top Greentech Companies for 2024. Congratulations to AiDash, Bedrock Energy, ChargerHelp!, Charm Industrial, Ebb Carbon, Rubi Laboratories, Singularity Energy, SPAN and VEIR.

SPAN was featured in Canary Media for its plan to get more smart panels into homes, and was also featured by Washington Post as a key way to electrify homes affordably.

Jane Flegal of Stripe is interviewed on Heatmap’s new podcast on advanced rock weathering.

Latitude Media talks to Hannah Bascom of Uplight about what comes next after their acquisition of Autogrid.

Kraken announces a partnership with United Illuminating to offer demand response management solutions to households in CT.

Aeroseal introduced a blog series on exploring building decarbonization policy and incentives.

 

From friends and colleagues:

Melissa Lavinson was named Executive Director of the newly formed Office of the Energy Transformation in Massachusetts.

Kathy Hannun, a co-founder of Dandelion Energy, was named to CNBC’s inaugural Changemakers list.

Therma has been rebranded to GlacerGrid.

Clean Energy Leadership Institute is accepting applications for its fellowship until April 3rd.

Nate Loewentheil of Commonweal Ventures wrote an op-ed for The New York Times to build a monument to climate inaction.

Jobs in our network: 

Send us your job openings in cleantech policy, startups, and utilities, and we'll put them in next month's Gist.

Mosaic North America: Customer Success Manager - Energy Channel
Aeroseal: Commercial Energy Efficiency Market Development Manager
Pano: Senior Commercial Counsel
Solstice: Senior Business Development Manager
Tyba: Founding Power Market Analyst
Uplight: Senior Manager/ Director of C&I Demand Flexibility
AiDash: Director of People Operations
BoxPower: Utility Sales Senior Account Manager
SWTCH: Sales Development Representatives - USA West and USA Central
ev.energy: Business Development Manager - Utilities
Invenergy: Director, Transmission Policy Advocacy

Find us:

SF Climate Week (April 21-27)
Maya Kelty, Sam Bauer and Myron Lam are attending.