According to the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report (USEER), women made up only 23% to 33% of the workforce in the surveyed energy sectors, and only 24% of those women worked in the energy efficiency sector. In honor of Women’s History Month, IMT is celebrating women’s role in creating more energy-efficient and sustainable cities and sharing their journeys. One of these women is Kelly Crandall, IMT’s former Senior Manager of Utility Engagement. Utility regulation can be a barrier to enacting many energy solutions that exist in the world today–without the cooperation of utilities and energy service providers, energy efficiency programs and other decarbonization strategies cannot have the impact that they could in a collaborative and supportive regulatory environment.
In this Q&A, Kelly, now Uplight’s Director of Risk and Compliance, shared how her current role is creating more sustainable energy opportunities for people and businesses around the world.
Can you briefly describe what Uplight does as a company for anyone who might not be familiar with its work?
Uplight is the leading provider of energy applications related to demand-side management, energy analytics, disaggregation, personalization, utility marketplaces, demand response, and more. We’re a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that blends data science with user experience to create personalized customer journeys that improve satisfaction, reduce service costs, and create sustainable energy outcomes. We work with more than 80 electric and natural gas utilities around the globe.
Can you describe your current role as Director of Risk and Compliance at Uplight?
I started at Uplight working in regulatory affairs and I collaborated with our utility partners, their regulators, and a range of stakeholders (nonprofits, trade associations, low-income advocates) to preserve robust state-level energy efficiency and demand response programs. I recently transitioned to becoming Uplight’s Director of Risk and Compliance. I report to our Chief Compliance Officer and work with her to ensure that we meet all of our legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements. As a software company that works with heavily regulated industries to deliver innovative products, we have a deep commitment to ensure compliance with cybersecurity and data privacy requirements, and other areas that are of significance both to our utility clients and to the residents and businesses we help them serve.
Was there a moment in your life when the reality of climate change became personal to you? What was it and how do you see your current work addressing some of the environmental/climate challenges that the world is currently facing?
I didn’t have much awareness of climate change until I took a class on sustainability at the University of Florida. That class opened my eyes to how a changing climate would impact the natural environment and people in different parts of the world. It was also my first view of the growing field of green building, and I ended up going to law school in large part to learn tools to encourage that practice.
One of the things that drew me to Uplight is that it is a certified B Corporation—we have a mission to build a more sustainable future by accelerating the clean energy ecosystem. Importantly, we want to do it in a way that is fair and equitable. Every person I’ve worked with at Uplight so far has been deeply dedicated to this mission, professionally and personally.
As Senior Manager of Utility Engagement at IMT, what were some projects that you were proud to be a part of and how did you see IMT changing the EE landscape through that work?
My role at IMT was primarily focused on city work, including support for the American Cities Climate Challenge, the City Energy Project, and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN). I was thrilled to be part of all of these efforts to help city staff build their fluency around utility engagement and to make connections between them to promote practices that worked. IMT’s city and county partners are incredible sources of wisdom and creativity that we highlighted with two resources, Rethinking Energy Data Access (written with USDN), and a Mini-Guide on Local Government Engagement with Public Utility Commissions (funded by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners Center for Partnerships & Innovation).
I think these projects are indicative of how IMT helps shift the energy efficiency landscape nationally—by identifying replicable, field-tested best practices while laying the foundation for new innovations.
What are some responsibilities that utilities have to their customers in making energy efficiency a more accessible part of the climate action equation? What are some challenges to this process? What are some solutions to these challenges?
Because of how laws and regulations get implemented, utility departments may be trying to achieve similar goals by designing tools for customers in a highly siloed way. This can create barriers for customers who want to reduce their energy use: multiple log-ins, impersonal or confusing suggestions, and recommendations that ironically lead to bill increases rather than decreases.
Utilities have a huge role to play in helping customers make climate-friendly choices through personalized recommendations that rely on effective data analytics and are presented consistently regardless of whether the customer uses a mobile app or a paper bill. At Uplight, we call this model Engage-Activate-Orchestrate. Driven by effective data, a homeowner or a renter can get a recommendation for a smart device, purchase it with an upfront rebate, easily enroll in demand response to maximize its value, and select a more tailored rate plan.
“Utilities have a huge role to play in helping customers make climate-friendly choices…”
Do you see any regulatory trends developing over the next couple of years in the energy/energy efficiency ecosystem at the local, state, or national level?
At the state level, there are definitely some negative trends—energy efficiency’s success is sadly being used to argue against future investments in some states. That said, I’m excited by the activities I’m seeing in states like Pennsylvania, Washington, Minnesota, and Michigan, that are looking more deeply at affordability and social equity through regulatory processes—both substantively and procedurally. There are also a growing number of commissions (Rhode Island, Hawaii, Minnesota, Colorado) that are thinking more holistically about performance regulation. This could be a game-changer on the path to carbon-free, customer-centric utilities.
This March, stay tuned for more stories from the current and former women of IMT, whose work has continued to have an impact on energy efficiency over the years.