A Zondits Interview: AESP’s DSM Program Management Program

Daniel Pidgeon, ERS for Zondits, January 4, 2018

Zondits spoke with Suzanne Jones and Quinn Parker of AESP (Association of Energy Services Professionals) to discuss their DSM Certificate program. The Certificate of Excellence DSM Program Management program, designed by AESP, is a six-course program that includes a capstone project designed for vendors and utilities in the demand-side management (DSM) industry. This program consists of four online and two in-person courses, in addition to one capstone project. The goal of this program is to provide current and prospective employers, customers, and students the knowledge, skills, and resources to understand DSM programs and succeed in the industry.

What type of energy industry professional typically signs up for the course? Consultants? Students? Utility interests?

We have had professionals from utilities as well as vendors participate in our program.Participants have been program implementers, evaluators, and planners with varying levels of experience. We’ve had people with less than one year of experience and those with 20+ years in the industry. Each student takes something different away from the program, but all found it to be valuable and impactful to enhance their skill sets and knowledge.

Who would you recommend the program to?

I would recommend the program to anyone who wants a comprehensive overview of the energy industry as well as an understanding of utility fundamentals. Primarily, this robust certificate teaches how demand-side management programs are created, developed, implemented, and measured. This course introduces concepts for those who are new to the industry and clarifies or reinforces concepts for those with more experience. Students will also expand their professional network and hear perspectives from other professionals in the industry.

Who leads the courses?

Our courses are taught by industry leaders with decades of experience in the energy field.These instructors are well-versed in delivering effective presentations and keeping audiences engaged in the learning process. The current training pool consists of the following professionals:

Philippe Dunsky brings over 25 years of experience. His firm, Dunsky Energy Consulting, advises governments and utilities on strategies to responsibly accelerate the ongoing energy transition, with a focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy,and clean mobility. His clientele spans the governments and utilities of every Canadian province, in addition to those in more than a dozen US states. When he’s not leading his firm of 20+ experts, he is also Co-Chair of Efficiency Canada, the leading voice for energy efficiency in the country. He also sits on the Government of Canada’s energy thought leaders’ council.

M. Sami Khawaja is the Chief Economist at Cadmus. Prior to his current position, he ran Cadmus’s Energy Services Division. Under his leadership, the Energy Services staff grew to nearly 200 professionals. Over his career, he has evaluated over 100 energy efficiency programs and conducted over 50 training workshops in various aspects of demand-side management design,evaluation, cost-effectiveness, statistical analysis, and planning. He has published work in Contemporary Policy Issues, Energy Services Journal,Electricity Journal, Home Energy Magazine, Public Utilities Fortnightly, and The American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

Laura Schauer has more than 20 years of experience in the energy services industry.Prior to joining ILLUME Advising as a Principal, Laura was a Director at Tetra Tech where she worked for more than 15 years. Laura is passionate about providing her clients – utilities and other public and private organizations –insights through exceptional research and analytics. She especially enjoys collaborating with multidisciplinary teams to define methodologically robust research and evaluation plans that lead to results that are tailored to client needs and implementation-ready for the real world.

Mary Sutter is a Partner with Grounded Research and Consulting, with a penchant for big picture program, portfolio, and policy-based research. She has 27 years of experience working in energy covering all aspects of research design,implementation, and reporting. She has a deep knowledge of traditional resource acquisition programs and non-traditional program areas such as finance,workforce training, behavior, marketing and outreach, and emerging technologies. Her decades of experience working closely with DSM program managers as well as with multiple stakeholders has honed her ability to clearly communicate difficult concepts, a skill she brings to any training.

John Hargrove is the President and CEO of AESP. He has been in the utility and energy industry for over 35 years. During that time, he has held various regulated utility positions with a primary focus on energy efficiency, renewable energy, distributed energy resources, and other customer-facing programs. Prior to joining AESP, he directly managed over $200 million worth of programs, with several receiving national awards. John is often invited to speak on utility and energy industry topics and has been published in numerous industry publications, including a regular column in Public Utilities Fortnightly.

Raegan Bond has 18 years of leadership in Demand Side Management planning, program design, and implementation. With work experience in the private, public, and utility sectors, Raegan brings a proven ability to understand and bridge perspectives among diverse stakeholders and to build common ground. She is a strong advocate of evidence-based decision making, inclusive strategic planning, and rigorous program performance management. A recognized leader in energy efficiency, Raegan is currently Chair-Elect of AESP as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of Ontario’s Affordability Fund Trust. Prior to joining Dunsky, she was VP of Conservation and Demand Management with Alectra Utilities, where she was accountable for a $400 million DSM portfolio and a team of 80 employees.

How is the program structured?

Students must pass a total of six courses in addition to completing a capstone project. The first four courses are online and approximately two hours each to complete.Courses 5 and 6 are taught in-person. Students start their capstone projects during the in-person courses, work with their teams and instructors outside of class, and then present their projects via webinar 2–4 weeks later. Students complete the courses as a cohort, which is a unique approach to this type of training. Students not only learn about the industry but gain a new professional network.

Do the DSM Program Cycle courses focus on any specific measures?

The DSM Program Cycle courses are more conceptual than measure specific. However,all the instructors are knowledgeable and can answer specific measure questions during the in-person courses.

What applied skills does someone gain from completing this program?

Students will leave this program with a better understanding of why this industry exists and how professionals in this industry do their work. They learn how energy is produced and how utilities make money. With this background information, they can then apply some of the skills that will be introduced in the class, such as calculating cost-effectiveness tests and understanding the components of program planning.

What was the inspiration that led to the DSM Program Management program?

We are a unique industry in that there isn’t a degree that leads to a career in demand-side management. Unlike our colleagues in medicine, law, or accounting, we all have different academic and professional backgrounds. This certificate provides the fundamentals that all professionals in the demand-side management profession should know. As someone with a finance background, I (Quinn) wish this course was available when I started. I could have avoided some of the on-the-job mistakes I made early in my career.

Could you give some information on the registration process?

You can register online at www.aesp.orgor by calling the AESP office. Members can register at a reduced rate and members in a group can use points. We are excited to announce that we have two cohorts scheduled in 2019. The first is in Austin, TX, from February 25 to 28; the second is in Detroit, MI, from April 8 to 11. We expect to schedule at least one more before the end of 2019.

This is a relatively new program (starting in September of 2018). Are there expected to be updates to the certificate and its courses?

Yes, there will be updates, but I think this is true for any course that attempts to share information on the current state of an industry. We will also incorporate feedback from students to continue to improve the overall experience. This course will just continue to improve over time.

We survey each course individually, in addition to the capstone project, for a total of five surveys per cohort. Feedback cards are also provided during the in-person course, so students can provide feedback in the moment. All feedback is voluntary and anonymous.