A Local Focus Brings Big Impact

Erica JueFor an energy and environmental policy professional, designing national and international regulations from Washington D.C. or New York City might seem like the ultimate end goal. But to Erica Jue, it was simply a starting point for creating meaningful and tangible change at a local level.

Throughout her early career, Erica worked on large-scale policy at a federal and global level. She was introduced to the energy sector through work with the California Environmental Protection Agency. After that, she honed her technical and policymaking skills at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Center for Clean Air Policy, developing energy forecasts and emissions impact analyses.

Then, in June of this year, Erica decided to join Silicon Valley Power (SVP) as a resource analyst. “My biggest motivation for this role was to move from working at the federal level to the local level. I felt that I could have more of an impact on the area that I live in and see how the work that I do impacts the community,” she said.

At SVP, Erica has found a new avenue for her background in economics and statistics and her creative spirit – she manages our renewable energy portfolio and helps us meet our carbon emission reduction goals. “I like that I am actually implementing those policies now,” said Erica. “Part of that implementation is having an effect not just on Santa Clara, because we do have a cleaner grid, but also nationally because we are setting an example for other regions.”

Her role also involves analyzing potential investments in renewables and the role of new technologies, such as fuel cells and energy storage. “What’s exciting about the industry is that there’s a lot of technological change,” she said. “Not only is the state willing to move forward on green power and innovative technologies, but the industry is too.”

Her refined career focus has accompanied a welcome lifestyle shift. “In my former life, I spent a lot of time in the city,” Erica said. “I love being able to spend more time outdoors now – gardening and hiking in the woods with my fiancé. We have the Sierras, the Redwoods, and the beach all so close by.”

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Trading Coasts – and Electrons

May_QiuManaging electricity rates and market risk sounds daunting, but to some people it evokes the thrill and pace of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor.

For Yanmei (May) Qiu, a 10-year Silicon Valley Power veteran, supporting energy trading and analyzing rates is all in a day’s work to help her customers get the most affordable rates on the market.

May came to the U.S. from mainland China to pursue a bachelor’s degree in economics from University of California, Berkeley. After graduation, she left for the East Coast, earning a master’s in finance from Boston College and working in corporate finance in Boston. Before too long, she returned to the Bay Area, eager to escape East Coast winters and see old friends.

Since 2007, May has been working for SVP in risk control analysis, balancing SVP’s risks and costs to make energy transactions run smoothly. “I help ensure we have the reliable power we need and the credit to back it up,” says May. “We have a 24-hour trading floor, it’s kind of like a stock exchange.”

A few months ago, on top of her risk management position, May stepped in and became the acting division manager for market analysis and pricing. In this new role, she must look at the “whole picture,” as she calls it, to analyze how rates are structured.

Her multifaceted experience and holistic approach to the business has helped her optimize these rate structures. May is proud that she plays a part in offering customers some of the lowest electricity rates in California. While her years of education have prepared her well for her career at Silicon Valley Power, she says, “I learn something new every day.”

When May isn’t learning new skills or showing off her finance chops, she spends quality time with her husband and two daughters, ages three and seven.

“Height” of a career can have two very different meanings!

Phil Waterhouse wife Outlet June 2017Peering down from 90-feet up on a steel tower can be dizzying enough for most people. But staring down that tower and then into another 1,200-foot drop into a canyon excavated for a new hydroelectric dam can be memorable, if not downright scary.

That’s how our Senior Electric Meter Technician Phil Waterhouse described the “height” of a long career in the electric utility industry. At the time, about 30 years ago, he was placing microwave repeaters for the Pathfinder Dam in Wyoming.

“I remember looking around at the horizon, and the dam was the only sign of civilization that I could see,” he said.

Phil enjoyed being away from civilization as a youngster in Indiana, where he grew up next to an open space that was ripe for adventure. When he wasn’t “exploring the wilds of Indiana” as he described it, he tinkered with things, a pastime he still enjoys.

“Some people take apart clocks. I take apart computers and put them back together again. Why buy something fancy when I can cobble something together that does the job?”

As an adult he has extended his hobbies to scuba diving.

“During the 1990s I learned scuba under the YMCA program, earning Basic Diver, Advanced, Night, Cave, Wreck, Ice, Lifesaving and Advanced Lifesaving certificates.”

Fast forward to today, where Phil is marking his 15th year with us. He and his team are currently coordinating the distribution of more than 54,000 advanced meters to our business and residential customers in the City of Santa Clara, where he started as a lineman.

“Eventually we’re going to see some pretty exciting things for our customers with the new technology,” Phil said. “One day, a mobile app will show a customer the increase in their power consumption when they turn on a machine.”

Phil has witnessed the transition of the utility business as an industry professional for four decades.

“I have 41 years as an A-member Journeyman Lineman in the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers),” he said. “I’ve traveled the country and served as foreman on jobs that included most aspects of the electric utility industry, including a couple of general foreman stints on 69-kilovolt (69,000 volts) projects.”

Love of being under water certainly is a contrast to working high in the air over a gaping canyon. In either extreme, it seems Phil has been able to take a deep breath and enjoy his surroundings, wherever he is.

Serving on Navy Fast-Attack Sub Leads to Career at SVP

Submerged on a U.S. Navy submarine for two straight months probably strengthened tim_lynch_archeryevery sense of teamwork and duty for Tim Lynch. Our Electric Program Manager calls his service as a nuclear engineer aboard a fast-attack sub as the one of the most memorable events of his life.

“There is no bond stronger than the one made by a team that strives for the highest quality of work in its entirety,” says the Wilcox High School graduate who served in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service until 2000.

After his naval career, Tim entered the semiconductor industry where he provided global support for plasma reactors. He followed his interests to move into the hard drive and robotics industry before settling into cyber security with Milton Security, a company that works with SVP and other utilities to protect their systems. SVP hired him full time in 2015.

IT project management for the utility is among his responsibilities. “We have a great group of professionals. My team and I are a little like the Swiss army knife for the Electric Department. We provide technology solutions and help out the division managers who oversee all the tasks associated with our local grid. I enjoy it because every day is different.”

Tim recently took over Santa Clara’s advanced meter program (SVP MeterConnect®), a meter technology that will allow customers to view their hourly electricity usage and make adjustments that can save them energy and money. Separate from the metering technology, SVP MeterConnect also provides the free outdoor citywide Wi-Fi in the City.

When he’s not leading the IT efforts here, Tim enjoys spending time with his wife and four children, who range in age from toddler to teenager.

“It’s really fun to hang out with each kid and watch them go through all the phases of their development. We do a lot of things together, like Irish Dance, archery, and camping.”

One other thing the children enjoy is learning about Tim’s submarine service in the Navy, and how that started a career path that led him here to us at SVP.

Race, Run and Remote Chopper Spell Fun for Utility Engineer

A perfect weekend in the life of Billy Quach might be building and flying a remote control img_7563helicopter, doing a 10 kilometer trail run, and topping it off with a race against the clock on an auto-cross short course. It’s pretty clear that our Senior Electrical Utility Engineer has no problems keeping busy with his various hobbies and family in his off hours.

While on the job, Billy works with business customers to assure their electrical systems meet SVP standards. Getting to his current position was a logical progression after finishing his degree in Electrical Engineering from Santa Clara University in 2003. He earned separate masters degrees in Business Administration and Science Engineering in 2009 from San Jose State University and was a power engineering consultant at a private firm before joining SVP in 2014.

“I definitely wanted to be in a utility. I was very interested in working where I could directly impact customers, and evaluating customer-owned generating facilities is very important,” Quach said. “If a customer loses their power for any reason, that impacts the bottom line of their business.”

The Silver Creek High School (San Jose) alum also helps maintain and enhance our Power Quality Monitoring Systems. “Much of the work we do here has to do with reliability,” he said, adding that his job offers “a great work/life balance. The hours are predictable and there’s flexibility for family time if needed. I love spending time with my wife and two daughters.”

That balancing act juggles his engineering assignments with his hobbies and his family. Because another one of his many passions is photography, all the fun he refers to is probably very well documented.

Going Face-to-Face With 800-Pound Sea Lions

While just about any 800-pound wild animal is pretty interesting, getting into an enclosed Arielle - Outlet Photopen with one is bound to get your attention. But not only did Arielle Romero share space with sea lions at the Moss Landing Marine Labs near Santa Cruz, she actually trained the agile beasts in behavior that helped them.

Arielle’s path to her position as an SVP Key Customer Representative was hardly ordinary. The Livermore High School graduate studied political science with an emphasis on energy and environment at U.C. Santa Cruz while also fulfilling a love of marine mammals with her work at Moss Landing.

“Often I was not only responsible for my life but also for another person’s life when supervising someone doing a training session in an enclosure with a 700- or 800-pound animal,” says Arielle, who trained co-workers in the care and training of the sea mammals.

“The sea lions couldn’t be released into the wild so we did some rehabilitation and used them to help us research their marine environment for the university,” Arielle says. “We also had educational programs teaching kids who came to our facility the importance of marine conservation, and the sea lions really got their attention.”

“We trained the animals in medical behaviors such as having them lay down so we’d be able to examine them. It’s beneficial to be able to give commands like ‘let me see your flipper’, ‘let me see your back flipper’, ‘open your mouth’. Unless you train a sea lion to do that you’d have to manually force them, and you can imagine how that would turn out with a wild animal.”

Her work at Moss Landing and U.C. Santa Cruz studies led Arielle to the conclusion that the biggest threat to sea life and the environment in general was climate change. “It wasn’t difficult to see that energy use based on fossil fuels was a negative factor, while renewable energy and energy efficiency are helpful.”

Pursuing a career in the energy industry, Arielle worked for two years with us as an energy conservation intern, then was hired by the local Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee to help electrical apprentices successfully complete training. Taking the Key Customer Representative position with us this year was a natural next step.

“Our customers are ahead of the curve when it comes to energy efficiency and respect for the environment,” she says. “Working with them is very rewarding.”

His Best Pitch Was A Slider

As a right-handed pitcher in the Cleveland Indians pro baseball minor league system, Randy Rambis Baseball Card PhotoRandy Rambis was working his way up to the major leagues when a shoulder injury and surgery sidelined his career. Drafted by Cleveland out of California State University-Hayward, Randy pitched for teams in New York, Iowa and Tennessee.

Baseball’s loss was our gain. Randy went to work for the city in 1988, first in the Parks and Recreation Department and then as an electrician for SVP. Now, as one of our veteran troublemen who works on the front line, Randy often braves weather that would postpone a baseball game when he’s the first person on the scene of an outage.

Rambis sometimes has to make an evaluation and help with the decision on what to do next. He knows how to look for signals.

“I’ll patrol the power lines and look for fault indicators that can let us know where an outage problem is. Branches, birds, squirrels and balloons cause a lot of our outages.” Working in that environment, Rambis earns his rest days.

While road trips were not always the favorite part of the athlete’s job, Randy now uses them to get away with his wife Caryen. One of his best memories is a weeks-long drive through the Northwest and then the Midwest with no real itinerary. “Coeur d’Alene (Idaho) and Glacier National Park helped make it one of the best trips of my life.”

When he returns, he’s ready to take the mound for our customers. And with the ability to get electricity back on in a neighborhood, you might say he has his power delivery down pat.

Millions of Watts all in a Day’s Work

One of the neat things about being in the electric utility business is the fact that electricity is pretty similar worldwide. That brings some interesting people to work for us.

One of those is Sachin Bajacharya, who received his first electrical engineering (EE) IMG_7120degree in Nepal before coming to the U.S. and earning a master’s degree in EE at Lamar University in Texas. With a background focused on power, he then designed and fired up substations for a private Bay Area company that coordinated power infrastructure for commercial customers. Sachin later left that job and joined our team here at SVP as a utility engineer.

“The attraction of coming to SVP was to work with the entire cycle of the electricity business, from how it’s produced and transmitted here to how it’s distributed to the customers,” he said. The distribution system in Santa Clara provides electricity through 525 miles of local power lines.

Now Sachin helps power Santa Clara’s large dynamic business and residential communities, working with millions of watts, or megawatts (MWs), that get distributed to SVP’s 53,000 customers. Getting new state-of-the-art multi-megawatt substations up and running provides him with a special thrill.

“When you see a complex project finally power up and the lights go on, that’s when it’s exciting,” said Bajacharya, a native of Nepal. “I’ll spend a lot of time planning, designing and managing a project so that the power flows safely and reliably.”

“Electricity is a basic need of our modern society and it’s a great feeling to be doing something positive for my community,” said Sachin. As a Santa Clara resident, Sachin enjoys hiking locally with his wife Archana, toddler daughter Tisa, and baby boy, Yaju.

“Things are busy at home with the baby and work is certainly busy at SVP,” he says, “and I’m enjoying both experiences. It’s as much challenge and satisfaction as anyone could ask for.”