Microgrids and the Energy Transition

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MS in Energy Systems Management (USF Energy) co-hosted a USF Energy Speaker Series with Young Professionals in Energy (YPE) at USF’s downtown campus with Nikky Avila, Nirupama Prakash Kumar, and Sandra Kwak. The moderator was Mike Lowell, MS in Energy Systems Management class of 2019, and Policy Director and Development Engineer at Amber Kinetics, who is currently working on increasing local energy resilience with an emphasis on microgrids and trans-active energy.

A video recording is available here. Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this recording are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency or business.

Dr. Nikky Avila has expertise in energy and climate policy in California, and in electricity access strategy in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. She draws from engineering and urban planning to envision how the renewable energy transition can lead to more equitable socio-technical systems. She has led strategic engagement and local capacity building with inter-ministerial stakeholders in Southeast Asia, advising on strategy and policy across the water-energy-food nexus. She is currently a Senior Innovation Engineer at Pacific Gas and Electric where she works on microgrid technology innovation.  Nikky has a Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from the University of California, Berkeley.

Nirupama Prakash Kumar is a Senior Product Manager for Microgrids at Bloom Energy, which integrates its fuel cells into microgrids to keep customers loads powered both when the grid is present and during a grid outage. She is also heavily involved with IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and works for IEEE Smart Village, in their South Asia working group, helping businesses look at microgrid operations with a focus on remote and rural parts of India. In addition, she is working with the organization and its NGO partners for microgrids on US Tribal Lands. Niru started the Sustainable Microgrids task force under the Sustainable Energy Systems for Developing Communities, an IEEE Power and Energy Society working group. This year, Niru is the chair of the Projects (Funding) committee under the IEEE Humanitarian Activities Committee, where her committee is in charge of funding a portfolio of humanitarian technology projects across 160 countries, primarily looking at the validity of the technology and the social returns on investment of the projects.

Sandra Kwak is CEO and Founder of 10Power, a certified Benefit Corporation providing commercial-grade renewable energy internationally to communities that lack access to electricity. In Haiti, 10Power has developed and financed solar projects on water purification centers, health organizations and major international organizations. She is also a board member at the Foundation for Climate Restoration, working on solutions to bring the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere back down to 300 parts per million by 2050. She has a Sustainable MBA from Presidio Graduate School and has taught “Race, Activism and Climate Justice” at SFSU. Sandra sees renewable energy as the key to providing clean water, gender empowerment and access to regenerative technology – a concept explored in her TEDx talk “Fourth World Nation Building.”

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