ZNE, Electrification, and You: An Interview with SCE's Katie Sloan
By Chloe Woodruff
Prior to our Net Zero Conference & Expo on October 2-4, 2019, we spoke with Katie Sloan, Southern California Edison (SCE)’s Director of eMobility and Transportation, about the future of the net zero movement and what it means for SCE.
Katie will be featured on our NZ19 “Utility Panel: Power Women!” at the Los Angeles Convention Center on October 3. Register here to join her and other female leaders from California’s largest utilities as they speak about sustainability trends, resiliency, and exciting new initiatives.
What does a “Net Zero Future” look like from SCE’s perspective?
The energy efficiency of ZNE homes is very important to us as a company and to California; however, ZNE only gets us part way to where we need to be. We also need to electrify. By 2045, we calculate that we will need 80% of residential homes to have electric space and water heating if we want to meet California’s 100% carbon-neutral goal.
How is SCE making net zero projects a priority?
In our recently formed Building Electrification group, we are working to align policy, regulations, and technology to further energy efficiency, demand response, and building electrification.
In our GridTech labs, our engineers are understanding how solar, personal energy storage, and other distributed energy resources can support the grid. We are also sharing what we know with both commercial and residential customers: Our Energy Education Center in Irwindale features a walk-through all-electric home that anyone can visit to see how insulation, electric appliances, and other energy efficiency devices work to reduce energy needs.
Next door, at our Foodservice Technology Center, we have a professional demonstration kitchen and frequent workshops to help restaurant owners understand how to save energy, cool their kitchens, and cook cleaner. Come visit us!
Resiliency has become a key topic related to climate change in the last few years. Can you talk about what this means for SCE?
Given the devastation from climate-driven wildfires, creating a more resilient, fire-resistant grid is a key priority for us. We are hardening our system by installing fire-resistant poles, composite crossarms, and insulated wire wrap in the highest fire risk areas to enhance the resiliency of our infrastructure and reduce the risk of ignitions, such as windborne debris that is blown into our overhead lines.
We are deploying equipment and device configurations in our infrastructure, such as fast-acting fuses and other devices that can react more quickly to reduce fire risk. We are also using infrared scanning technology that could potentially identify equipment before it fails and developing technology that leverages smart meter data and advanced analytics to quickly detect downed, energized wires. As these and other promising technologies prove themselves, we will continue to incorporate them into our system.
We also are supporting the growth of distributed energy resources, which provide resiliency across the grid. As inverter technologies improve, and more customers install personal energy storage systems, these will help customers to keep the lights on, even as we might need to temporarily shut power to avoid destructive wildfires.
What important conversations do you hope people will come away from the Net Zero conference having?
I want to offer you two thoughts: one personal, and one strategic:
Last year, we invited a couple to join us at Net Zero: Wen Lee and Chris Stratton. They are heroes to us at SCE. We met them as they were retrofitting their house in the San Gabriel Valley to be all-electric—and using an electrified bike to haul supplies. When they showed up at the conference, they brought reusable containers and cutlery. Nobody from the SCE team did that! I mention this because we always think we are doing the best thing, but there is always more that we can do. The personal conversation that we would like people to have is this one—what more can I be doing? Whose example should I be following? How do we lead by example?
Which brings me to the strategic. We all come away from this conference totally jazzed about our commitment, but the truth is that the next day we remember the obstacles that we forgot while we were there. So, the strategic conversation we want people to have is, “Let’s identify the obstacles and hurdles today and figure out what we do to overcome them.” Getting to ZNE is a long and iterative process, but if we can figure it out a step at a time, we will find ourselves moving forward.
What are some of the challenges you are facing in your efforts to reduce carbon by electrifying buildings?
One challenge is that not all municipalities are fuel-neutral. Some still have codes and ordinances that require gas infrastructure, even for all-electric homes, or gas shutoff valves for water heaters, even if they are electric.
Another challenge is that there is misinformation out there that suggests that we are mandating that all buildings stop using natural gas, which obviously has people and some local governments very upset. The CPUC recently issued a fact sheet that clarifies that this is simply disinformation.
If people were to make one behavioral change to support SCE’s efforts, what would you recommend?
Buy an EV!!! If we have any hope of meeting our carbon-reduction goals, we are going to need to put millions of electric vehicles on the roads. EVs can support the grid, they can be charged off of solar panels or at off-peak times, and they don’t pollute the air. And driving an EV is no sacrifice. EVs are a blast to drive, convenient, and less expensive to fuel and maintain, and we have rebates and incentives available for buyers in our service territory for used as well as new EVs.
About Katie Sloan
Katie Sloan is director of eMobility at Southern California Edison SCE), one of the nation’s largest electric utilities. Katie is responsible for SCE’s vehicle electrification programs and services, with a planned budget of over $1 Billion. The team’s mission is to help California get 7 million EVs on the road by 2030. Her team includes three groups: strategy & program development, business development & partnerships, & operations.
Previously, Katie held roles of increasing responsibility at SCE & Edison International focusing on clean energy policy, strategy, and analysis. She has also worked at First Solar, a large solar panel manufacturer, developing global public policy.
Katie was named one of “40 under 40” people to watch by Pasadena Magazine and a Woman of Achievement by the San Gabriel Valley YWCA her work at SCE and non-profits. Katie currently serves on the board of Beyond the Block, a non-profit focused on expanding global awareness and increasing intellectual curiosity of at-risk youth.
Katie holds a master’s degree in regulatory economics and bachelor’s degree in business administration from New Mexico State University.