CCIA’s capstone program Energy Fellows Institute (EFI) begins this week, and we are continuing to share highlights of past Fellows.
Cassie Quaintance went through the EFI program in 2014. Her path from big energy management to a more fulfilling role at a startup includes the Energy Fellows Institute, which helped her pivot to a startup focusing on energy-related data and to return home to the big island of Hawaii.
CCIA: What attracted you to the Energy Fellows Institute program?
Cassie Quaintance (CQ): I had been working in a variety of roles over the course of a 17 year tenure at Schneider Electric (a global fortune 500, multinational energy management company). While my time there was tremendously exciting and full of interesting opportunities, I was looking for more tangible ways to impact the Colorado community that I lived and played in. One of my former Schneider Electric colleagues (Bob Lachenmayer, now COO at Positive Energies) suggested I look into the program and put me in touch with the CCIA. I was immediately attracted to the program as it presented a meaningful and promising transition to a new chapter in my career.
CCIA: Tell us a little about yourself, your work and the path you’ve followed to get there.
CQ: I’m a mechanical engineer (Colorado School of Mines) with an MS in Technology Management (University of Denver). I am also a Certified Energy Manager and LEED accredited professional. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to design and deploy complex solutions focused on reducing energy consumption in the built environment. This path has provided for a wide variety of opportunities in energy, research, solution development, engineering design, operations management, sales, marketing, external outreach and corporate strategy.
More importantly, I am originally from the Big Island of Hawaii. While my schooling and career had placed me in Colorado for 20+ years, I was always secretly yearning to move back home to be closer to family and friends. However, it was clear that big jobs at big companies were only taking me further away from rural Hawaii, and this was making my soul ache.
CCIA: What are some direct or indirect results of your involvement in the program?
CQ: Working for large corporations like Schneider Electric and Hitachi had informed much of my knowledge of solution deployment and design. The Energy Fellows program allowed exposure to a whole new set of tools for approaching clean energy deployment through local, technology-based disruption. The relationships I forged and the knowledge I gained gave me the courage to take the very big step from the corporate environment to the start-up word.
I am now at Kevala, Inc, a startup based out of San Francisco, CA. Kevala’s goal is to accelerate a clean energy future by making energy-related data meaningful, transparent and broadly accessible. In my role as Head of Sales and Operations, I work directly with utilities, government entities, NGOs, and technology providers who are using Kevala’s software tools to integrate more distributed energy resources on to the grid. Oh yeah, did I mention that I do this job from the Big Island of Hawaii? How cool is that?
CCIA: Describe your favorite tour from the program.
CQ: I was an enthusiastic participant at every tour during the program, and it is difficult to pick just one. The visit to the Cherokee Station combined cycle natural gas plant owned and operated by Xcel Energy near Denver was especially impactful as it demonstrated the tremendous change in policy and technology that Colorado is going through. But, who am I kidding? Going behind the scenes at a cannabis grow facility (Medicine Man, I believe) was pretty fascinating as well!
CCIA: What information, connection or presentation during the program was the most impactful for you, and why?
I have stayed in touch with many of the fellow classmates, advisors, and presenters from my time in the Energy Fellows Program. I made sure to connect with every single one of these people via LinkedIn right after I first met them. This provided me with an instant and personal network of who’s-who in the in the Front Range energy space and beyond. One connection that stands out is Danny Miller (CEO of Transformative Wave). He conducted his presentation remote over the phone. Months later, I reached out to him because his energy efficiency technology was something I hoped to deploy at hundreds of sites for a portfolio client. We forged a lasting relationship that started with a somewhat brief phone demo courtesy of the Energy Fellows Program.
CCIA: What advice would you give someone considering applying for the program?
CQ: Keep your mind open mind to all aspects of the program. If you have a technology background (like me), it is easy to just focus on that. In reality, I benefited most from gaining a better understanding of finance, policy and startup culture- all areas that I knew relatively little about going into the program. Also, make sure to go to all those happy hours hosted by CCIA. You never know who might stop in!