The Future of the Utility Business: What New Opportunities it Creates

The Panelist backgrounds from CleanStarts May 5th discussion.

Panelist Backgrounds

Ezra Beeman, Managing Director, Energeia

Ezra has 20 years of electricity industry experience working for utilities directly and as a professional management consultant specialising in the industry’s technology and environmentally driven transformation. He has worked in California, Europe and Australia, and is currently the Managing Director of Energeia, a management consultancy with offices in Sydney, Australia and Davis, California, where he is based. Ezra is also the Managing Director of Empower Energy, a solar-storage technology development business, with a mission to bring cost-effective distributed energy resources to market

Gerald Braun, Director, The IRES Network

Gerald Braun is a solar industry veteran and founding director of Federal, state, utility and university-based renewable energy R&D programs.  He founded and manages the Integrated Renewable Energy Systems Network (IRESN, Inc.), a registered nonprofit business league advancing local energy collaboration and clean energy integration in the US.  He chairs the Valley Clean Energy Community Advisory Committee and is a member and former chair of the Gas Technology Institute Public Interest Advisory Committee and the City of Davis Utility Rate Advisory Commission.  He holds degrees in mechanical and nuclear engineering from the University of Michigan and MIT.

Austin Brown, Ph.D., Executive Director, UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, the Environment, and the Economy

Dr. Austin Brown is Executive Director of the Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy at the University of California, Davis. In this role, he builds strong connections between the research and policy communities at the local, state, and national levels with a focus on clean energy and sustainable transportation. Prior to joining UC Davis in June 2017, he spent nine years in Washington, DC, working for the Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and as Assistant Director for Clean Energy and Transportation at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Obama Administration.

Mike Gravely, Manager of Microgrid R&D, California Energy Commission

Mike Gravely is the Team Leader for Energy Technology Systems Integration for the Energy Research and Development Division at the California Energy Commission.  In this role, he oversees the full spectrum of research activities to improve the California Electric Grid including: implementing the California Smart Grid, assessing future energy storage needs for California, determining the benefit and value of microgrids and distributed energy resources, addressing the grid related issues associated with integrating higher concentrations of renewables, evaluating new advanced generation systems, expanding demand response solutions for California, and addressing natural gas infrastructure safety and reliability.  His team is managing over $250 million in microgrid and energy storage research and demonstration projects. Currently, his team is overseeing 20 active microgrid grants that represents the most diverse, complex and capable microgrids in the country.

 In his over 15 years at the California Energy Commission, he has held key roles as a scientist, supervisor, office manager, deputy division chief and senior engineer/team leader addressing the wide range of energy issues facing California and the Nation.  Over his years with the Commission, he has worked on addressing the challenges facing the electric grid as California transitions to a new world of higher and higher concentration of renewables. He has also worked actively with the government offices of the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Transportation and other state energy offices such as New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Washington to share information and develop partnerships. He has had the pleasure of overseeing hundreds of research grants to move energy technologies from the laboratory to the field and eventually to commercial success.

 Mike has over 30 years of engineering and integration experience in the energy, aerospace and communications fields.  Prior to the Energy Commission, Mike served in executive positions in the Federal Government and private industry including managing research, testing and fielding of distributed generation and energy storage systems for the Department of Defense, addressing the business challenges of a startup energy storage company and overseeing a staffing and training company that specialized in serving the utility industry.  Mike Gravely has a BSEE from the Virginia Military Institute and an MSEE from California State University at Sacramento.

Mark Henwood, CEO, Henwood Associates

Mark Henwood is the CEO of Henwood Associates, Inc. an owner, operator, engineer, constructor, and power marketer of hydroelectric and other power facilities.  The company currently operates 5 hydroelectric projects selling power to three different California utilities.

In addition to his activities at Henwood Associates, Mark developed and manages Powersoft, LLC which provides a SaaS solution for managing recurring tasks, PPA settlements, and resources used by renewable generation projects.  

 Mark is also active in promoting sustainable energy businesses in the Sacramento region through his involvement with CleanStart where he is co-founder and board member and with start-ups (both directly and formerly as a venture partner in a Sacramento based venture capital firm).

 Previously Mark built Henwood Energy into a market leader serving the global power industry before its sale in 2002 to form Global Energy Decisions (now part of ABB Ventyx). The company provided enterprise software for risk management, market data, web-based analytics and mapping, and management consulting services. The company maintained offices in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.  After leaving Global, Mark formed Plexos Solutions LLC and served as its Chaiman until its sale to Energy Exemplar in August 2011. Mark also served as board member and advisor to PowerLytix, LLC until April 2008 when it sold to Barclays Capital. He was also a director of the Independent Energy Producers Association (Calif) for seven years during the critical QF development period.

 He has a Bachelor’s degree in Electric Engineering and Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California at Davis where he was a member of of Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society. Mark is a California General Engineering Contractor and a resident of Sacramento, California.

Rosanna Herber, SMUD Director Ward 4; Past Director of Public Power Strategy for the California Municipal Utilities Association

Rosanna Herber was first elected to the SMUD Board of Directors in 2018 and began serving on the Board in January 2019. She represents Ward 4, which includes Curtis Park, Land Park, Greenhaven, Pocket, Walnut Grove and part of Elk Grove.

 Herber dedicated 20 years of her career working at SMUD in such areas as government affairs, key accounts, community relations and community engagement. Before retiring in 2012, she served as the Director of Public Power Strategy for the California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA), where she researched and published the “Handbook on Public Power Options,” for CMUA. Herber was also Chief of Staff to Sacramento City Councilwoman Kimberly Mueller, where she developed the “Trees for Tomorrow” campaign, giving birth to the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

 A native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Herber moved to California in 1986. She is a graduate of Indiana University (Bloomington) where she earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and Spanish. Herber also earned an MBA from Saint Mary’s College.  

Jim Parks, Director of Marketing, Valley Clean Energy

Jim Parks is the Director of Customer Care and Marketing for Valley Clean Energy, a community choice aggregator serving most of Yolo County.  He has also worked as a transmission planner; developed and managed utility-scale energy efficiency, demand response and low-income programs; oversaw the implementation of a multi-faceted $308 million grid modernization project; and managed utility R&D projects and staff. He has a degree in electrical engineering and almost 30 years’ experience in the electric utility industry.

Dan Rastler, former Manager of Distributed Resource R&D, Electric Power Research Institute

Mr. Rastler is a world recognized authority on distributed generation, energy storage and emerging alternative energy technologies, their applications, markets and business opportunities in the evolving electric utility industry. As seasoned senior professional at the Electric Power Research Institute ( EPRI)  for over 33 years he managed, grew and developed EPRI’s R&D portfolio for distributed power, fuel cell, energy storage and renewable programs for the U.S. electric power industry clients. He led the assessment, deployment and demonstration of renewables, fuel cells, other distributed power options and energy storage systems. Now as a consultant, he specializes in distributed generation and energy storage, technology assessments, due diligence, market strategy, and micro-grids for industry clients.

Gary Simon, Founder and Chairman of the Board, CleanStart

Gary Simon is currently the Chairman of CleanStart, a non-profit dedicated to accelerating the success of clean tech businesses in the Sacramento region.  Mr. Simon’s career spans 46 years as a senior executive with two Fortune 500 companies, a CEO of two small start-ups, a President of an international energy company, head of a corporate venture fund, worldwide energy company consultant, and government service. Most recently he was President and CEO of Atrex Energy, a manufacturer of small high-efficiency ceramic-based power generators for off-grid markets.  He also was a board member for publicly-traded Capstone Turbine Corporation (CPST) and Neon Communications (NOPT), and is Chairman of SmartPower, a non-profit organization promoting clean energy use. Mr. Simon has a BA from Indiana University and an MS from the University of California, Davis.