As VP and GM, Energy Markets, Erika Diamond heads up EnergyHub's demand response aggregation business. We sat down with her to discuss her background, her role at EnergyHub, and her recent trip to France.
Kat: Your title is Vice President and General Manager, Energy Markets. What do you actually do?
Erika: I manage EnergyHub’s demand response aggregation business, which includes our Bring Your Own Thermostat℠ (BYOT) programs. I spend a lot of time both thinking about how we can grow our programs with existing customers and working with industry colleagues to shape markets.
Kat: What is BYOT?
Erika: The smart thermostat market is growing fast, with customers increasingly making their own choices about the connected home. BYOT demand response programs allow utilities to take advantage of devices that customers have already installed in their own homes, and eliminates the need for utilities to install load control devices themselves. Customers are incentivized to enroll their devices in utility DR programs, so it's a win-win situation.
EnergyHub introduced the BYOT model to the market in 2012, and we now manage over a dozen BYOT programs nationwide.
Kat: How does BYOT change the demand response landscape for utilities?
Erika: Utilities used to have to rely on the model of purchasing switch or thermostat inventory, marketing switches/thermostats to customers, installing in homes, and servicing devices. In the case of switches, one way communication made it difficult to know what devices were online and what programs were delivering to the grid. For thermostats, direct install programs can be very difficult to manage internally, and very expensive.
Today, there are better products on the market that consumers are getting excited about and so installing them at greater rates. Utilities can now rely on what’s already in the customer’s home for their demand response programs, at a much lower cost. And it’s now possible to see, in real time, what’s happening during an event, which is a big improvement over how demand response programs have worked historically.
Kat: You came on board in February. Where were you before EnergyHub?
Erika: Before EnergyHub, I worked for Recyclebank, a New York venture-backed startup. Recyclebank is a behavior change platform in the waste industry. There, I managed the core recycling loyalty product and also led corporate development.
Before that, I was at ThinkEco as Vice President of Business Development, where I was the first business hire.
Kat: So you've spent basically your whole career in cleantech. How did your academic background prepare you for this kind of work?
Erika: I have degrees in both environmental science and business, so that combination has been helpful in both understanding the scientific challenges that we face and developing a practical perspective on how to solve them.
Kat: What made you passionate about environmental work?
Erika: Growing up on Long Island, I felt a responsibility to protect the coastal areas where I lived. I did a lot of volunteering with beach clean-up efforts and advocacy in high school and it developed, into a more practical approach to environmental problem solving.
Kat: What do you see as the biggest challenge for utilities over the next few years? How does your work help them solve this?
Erika: So many traditional industries are being disrupted, especially capital-intensive ones, so the challenge is to figure out how to shift their business models to take into account evolving technologies, climate change, and new regulatory requirements, and still deliver money to shareholders.
Kat: What's the most exciting part of your job?
Erika: There is so much change going on in the markets and the regulatory environment today, making it an especially exciting time for anyone in the energy space to be a part of the conversation.
Kat: We've talked a lot about work! What do you do when you're not in the office (or, more likely, on the road for EH)?
Erika: I enjoy yoga and pilates, cooking, and exploring the culinary side of Brooklyn. I'm also an avid reader. (My favorite book I've read recently is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and I'm currently reading Purity by Jonathan Franzen.) And I really like to travel. Earlier this month, I went to Paris and Nice, eating my way through both cities.