UNH Sustainability Fellowship: Burlington Electric Department Energy Analyst
Burlington Electric Department
About the Host Organization:
Burlington, Vermont is the state’s largest city with a population of 44,000 and a municipal electric department (the Burlington Electric Department, or “BED”) responsible for serving approximately 21,000 customers. Burlington is a leader in addressing climate change. We are the first city in the U.S. to source 100% of our electricity from renewable generation and have continued to do so since 2014. In 2018 Burlington, led by BED, established the Net Zero Energy plan and roadmap, one of the most ambitious climate plans in the country. Achieving Net Zero Energy (NZE) means reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuels used in Burlington for ground transportation, heating and cooling. Burlington’s electricity is sourced from renewable resources, but ground transportation and heating largely require gasoline and natural gas.
With a recently approved $20 million NZE Revenue Bond in hand, BED is in the process of electrifying the heating and transportation sectors, managing demand for electricity (often called “load”) with flexible load management (FLM) strategies, achieving energy efficiency gains, and expanding local renewable generation.
About the Fellowship:
To combat climate change, fossil fuels must be phased out, and electrification coupled with renewable energy is how the NZE roadmap aims to accomplish this. The focus on flexible load management (FLM) lies at the heart of achieving this transition while foregoing costly system upgrades. The Fellow will look for opportunities to increase FLM by analyzing data sets, writing code, and performing research pertaining to three initiatives: level 1 electric vehicle charging, electric heat pumps, and commercial heating and cooling systems.
Burlington’s Net Zero Energy (NZE) Roadmap, as described above, calls for Burlington to invest in and integrate thousands of heat pumps and electric vehicle chargers into Burlington’s electric grid (BED’s distribution system). These initiatives will decrease Burlington’s use of fossil fuels. At the same time, Burlington will see increased total electric energy used in the City and the associated increase in peak demand (peak load). If left uncontrolled, this will put strain on the local and regional electricity grid (distribution and transmission systems) and eventually trigger the need for capital investments in additional grid infrastructure.
As noted above, annual energy requirements are only one dimension of increased electrical demand from heating and transportation. Peak electricity demand is of equal, if not greater consideration in electrification projects as the distribution and transmission systems must be designed to handle maximum demand on any component. The NZE roadmap identifies the possible impact of the Net Zero Energy transition on BED’s peak demand, which may double the current peak demand from 65 MW (during the summer) to up to 140 MW (expected in the winter). While some of this is attributable to electric vehicle (EV) charging, most of the peak increase would be driven by an ever-increasing reliance on heat pumps for heating. A central part of this Fellowship will be analyzing flexible load management strategies in anticipation of the increasing electricity demand.
Flexible load management (FLM) refers to adjusting the demand (load) used by a device to align with a specific goal (e.g., peak reduction, integrating renewables). One example of an FLM initiative in Burlington is managed electric vehicle charging. In 2018 BED joined a handful of electric utilities in the United States offering an electric vehicle charging rate to incentivize off-peak and flexible charging behavior. Under this rate, customers charging their electric vehicles during the specified hours pay the equivalent of $0.70 per gallon of gasoline. To implement this rate BED has partnered with the manufacturers of certain chargers that combine the ability to measure (sub-meter) and control EV charging loads. This rate is an example of the work BED is doing to limit the impact of electrifying transportation on peak electricity demand, while providing customers with operational savings to adopt these new technologies needed to reach Net Zero Energy.
Building on this success, BED is performing research and development with Department of Energy (DOE) sponsored funding on flexible load management strategies with three technology types: level 1 EV charging, electric heat pumps, and commercial HVAC systems. The Fellow will join the Policy & Planning team to implement these grant funded pilot projects, perform data analysis, and assist with writing code for process improvement. As time permits, the Fellow will explore additional FLM programs that increase flexibility, lower operating costs, and help Burlington achieve NZE.
The Fellow will work with the Policy & Planning team to help the City advance towards its Net Zero Energy goal. The work will include detailed analysis on several flexible load management pilot projects and the opportunity to investigate new FLM options. The specific projects are:
- Advance Flexible Load Management projects: Contribute to data analysis, coding, and implementation for level 1 EV charging, electric heat pumps, and commercial HVAC systems.
- Investigate outside programs/opportunities: Identify and research new potential strategies to increase FLM that could help Burlington achieve the NZE goal.
- Project management documents: Prepare documentation for all analysis and findings completed during the Fellowship.
The Fellow will be joining the Team at BED responsible for wholesale electric market interactions, energy efficiency and traditional utility planning, regulatory and legislative interface, strategic electrification program design, renewable attribute monitoring and trading. Working as part of this Team will provide opportunities to both learn and develop a network in a diverse area.
The Fellow will have the opportunity to contribute to an ambitious fossil fuel reduction goal. Through this work, the Fellow will gain a deeper understanding of the role FLM plays in the electricity system and the wholesale electricity markets. They will also gain experience with project development, coding, data processing, analysis, visualization, and storytelling. Finally, the Fellow will gain insight into operations and sustainability planning at the city level.
The same problems Burlington Electricity Department is working to address are being experienced globally. To combat climate change, fossil fuels must be phased out, and electrification coupled with renewable energy development is one of the most promising strategies. This energy transition is a major endeavor, and Burlington strives to continue to serve as a model. The focus on flexible load management lies at the heart of achieving this transition faster while foregoing costly system upgrades. The lessons learned and programs designed will be well positioned for others to emulate and have generated significant nation and international engagement.
It is preferred that candidates should have the following qualities and background. If you do not possess everything listed and are interested in learning more in a particular space, please still consider applying.
- Pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree or Masters in Computer Science, Statistics or an Engineering related field.
- Eager to seek out challenges and learn on the job
- Experienced with data manipulation, analysis, and storytelling
- Strong quantitative background
- Professional writing skills
- Able to take direction, work independently, and coordinate effectively as a team
Familiarity with a programming language (e.g., Python, R, Julia) is preferred, but not mandatory. Having the mindset to gain more familiarity with these languages and the ability to be resourceful is more important.
Burlington Electric Department
585 Pine Street
Work will be performed onsite.
BED policy allows for up to two days of remote work per week.