Energy Jobs: New Sunverge CEO, FERC Members Finally Approved, and Another Tesla Battery Departure

Can Sunverge's new CEO help the company pivot toward a software-centric approach? 

This week, the behind-the-meter battery aggregator swapped out its chief executive as part of a shift in strategy. CTO Martin Milani is replacing Ken Munson, who co-founded Sungevity and served as president and CEO for nearly a decade. 

"After 10 incredible and intense years of building a market and achieving what most never thought possible with virtual power plants and energy storage, it's a natural time to transition the company over to new leadership to ensure its scale," said Munson in an email.

Milani, who calls himself a "software visionary,"

Can Sunverge's new CEO help the company pivot toward a software-centric approach? 

This week, the behind-the-meter battery aggregator swapped out its chief executive as part of a shift in strategy. CTO Martin Milani is replacing Ken Munson, who co-founded Sungevity and served as president and CEO for nearly a decade. 

"After 10 incredible and intense years of building a market and achieving what most never thought possible with virtual power plants and energy storage, it's a natural time to transition the company over to new leadership to ensure its scale," said Munson in an email.

Milani, who calls himself a "software visionary," will help grow and evolve Sunverge's Infinity software platform. Earlier this year, the company opened up the software to third-party storage systems. Now Sunverge is expanding the offering to "support multiple types of DERs and balance energy supply and demand at a home level," according to the company.

Sungevity picked up some important projects for battery-based virtual power plants in recent years, most notably with the Australian utility AGL and New York utility Con Edison. But deployments have been slow. AGL is stuck in pilot mode, and local regulations have stalled installations in New York. Consequently, Sungevity also went through a round of layoffs at its manufacturing facility. The shift to software represents a "new phase" for the company, said Sunverge Chairman John Di Stasio, in a statement.

"This is an opportunity for us to align our organization to both define and respond to this convergence in a time of very exciting change. Martin's extensive business and software experience makes him the ideal leader at this time in the company's growth, guiding us forward to deliver greater functionality and value to a market that has changed considerably since our founding almost 10 years ago," said Di Stasio.

Before joining Sunverge, Milani was CTO of Nexant, an operational software provider for the energy efficiency, oil and gas, renewable energy and chemicals industries.

Munson said he will remain in the energy sector as he considers his next move.

Onto a much bigger battery company in transition: Tesla. As Tesla deals with production bottlenecks at its Gigafactory and delays with the Model 3, the company has shed yet another storage executive. Jon Wagner, senior director of battery engineering, left the company in October to launch a "stealth startup" focused on batteries and powertrain. (As of this writing, his LinkedIn page says he's hiring.)

Wagner, a Stanford mechanical engineer, helped design the Model S and Model X battery packs, and helped commercialize the Powerwall and Model 3. 

He joins a cadre of battery experts and other executives who've departed Tesla throughout the year, including Kurt Kelly, Tesla's director of battery technology, and Mateo Jaramillo, the VP of products and programs at Tesla Energy.

Over in Washington, FERC commissioners can finally get to work after a long delay in Congress. The Senate approved the two newest commissioners, Kevin McIntyre and Richard Glick. McIntyre is a Republican who will take over the chairmanship from Neil Chatterjee, and Glick is a Democrat who was general counsel for the Senate energy and natural resources committee. Their terms will end in 2023 and 2022, respectively.

It's a busy time at the federal energy regulator. Along with a backlog of pipeline permits, FERC is now considering a controversial proposal from Rick Perry to prop up aging coal and nuclear plants. Meanwhile, commissioners may also consider new rules for fast-responding assets like batteries. FERC's work is taking on new urgency as wholesale markets experience dramatic changes due to the surge in wind and solar. 

While it's still unclear how the full commission will address Perry's proposed rule for coal and nukes, Chatterjee is already indicating that he'll find a way to support it. Neither McIntyre nor Glick have commented.

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***

Vote Solar just hired four new staff, representing a 50 percent expansion this year for the small-but-powerful solar advocacy organization. Sachu Constantine joins as the manager of the regulatory team; Pari Kasotia joins as director of Mid-Atlantic operations; Thad Culley becomes regional director; and Jessica Brittsan is now the director of investment partnership.

At the other end of the nonprofit advocacy size scale, the Sierra Club hired a new chief of staff. Lindi von Mutius will work with Executive Director Michael Brune to shape the organization's strategy. Von Mutius comes from the Environmental Defense Fund, where she was director of program management. She's a German native who has also worked at the Representative of German Industry and Trade.

Aquilon Energy Services, a software company that speeds up wholesale energy trades, has a new chief financial officer, Jillian Sheehan. Sheehan was previously the CFO at Textura Corporation, a construction project management software provider. Aquilon raised $19 million this year from Citi, Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments, Invenergy and Macquarie Group in a Series B round.

NuScale Power hired nuclear veteran Ken Langdon as vice president of operations. NuScale is developing a pressurized-water small-modular nuclear reactor that will be capable of balancing intermittent renewable energy. Langdon was Westinghouse's deputy project director at the VC Summer plant (which was canceled due to cost overruns) and vice president of operational readiness for two AP1000 reactors in China. Langdon also worked in operations at four other nuclear plants around the U.S.

Speaking of that troubled VC Summer plant -- which put South Carolina ratepayers on the hook for billions of dollars -- SCANA Corporation, the parent company of South Carolina Electric & Gas, is undergoing a shakeup. Kevin Marsh, CEO of SCANA and SCE&G, and Stephen Byrne, senior VP at SCANA and COO of generation and transmission at SCE&G, are both retiring.

"It pains me that SCE&G and its customers have had to go through this tumultuous time relating to the abandonment of the new nuclear project. It is essential for our customers and our employees that we reach a prompt, reasonable resolution of those issues. I am confident we can serve the needs of our retail, commercial, and industrial customers in a way that will make South Carolinians proud," said Keller Kissam, SCE&G's new chief operating officer, in a statement.

"Personal reasons" have prompted Kevin Chen to resign as president of ReneSola's U.S. business. Doran Hole takes the helm as CEO of North America and VP of strategy. The Chinese company recently sold off its manufacturing arm in order to focus exclusively on development and O&M. Hole will oversee North American project development and financing.

America's biggest PACE provider, Renovate America, is restructuring. In late October, the company shed 100 employees in order to consolidate operations, reduce expenses and "improve business processes." This comes after Roy Guthrie took over as CEO from JP McNeill, the company's founder, in early October. Guthrie, a veteran from the consumer financial services sector, joined the board in April before becoming chief executive.

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