Electricity Reliability? WECC Yeah!

Kaitlin Highstreet out for a bike ride after work. Image credit: Kaitlin Highstreet

Kaitlin Highstreet MS ‘22
Hometown: Los Gatos, CA
Civil Engineering, Sustainable Design & Construction
Intern, Western Electricity Coordinating Council

Why did you want to do this internship?

My masters is focused primarily on energy efficiency in buildings and the built environment, but this whole industry is a career shift for me. I wanted to learn about and better understand the supply side of the electricity grid, how policy impacts planning and grid changes, and the work that is done behind the scenes to keep a reliable electricity supply. I am also very interested in the efforts to combat climate change and was interested in learning how reliability planners are addressing the challenges that come with the energy transition.

How does your role support the host organization’s mission?

I am working with another Shultz Fellow to research and assess tools used by WECC in reliability planning. Our work supports WECC's mission to promote bulk power system reliability by helping stakeholders understand the impact that varied technology policies may have on electricity reliability and supply mix.

Describe one project you will be working on this summer.

Along with another Shultz Fellow, I am investigating the tools currently used and more broadly available for reliability modeling. We are also investigating the assumptions that go into electricity grid modeling and scenario planning on 10- and 20-year horizons and tools available to model emerging electricity generation technology. To support our investigation, we are interviewing dozens of experts within WECC and at stakeholder organizations and labs.

How does this project relate to your studies and/or career goals?

This project is exposing me to the many options and combinations of strategies that can be employed to reach a zero-carbon energy future. My studies have been focused primarily on demand-side electricity use, but I am building a more comprehensive understanding of the electricity ecosystem through my work at WECC. I am also learning the nuanced challenges of incorporating strategies that may seem simple at first, such as demand response and distributed generation, into a wide-scale electricity grid.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy being outside--whether that means hiking, biking, or just sitting on the grass in the sun. I also enjoy reading and have been spending some of my time this summer catching up on my backlog of National Geographic magazines. When the world becomes more open, I also look forward to traveling again--though in the meantime, I have a few camping trips planned closer to home.

 

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