November 18, 2021
Convergent is excited to welcome Katie Guerry to the team! Katie brings over 18 years of experience in the energy sector to her role as Senior Vice President, Regulatory and Government Affairs. She’s worked on the commodity trade floors, given expert testimony, has always wanted to save the environment, and is known for bringing plenty of humor to demystify the (oftentimes) wonky world of regulatory.
We caught up with Katie on her first week at Convergent to get to know more about both what energizes and grounds her.
[The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity]
Lighting round questions:
What I’m Reading: InStyle Magazine
What I’m Watching: Disney +, any live sport (my kids’ games or on TV), or catching up on the Walking Dead (if we’re lucky)
What I’m Listening to: Kanye West
If you had to give an “elevator pitch” for yourself, what would you share?
I have three amazing daughters ages 13, 10, and six, and an amazing husband, Greg, who has been home with them and keeping us going. I also have two large, hairy, drooly dogs: a chocolate lab, and a golden mix of some sorts.
I was born in Brooklyn, raised in Jersey, and currently live in Pennsylvania, but still pretend I’m from Jersey. I have degrees from William and Mary in Political Science and English Literature and thought I was going to be an environmental lawyer who saved the environment; a notion I soon discovered was silly on SO many levels. So, I focused on commercial and securities laws when getting my JD at Rutgers in Camden, NJ; and then went to work at one of the world’s oldest and largest oil companies; you know, so I could save the environment.
People who know me could say I live a double life: folks in my personal life don’t quite follow what I do professionally, and those who know me professionally are often shocked when they get to know me personally! I even dragged my parents to watch a FERC Technical Conference that I testified at in D.C., but they were mostly just amused at how many people let me have control of a microphone, with full knowledge it was being recorded. They’d learned that lesson one too many times when I was a kid!
The policy element of the energy industry is what I am most passionate about—I’m in the policy world to make it as un-policy-like as possible if that makes sense.
For those of us who don’t follow energy policy closely, what do you think is the most interesting development or change over the last 5 years?
I started my career in an oil company doing trading agreements, supporting a commercial unit that arbitraged across oil, gas and even coal to meet the commodity supply needs of our customers. For as long as I can remember, misinformation, and often unchecked monopolistic control of incumbent power companies, has framed renewable resources and storage in a bad light from an economic and sometimes reliability perspective. The tactic, often successful, was to scare regulators and it usually worked. But in the past five years, it has been exciting to see the increasing size and speed of the investment in renewable and sustainable resources despite the complete lack of energy policy support at the Federal level and mass confusion at the state level.
The interest and investment from the private sector has created true competition around sustainable energy resources where energy policy left a void. Academics and economists have debated for years over why, how, even if to expand the amount of renewable resources; while incumbent fossil fuel generators and utilities have warned of reliability concerns and the astronomical costs of creating a more sustainable electricity infrastructure. Energy policy is often presented as black or white, in extremes, driven by politics and unfortunately anti-competitive behavior. I have found the past five years to be fascinating in that it is the first time that I have seen true economic progress in the field of energy despite the massive regulatory uncertainty and risk
More recently, there has been a realization of the multiple levels of value that battery storage brings to the grid. They’re the only asset in the energy markets that have that kind of multi-market value when it comes to C&I customers, which I testified to when Pennsylvania was considering subsidizing some old fossil fuel plants a few years ago. The recent changes have been especially exciting because there is an opportunity for true market sources to drive the market.
The amount of money that the country is spending on infrastructure is incredible, especially when it comes to cars and batteries. We’re in a bit of a “chicken and egg” situation with cars. But states are spending money to put the infrastructure in place, whether folks are buying cars or not. I think if people knew that there would be less hesitation. The level of state spending we are seeing now and are going to see in the future is a huge deal, but the key is going to be getting leaders to actually spend money in a way that at is going to be market friendly, in a way that is going to get them the biggest investment. And that is exactly what Convergent does.
What keeps me up at night is that leaders are spending huge amounts of money and I only hope they are spending it within an open and competitive regulatory framework. If they are, that has the potential for an exciting payoff down the line.
What does Sustainability mean to you?
We must responsibly use a little bit of what we have available to us. The most unsustainable thing that society can do, is to move onto the next shiny “solution,” and forget what we already have.
Instead of abandoning gas and oil all together, we need to combine it with solutions like renewables and storage to ensure a smooth transition. Without that mindset, we’re just endorsing quick fixes that actually hurt the system more than they help.
How do you like to spend your time outside of the office?
I like to be with my family and friends, and I love to be outside. If I could live and work on the beach that would be heaven.
What or who has inspired you?
I’ve been inspired and motivated by a ton of people over the course of my career; people who selflessly supported and mentored me, patiently listened and answered all of my thousands of questions. The ones who continue to inspire me the most every day are the ones who took the time to explain the business to me so we could find solutions together, instead of just giving me instructions to follow. They were the boss who always cheered me on, encouraging me to challenge myself and improve, and then celebrated my accomplishments, even if they could have celebrated themselves instead. I was inspired by those who taught putting family first shouldn’t put you at a disadvantage.
With my first daughter, I was put on bed rest super early in my pregnancy and had to navigate disability, maternity leave, and how to pay our bills. Without hesitation my boss at the time had me work from home so I didn’t have to take any of those horrible options. He could have bid me farewell onto disability, and given my newly earned job to someone else, but instead he broke every rule in the (HR) book so he could get me set up to work from home, and when I tried to thank him he refused. He said “Don’t thank me. Just promise to pay it forward when you’re in my position years from now. That’s how you get things done – together.” Ever since then I just kind of assume I’m supposed to do that as part of every job. He also once told me “Use less words Guerry! You’re not a lawyer anymore, you’re in sales now and we don’t pay by the word!” That one I’m still working on.
Have you experienced any discrimination in your career as a woman in leadership roles?
I’ve been one of the only women in the room for a long time, from court rooms to meetings with utility leaders, regulators, politicians; so the simple answer is yes. I went to law school at a time when some firms prohibited women from wearing pants – dresses or skirt suits only; seriously.
The imbalances between men and women, especially in the law and energy fields, were a given even when it wasn’t as overt as a dress code. To be tough, to be able to “hang with the guys,” was a competency often needed for success and I was OK with that. You just deal with whatever happens in the least conspicuous way you possibly can, move on, and act like it doesn’t bother you. But I have three daughters and I don’t want them to feel like they must be “tough” if they want to be successful.
I’ve come to appreciate that when I am the only woman up on a panel, it’s simply my presence that has an impact. Years ago, a young woman approached me after some industry conference panel I was on, and she said she didn’t usually see women on panels like that, let alone ones who asserted themselves in the conversation, so she appreciated seeing it was possible. It had never occurred to me that it wasn’t possible, I had just assumed anything was possible if I worked hard enough to get there. Her act of gratitude for something I had unintentionally done made me realize how impactful intentional acts could be, whether big or little. When I dragged my parents to the FERC conference I spoke at, I wore a bright pink dress so no one could miss me in the sea of blue pinstripe suits. The number of calls and emails I got simply because I was brave enough to wear a pink dress to FERC was wild.
You have a law degree; when did you decide to work in business/policy instead of directly practicing law? Can you tell us a little bit about how you made that career decision?
I once interned for the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, and I was convinced I was going to save the environment as an environmental lawyer. I spent that summer working on thousands of cases on underground storage. Those cases stayed in regulatory and litigation limbo until the finger pointing of who was going to pay for it was over. By the end of that summer, I realized that the work I was doing had NOTHING to do with saving the environment. I realized that the people who have the money are the ones who have the power to make a difference, so I course corrected.
After law school, I went into contract law for a private practice—and I hated it. I had always known that the best way to get into the business side of a company was to start on the inside. When I had the opportunity to go work at HESS as an attorney, I was excited to take the role. I knew nothing about the industry, but I knew credit! I was able to carve out a niche, and regulators wanted to know about it.
When we were building a powerplant in New Jersey, we hired an expert who we had pulled out of retirement and I was asked to learn as much as I could from him. That’s when I started to do “real” regulatory, wholesale markets. He was an engineer, just like most of my favorite mentors, and I learned so much about the physical side of the industry. Energy policy is a wonderful thing to talk about, but at the end of the day there is a physical system that has to reliably keep everyone’s lights one, keep our economy going, keep us safe. Favorable energy policy does no good if it doesn’t plan and build for long term physical needs of the electricity grid.
I like regulatory because it is the intersection of business and energy policy, where you’re solving for real problems and needs that impact our society. The decisions made and changes implemented through regulatory processes set the rules of the road for business modeling that all competitors must abide by.
What are you most excited about in your role as the Senior Vice President of Regulatory and Government Affairs Convergent? Why did you decide to join the team?
There are a thousand companies that people are building just to be a part of the market, but Convergent is focusing on batteries while also adding a layer of expertise and thoughtfulness. The environmental impacts that we can get from these kinds of assets are enormous. All of this excites me.
At first, I was just excited about the thought of working with Chief Strategy Officer Mariko McDonagh Meier (we had worked together at our previous company and I respect and trust her immensely). When I kept peeling back the layers of Convergent it just kept getting better. The resources I’ve seen Convergent build and develop are with a mind toward the future, carefully considering the return on investment not just for us, but for our customers and the electricity grid.
I had a lot of good bosses and I worked with a lot of old utility folks who had gone to the private side. I had this great boss, he knew everything about the markets, and I went from legal to regulatory. He was always telling me, “The only reason that electric markets are never going to be competitive because you can’t store it because you have to consume it in real time.”
That’s what I was doing 18 years ago when I was working on the trading floor and now here I am!
Please contact us if you would like to learn more about how energy storage can benefit your business or community.
Join our Mailing List
Stay up to date on the latest news and insights in energy storage.