I’ve spent my entire career as an analyst and writer covering the clean energy transition. Starting with non-profit environmental advocacy and a subsequent graduate education in energy policy and business at Columbia University, I went on to map out the impacts of Obama-era energy policies for Fortune 500 companies as well as startups as a consultant. More recently, I've made my own transition to the world of marketing, where I’ve helped clean energy innovators of every size tell their stories.
I’ve collected some of my recent writing below, covering solar, batteries, smart grid, hydrogen, and more for FP Analytics, Canary Media, GTM Creative Strategies and other renewable energy and climate tech clients. It’s been a wild ride, and I can't wait to see where this industry and my work go next.
I’m always open to taking on interesting new projects, reach out: j.f.atkinson -at- gmail.com.
Redefining Demand Response for Winter Peaks: Lessons from Snohomish PUD
Client: Virtual Peaker/Canary Media
Excerpt: As buildings, homes and cars go electric, it can create challenges for utilities, especially those in colder regions where electric heat pumps and hot water heat pumps will increase winter electricity loads. The utilities that may see a shift from summer to winter peaking loads can’t simply employ the same tactics from summer demand response programs due to differences in energy use patterns and the types of equipment that drive seasonal demand. Demand-reduction strategies will need to be adapted to meet the needs of growing winter peaks, and some utilities that have long been winter-peaking are showing a path forward.
Air conditioners in the US are not very efficient. Why?
Client: Infineon/Canary Media
Excerpt: Think of a typical home heating and cooling system — and what it sounds like. In the U.S., most window and central ACs create a constant level of noise when they are on because they use simple single-speed motors that are either on or off. This inevitably wastes energy as we dial the thermostat up and down while seesawing between temperatures.
In contrast, HVAC systems with inverters built into their design have the intelligence to gather real-time data on temperature and motor speed, which allows compressors and fans to adjust continuously and maintain a constant temperature. As a result, energy efficiency can be boosted by 25 percent or more, according to semiconductor manufacturer Infineon.
Ensuring hydrogen supply chains don’t become ‘nobody’s problem’
Client: LIFTE H2/Canary Media
Excerpt: Fast-declining costs to produce “green hydrogen,” which uses renewables to power the splitting of water instead of natural gas, have raised hopes that this latest wave of hydrogen hype will succeed where others have failed. However, despite this enthusiasm about advances in hydrogen production, little attention has been given to the complex supply chains and infrastructure required to bring the gas to end users, risking a repeat of the project delays and cost overruns that plagued previous hydrogen false dawns.
“Complex systems always break down at the interfaces,” said Angela Ackroyd, CTO of hydrogen service provider Lifte H2 and a veteran of the industry, most recently with Shell Hydrogen. “We have to do a lot of troubleshooting, because none of the equipment vendors really worry about the complete supply chain — it’s nobody’s problem."
Why residential solar installers should be thinking about commercial
Excerpt: The U.S. commercial solar segment is finally taking off, with installations up 31% in Q3 2021 compared to the same quarter in 2020. The diversity of new commercial solar projects, provide ample opportunities for installers of all sizes to find new avenues to grow in this booming market. LONGi and its solar installer partners capitalized on that opportunity by supporting Ben Dombey, artisan glassblower and owner of GlassblowerBen, with a rooftop solar system for his business.
GlassblowerBen is part of this growing trend of solar adoption by small business owners. Founder Ben Dombey has fine arts degrees from Rochester Institute of Technology and Tulane University, and he built a glassblowing studio in New Orleans to make custom glasses for drinks on the rocks that “make the little moments a little more special.”
Firm Zero-Emission Power
Client: FP Analytics
Excerpt: ""The most likely firm zero-emission electricity resources of the future combine established dispatchable generation technologies with radical new approaches to overcome these limitations. Carbon capture, utilization, and storage can (almost) eliminate carbon emissions from fossil fuel power plants; advanced nuclear approaches promise to reduce capital costs, construction timelines, and safety concerns; and unconventional geothermal techniques could allow the heat emanating from the earth’s core to be tapped anywhere in the world instead of just in tectonically active regions.
Unlike wind and solar, these technologies are largely pre-commercial and will require significant public and private investments in R&D, demonstration, and deployment. However, because they all leverage proven technologies, they each have potential to be commercially viable in the next decade, and thus the ability to play a crucial role in achieving Paris Agreement-aligned targets for economy-wide decarbonization by mid-century."
Toward Deep Decarbonization
Client: FP Analytics
Excerpt: "Batteries and hydrogen have emerged as two promising technologies for enabling this next level of economy-wide deep decarbonization, as they both allow low-cost renewable electricity to be stored and used to reduce or eliminate emissions in applications ranging from cars and trucks to steel and cement production. Realizing this potential at sufficient speed to reach ambitious emissions goals calls for a holistic approach that simultaneously encompasses the development and deployment of technologies on the supply side as well as the scaling up of demand pull from key end-use sectors. For both batteries and hydrogen, this will require not only whole-of-government policy coordination but also increased levels of international cooperation and public-private collaboration."
Leveraging the Cloud for a Resilient, Secure, and Customer-Centric Utility
Client: Amazon Web Services (AWS)/GTM Creative Strategies
Excerpt: "Utilities are being asked to innovate at speeds never seen before. For some, that means embracing new models to account for a new mix of resources whose capabilities and costs are changing rapidly. It also means adaptation in the face of climate change, which is one driver of extreme weather and natural events such as intense storms and wildfires. The decarbonized, distributed grid offers its own unique set of challenges, but it also offers new solutions to all of these challenges. In addition to integrating intermittent renewables at everhigher penetrations, utilities must also be poised to incorporate thousands and potentially millions of behind-the-meter assets, including batteries, electric vehicles, and “smart” homes and businesses, on a near-real-time basis.."
From Brooklyn to the South Pacific, One Platform Finds Distributed Energy Opportunity Everywhere
Client: GridMarket/GTM Creative Strategies
Excerpt: "GridMarket combines AI-powered load curve predictions with automated tools for remote site evaluation, system design, financial modeling and vendor matching. The result is a true DER project acceleration platform, identifying and scoping opportunities, reducing soft costs, reducing risk and shortening the typical development cycle. To date, the platform has prequalified over 350 million buildings around the world for DER potential."
2021 Strategic Directions: Megatrends Report
Client: Black & Veatch
Excerpt: "2020 has been a year unlike any other. The immense challenges of today’s world have amplified the need for reliable and resilient infrastructure. COVID-19 has made power, water, natural gas and telecommunications more essential than ever. At the same time, catastrophic wildfire and hurricane seasons have underscored the growing impacts of climate change, reinforcing the importance of efforts to both mitigate and adapt to the change.
Besides addressing a global pandemic and a rise in extreme weather events, utilities also face pressure to help municipalities and commercial and industrial (C&I) customers meet their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) goals. As Fortune 500 companies commit to 100-percent renewable energy and decarbonization targets, utilities have had to ratchet up their own ambitions to keep pace — or risk losing business to unregulated competitors."
The Future of String Inverters for Energy Storage
Client: LS Energy/GTM Creative Strategies
Excerpt: "The need for more reliable, intelligent and flexible storage inverter solutions will only grow as energy storage technology costs continue to decline, applications proliferate, and policymakers in jurisdictions around the world continue to encourage clean, distributed power generation. LS Energy Solutions sees autonomous string-inverter architecture as the most versatile and scalable approach to meeting those needs."
Building a Secure Domestic Supply Chain for Energy Storage
Client: KORE Power/GTM Creative Strategies
Excerpt: "The growth of the energy storage market is no longer linked to just a few states. The majority of U.S. states have energy storage projects in construction or already in operation. California leads the pack, but the momentum is also being carried forward by Texas, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona, all of which have multiple gigawatts’ worth of front-of-the-meter storage installations under development, in addition to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Battery storage has cemented its role as an essential technology for cost-effectively operating an efficient, modern electricity grid, regardless of the generation mix."
Why Timber Buildings Are Catching On
Excerpt: "The main draw for policymakers, however, is sustainability. Producing concrete and steel is highly carbon-intensive, together accounting for nearly 10% of global emissions. By contrast, trees capture and store carbon dioxide as they grow — around one ton per cubic meter — making mass timber a much more climate-friendly building material.
Because these materials can be made from panels of fast-growing trees like spruce, they can be produced without harvesting old-growth forests. While there is debate over the exact emissions profile of mass timber when its full production lifecycle is accounted for (like including diesel-fueled logging equipment), it is estimated to be about a third less than a comparably-sized concrete and steel building."
How Tech is Making Cooling More Sustainable
Excerpt: "Greenhouse gas emissions have driven an increase in global temperatures of 1 degree Celsius since the industrial revolution, and the IPCC projects that temperatures could increase by another half degree by 2040. This would result in dramatic increases in cooling demand for many cities, with London’s climate expected to resemble Barcelona, and Seattle as warm as San Francisco.
Innovations in air conditioning technology could be part of breaking this cycle. While the scale of the problem is daunting, there has been progress across several areas, such as more efficient system components, smart building controls, and alternative refrigerants."
PowerSwitch ZERO: A Breakthrough in Solar Financing for Unprecedented Times
Excerpt: "Solar can play a major role in our response to COVID-19. Homeowners are spending more time at home and seeing their electricity use increase as a result, making the energy bill savings of solar – and, in many cases, the added resilience of battery storage – more appealing than ever. Solar has also been one of the biggest job creators in America over the past decade, and a rebound of our industry could help power a broader economic recovery. The emergence of home solar financing options helped drive the solar boom of the 2010s, and we think continued financing innovation will be a key to helping solar companies bounce back from the challenges of 2020."
Whether “Net Zero” or “100% Clean Energy,” Energy Efficiency is Essential
Excerpt: "At Mosaic, our vision of 100% clean energy for all led us to build an industry-leading platform for home solar financing – and now we’re going beyond that to connect homeowners with financing for modern, energy-efficient home improvements. That combination of solar and energy efficiency is also at the heart of what the Department of Energy calls “Zero Energy Buildings,”, defined as “an energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy.”
Growing Your Solar Business With Financing
Excerpt: "The ability to offer your customers loans, leases, and other financing options transforms solar from a big hit to their household budget into a smart investment that will have them in the black from day one.
That kind of value proposition is a lot more likely to turn into a sale. In fact, the vast majority of homeowners going solar utilize some form of financing. But integrating a full range of these financing options into your business isn’t easy – and neither is understanding which option will be the best fit for a given homeowner’s particular circumstance, let alone explaining it all to your customers."
Why Satellites Could Unlock The Future Of Natural Gas
Client: Bluefield Technologies
Excerpt: "So, while government satellites have measured global and regional-scale emissions for years, “Space 2.0” promises emissions tracking at lower cost and at the granular scale required by industry to actually pinpoint and fix leaks. And just as Planet (formerly Planet Labs) now operates a constellation of small satellites capable of photographing every inch of the Earth’s surface every single day, this paradigm offers the possibility of providing oil and gas companies the ability to detect and measure their methane emissions on a daily basis for less than what they currently pay for annual surveys."
A Plan to Repower Australia, Ch. 3: Get Off Gas
Client: Repower Australia Coalition
Excerpt: "Switching away from gas is an increasingly smart investment. According to a 2014 study conducted by the Alternative Technology Association (ATA), it is cost-effective to replace gas space heaters with highly efficient reverse cycle air conditioner (RCAC) units – also known as heat pumps – in every state in Australia. In fact, Melbourne Energy Institute research indicates that there are already up to a million households in Australia that already have RCACs installed but are using them only for cooling – and missing out on an average of $658 a year in savings on heating compared to gas! Increasing awareness of this latent gas-free heating resource lying dormant in many homes is perhaps the lowest of low-hanging fruit in reducing Australian gas use."
Working primarily at the intersection of energy, policy, and the environment, I've helped innovative companies and organizations articulate groundbreaking value propositions in white papers, blogs, social media, and website copy. I bring exceptional writing skills and a broad base of expertise to any project, and have worked with clients ranging from startups to non-profits to Fortune 100 multinationals to governments.