Distributed Energy Systems Workforce Virtual Summit


The inaugural Distributed Energy Systems Workforce – Virtual Summit will take place on September 10th and 11th, 2020 from 9:00AM -11:30AM.

This online workshop will focus on emerging workforce education, training, and job opportunities in Distributed Energy Systems (such as Battery Energy Storage Systems, solar + storage, smart buildings, microgrids, and the evolving smart grid).

What: Distributed Energy Systems Workforce – Virtual Summit
When: Thursday September 10, Friday September 11 from 9:30AM – 11:30AM
Where: Zoom (by registration)
Who: All interested in future workforce education and training opportunities

There is no charge to attend, but advance registration is required for each attendee; capacity is limited and first-come, first-served.  Please go to the online registration form. Registration closes September 2, 2020.

Questions? Contact:  Margaretmary Woodd margaretmary.woodd@sfcc.edu

About the Virtual Summit

The goals for this immersive event are to:

  • Inform other institutions of exciting developments in this area at SFCC
  • Share and diffuse information, expertise, and coursework to those interested
  • Build a state-wide network in the domain to support Primarily Undergraduate Institutions working in this area
  • Gather input from industry on workforce needs, and assist all institutions in creating workforce in distributed energy
  • Share rich-media content that can also be used in workforce training and outreach, to broaden the community and increase insight and engagement

Virtual Summit participants will include representatives of New Mexico’s Primarily Undergraduate Institutions, research universities, National Laboratories, utilities, industry, and state agencies.

You will have an opportunity to learn about SFCC’s Smart and Microgrid Training Center, which has established a program and hired a full-time faculty member to develop curricula, degrees, and certifications in this critical aspect of grid modernization, including virtual guided tours of SFCC’s new distributed energy facilities.

An agenda summary follows; upon registration, you will receive a full electronic agenda with links to the Zoom meeting rooms for each session.

Join us to learn about this program, the broader opportunities, and how all New Mexico educational institutions can share and cooperate to maximize the potential.

The Summit is supported by the NM SMART Grid Center, an NSF-funded project of NM EPSCoR.

Agenda Summary

Day 1 Thursday, September 10


Welcoming Remarks

Jorge Ayala, Regional Director, U.S. Economic Development Administration, Department of Commerce

Sarah Cottrell Propst, Secretary, New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department

William McCamley, Secretary, New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions

Becky Rowley, President, Santa Fe Community College


Keynote Presentation: Grid 3.0 and the Workforce Future

Abbas Akhil, New Mexico State Representative House District 20, Principal of Renewable Energy Ventures, LLC




Employer Panel with featured interview, and breakout discussions

Interview with Bernie Kotlier,

IBEW-NECA California & Nevada

Panelists representing PNM Resources, Siemens Industry, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative, Emera Technologies, Positive Energy Solar, IBEW-NECA


Day 1 wrap-up


Day 2 Friday, September 11


The NM SMART Grid Center and the SFCC program

Selena Connealy, NM EPSCoR: the NM SMART Grid Center

Olga Lavrova, New Mexico State University: Student research opportunities and pathways


U.S. Economic Development Administration and the SFCC microgrid facilities

Jessica Falk, Area Director, EDA Austin Regional Office


The Smart and Microgrid Training Center at SFCC

Frank Currie, lead faculty




The Energy Storage and Microgrid Training and Certification partnership

Andy Mackey, Co-founder, ProtoGen Energy, ESAMTAC partner


Synthesis of concepts and Summit wrap-up

Distributed Energy Systems Summit – Speakers & Panelists


Abbas Akhil was elected New Mexico State Representative from House District 20 in 2018. He is the Principal of Renewable Energy Ventures, LLC, a consulting practice he formed in 2012. Prior to that he worked in the Energy Storage Program at Sandia National Labs for 22 years and at the Public Service Company of New Mexico.  His professional interests are in energy storage, renewable energy and microgrids.

He will review key trends in energy technology and grid modernization, and energy-related legislation that was passed during the 2019/2020 sessions. And he will discuss HB 233, the Grid Modernization bill (which he co-sponsored and was signed into law by Governor Lujan Grisham in 2020) in more detail, and its expected impact on our State’s electric grid and workforce needs. 

Representative Akhil is a licensed professional engineer in New Mexico. He and his wife have made Albuquerque their home for the past 47 years. He does not yet own a Tesla.

Frank Currie is leading the development of the Smart and Microgrid Training Center at Santa Fe Community College (SFCC). Within this role, he is spearheading development of the Distributed Energy Systems Program, an AAS and AS degree program specializing in smart grid and microgrid systems technician training, which he will discuss and present.

Most recently, Frank worked as an R&D engineer in the Energy Storage Technologies and Systems group at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). There he supported the design and construction of a groundbreaking data acquisition system for the new SNL Storage Controls and Analytics Lab and served as SNL project lead for a collaborative SFCC training center project. In addition to his prior engineering experience, Frank has taught at secondary institutions and community colleges. Before working for SNL, Frank worked as adjunct faculty at SFCC.

Over the course of his career, Frank has also worked in industrial automation, electric utility systems planning, solar and wind project development, and on the implementation side of energy storage and microgrids. He holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Michigan State and will soon possess an MS in the same field from NMSU.

Bernie Kotlier is the Executive Director of the California and Nevada Labor Management Cooperation Committee (LMCC), a joint effort of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in California and Nevada. Bernie is responsible for the development and implementation of sustainable energy education and training programs, as well as related sustainable energy business activities. His division works to advance energy efficiency, energy management, electric vehicles, zero net energy facilities, photovoltaics, battery energy storage & microgrids, and other renewable energy sources and technologies. This is accomplished through sustainable energy training, education, and business programs for electrical contractors, electricians, and electrical apprentices, throughout California and Nevada.

He has also contributed to the development of state energy policy, programs and initiatives. He has been a member of the California Public Utilities Commission Advisory Committee on Sustainable Energy Workforce Development, and other prominent public advisory groups. He will offer a perspective of trade and labor organizations on emerging workforce trends.

Olga Lavrova, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the areas of Power Systems and Renewable Energy Integration at the New Mexico State University. Prior to that, she was a Principal Member of Technical Staff at Sandia National Labs in the Photovoltaics and Distributed Systems Integration Department. Prior to that, she held position of Assistant Professor at the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of New Mexico.

Olga has performed groundbreaking work in power electronics, sensors, and materials for grid applications, and recently led experiments assessing EMP (Electro-Magnetic Pulse) effects on utility components at Sandia’s state of the art EMP testing facilities. Until 2019, she led SNL’s efforts in the areas of novel Sensors for power systems, as part of the GMLC (Grid Lab Modernization Consortium), and has been a Principle Investigator on multiple other DOE- and NSF-funded grants concentrating on fundamental PV materials and device operation, as well as their cost-effective, economical and practical deployment in consumer PV applications, as well as grid integration and off-grid operation (such as in remote or isolated locations). She will describe 4-year research pathways available to interested students.

Selena Connealy, Ph.D., is the Education and Outreach Manager for the New Mexico EPSCoR State Office. In that role, she is responsible for workforce development and external engagement activities which include faculty training, undergraduate and graduate student programs, and public outreach. STEM education equity is her passion and she advocates for systemic solutions to engage all students in STEM in both formal and informal learning environments.

Selena began her education career as a middle school teacher and coach in San Antonio, TX and served as a Project Associate at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in Washington, DC, working on performance assessment projects. At the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, she spent three years as a program manager, then five years as the Chief of Education. She will provide an overview of the NM SMART Grid Center, which supports the SFCC Smart and Microgrid Training Center.

Andrew Mackey is the Executive Vice President and one of the co-founders of ProtoGen, Inc. He has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry performing roles as a general contractor, electrician, estimator, project manager, designer, and field engineer. He has a master’s degree in architectural engineering and is a Certified Measurement and Verification Professional (CMVP). He is a Master Instructor for the DOE’s Solar Ready Vets program and a lead curriculum developer and train-the-trainer instructor for the Energy Storage and Microgrid Training and Certification (ESAMTAC) program, which he will present and discuss.

ProtoGenis an energy consulting firm committed to solving the challenges in the transition to a cleaner, more efficient, and more resilient energy grid. The firm provides consulting and project development services, electrical training, and technical services with a focus on renewable and distributed energy technologies such as solar, battery energy storage systems (BESS), combined heat and power (CHP), energy efficiency (EE), and microgrids.

Industry Panel

Moderator: Frank Currie
Lead Faculty, SFCC Smart and Microgrid Training Center

Jonathan Hawkins
Associate Director, Innovation and Communication, PNM Resources

Bill Kipnis
Senior Business Development Manager, Siemens Building Performance and Sustainability Division

Bernie Kotlier
Executive Director, IBEW/NECA California and Nevada Labor Management Cooperation Committee

Gary Oppedahl 
Vice President of Emerging Technologies, Emera Technologies

Taiyoko Sadewic
President and CFO, Positive Energy Solar

Erin Sanborn
Business and Organization Development Manager, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative