Power to the Pioneers: How One Woman is Taking Grid Solutions to the Next Level for Clean Energy Storage

Key Capture Energy’s Director of Market Strategy and Operations Emma Konet describes herself as a passionate energy professional with over six years of experience in North American energy markets. She knows how big of a climate solution energy storage can be for our society going forward and leads KCE’s Market Ops team to optimize and dispatch the company’s battery storage assets.

Emma had a chance to unpack how she got involved in the energy storage sector and what makes her so excited to work in this industry, plus the potential it holds for solving the climate crisis.

Q: What got you interested in this career path in the first place?

Emma: I didn’t know much about the world of energy originally – even through college. As an undergrad, I double majored in chemistry and math and studied biology too. I was actually trying to get into veterinary school. After talking to others in veterinary school, I decided that wasn’t the best path for me. So I ended up interviewing for every internship that I could my junior and senior year and ended up landing a trading position for Citi Group at their oil desk. And although I wasn’t super into oil, I was quite interested in the energy trading aspect of my job. After graduation, my first full time job was on a power desk, which helped me learn how the energy industry really worked and figure out what it took to manage a grid with ERCOT and other independent system operators (ISOs) in regions around the country. Seeing how this energy infrastructure and strategy came together got me really excited to look into how all this energy trading actually worked in real time.

Q: So how did you go from energy trading to working at Key Capture?

Emma: One of the challenges I had to work on during my time at Citi was to figure out how to hedge shaped solar Power Purchase Agreements, where the bank would purchase power from the solar farm based on expected solar production. When solar is producing in the midday and early afternoon, the price of energy is really low, and then it jumps into the evening as demand from energy customers increases. And the only way you can figure out how to handle this renewable energy part of the equation is through batteries. It became clear to me that Citi would have to figure out how to integrate batteries into its own business model, which got me hooked on this exciting idea of energy storage. I started applying to companies working in that space and that’s how I ended up getting a job at Key Capture Energy. Now I get to see this idea of energy storage at scale really coming to fruition and it’s a great time to be in the energy storage sector.

I knew I always wanted to help manage a team, but we really started out as a motley crew – not sure entirely what our big focus would be. Are we going to be writing software? Is this a trade floor? Where are our megawatts going to be – is it all going to be in Texas? There were a lot of questions to work out and no servers or anything originally. And we had to figure out what the market operations team would prioritize. It became clear we needed new team members so we hired and built up our database, always thinking about what we could build to make our optimization and trade strategies more autonomous.That brought us into mid-2021, when things really shook up around the Texas winter storm. We developed our market capture system into the summer months and then it was live by that fall, pivoting more towards software that we could then sell to clients. 

Q: What has it meant for you to make the shift as someone focused on the more old-school oil and gas energy into this new renewable energy and energy storage realm? 

Emma: It was that old-school vibe that made me question staying at the bank in the first place. As an example, I was the only woman trader on my desk at Citi. It made me realize I needed a more progressive workplace that fit with my values. And I’m not really sure these older energy markets will really survive in their current form going forward – especially due to energy price volatility, climate change, and other factors. People are getting way more savvy trading using algorithms  with more and more liquidity coming to the market and using software to trade these commodities. I don’t know that people sitting behind a desk trading through brokers as it’s typically been done in the past is going to survive with new technology and software coming onto the scene. 

Luckily, one of the major benefits of coming to Key Capture was being able to join a truly diverse team. I’m really proud that the team I lead is made up of four women and one man – and this kind of diversity and fulfillment has made the market ops team an incredibly successful unit within Key Capture.Overall, renewable energy is much more diverse compared to the oil and gas sector and it’s just an exciting space to be in. 

Q: Why is it so important to be looking for the next generation of clean energy and climate advocates?

Emma: With the way the labor market is looking, it’s really difficult to recruit young people into jobs in energy – with the big tech companies all paying and hiring a lot. But in my view, energy is the core of what’s going on and I’m very passionate about working in energy. If you can solve the energy problem, you can solve every problem. Problems start to become easier when you have cheap, clean energy. So I think it’s important that young people are seeing that narrative. I mean, it’s great that people want to work for the tech giants and make virtual reality and other tech innovations, but when it comes to solving the world’s big problems, it’s working in clean energy. This is going to be the industry that dominates for the next 40 years. Translating that narrative to young people is what I’ve tried to do to inspire that next generation. 

Q: Is there anything that keeps you up at night?

Emma: Key Capture being technology agnostic allows us to pivot very quickly because we don’t know what’s coming down the pipe next technology-wise. How long is it going to take to get along to that next big thing? I think Key Capture having that nimble mentality puts us in a good spot to adjust to what’s coming next and be able to help our nation’s power grid meet the challenges facing it down the line.

Q: What advice would you give to others going into this space – especially women who are thinking about getting into this field?

Emma: Don’t be discouraged by getting into a field that’s been thought of as male-dominated. Women in leadership positions hire other women and this is helping to break the cycle, especially in clean energy. My team and I want to help get other women into this field – and be mentors and sponsors to those wanting to get in. There are plenty of those advocates out there  and I want to help those in high school and college now get into this great field and maybe even be my boss someday. 

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