Amy Rose is a senior researcher in the Transmission Planning Group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Her expertise includes power sector planning and production cost modeling, regional power pools, and grid integration of renewable energy. Rose has worked for over 10 years with governments, utilities, and regulators in Africa, South Asia, and Central Asia.

As part of G-PST, Rose serves as the lead for coordinating technical assistance activities to system operators around the world. She recently penned a piece for NREL’s Tell Me Something Grid thought leadership series about G-PST’s work with system operators worldwide and why coordinated, global efforts are key to successfully mitigating the worst effects of climate change and accelerating the clean energy transition.

Read the full Tell Me Something Grid article.

To complement her Tell Me Something Grid piece, the G-PST team followed up with Rose to learn a little bit more about her background and passion for working with teams all over the world to improve their power system operations.

How did you arrive at this field of study? Tell us a little about your career trajectory and what made you want to explore power systems.

Originally, I studied space physics and aerospace engineering. I was going to be an astronaut – or at least help launch people into space. Before becoming an astronaut, I decided to spend two years in the Peace Corps living in a rural area of Burkina Faso. During this time, we had no electricity access other than a solar panel on our roof and I became interested in issues around energy access and renewable energy. Upon returning the U.S., I decided I’d much rather work on pressing issues on planet earth and went to grad school to study power sector engineering, regulation, and economics. After grad school, I came to NREL to work on its impressive portfolio of international projects. It’s been a wonderful experience to work with people all over the world who are passionate about effecting change and improving lives around the world.

What makes the support G-PST offers unique?

I love the action-oriented nature of G-PST. The work is driven by system operators who want to effect change in their systems to accelerate the ability to operate a high renewable energy grid. The high level of engagement from the system operators themselves ensures the work is grounded in practical experience that others can learn from.

What is something you’ve been surprised by when working with our system operator partners?

System operators have an incredible responsibility. We are accustomed to the lights turning on whenever we flip the switch. As a result, I think we take for granted that there are people working to maintain a balance of supply and demand in every moment and their job is only getting more complex as we increase the share of renewables on the grid. Given this responsibility, I expected system operators to be averse to change. Instead, I have seen the system operators in G-PST are the ones leading efforts to increase ambitions for renewables and investigate and test new ways of operating the system.

What are some tools or technologies that system operators are particularly interested in learning more about?

Grid forming technologies are an emerging topic that interests our partners. Balancing supply and demand is important to keep the grid running, but it is not the only need. We also need to make sure the system frequency is stable. When our power generation comes from large spinning machines like gas and coal turbines, we get this for free. However, as we replace large spinning machines with inverter-based resources, we risk stability issues because these sources provide no way of pushing the grid back to preferred frequency ranges when deviations occur.

Grid forming technologies, like specialized inverters attached to wind and solar plants, can be programmed to provide the grid with energy in the exact form and frequency required to maintain stability. It’s a paradigm shift from mechanical engineering and electromagnetism to coding and electronics. Generally, this shift is viewed as necessary for successful decarbonization of the power sector.

Why is it critical to be working directly with system operators in countries with emerging economies on their energy transitions right now?

Over 85% of the global population and 73% of carbon emissions from electricity and heat production come from countries classified as emerging economies. If we are serious about a global response to climate change and energy transition away from emitting technologies, these countries must be part of the conversation. They have an opportunity to make changes now before starting down a path of high-emitting power production that may make it difficult to transition later.

What advice would you give to young people who want to develop a successful career in power systems?

This is an exciting time to work in the power sector because we need all kinds of people. I used to think power sector work was for electrical and power engineers. Those were my worst subjects in college. But we need computer scientists to help with the massive amounts of data and information we are managing; we need meteorologists because weather is becoming the key driver for both electricity supply and demand; we need social scientists to help with community engagement to ensure a just transition. The list of multidisciplinary needs is growing, which provides a wealth of opportunities for young people looking to work in the power sector.

Tell us a little about yourself. How do you like to spend your time outside of work?

I live in Colorado and like to get outside and enjoy all the fun outdoor activities this state has to offer. My family can be found in the mountains camping and mountain biking in the summer and skiing in the winter. I have big ambitions as a gardener, but so far have only managed to slow the rate at which my plants die.

Learn more about Rose’s work by reading her Tell Me Something Grid piece or exploring resources developed by G-PST’s system operator technical support pillar