An interview with Daniel Fuller `03, director of Strategic Planning and Business Development at Customized Energy Solutions, an electric grid consultancy based in Philadelphia. Check out his LinkedIn profile here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniel-fuller-7393641/ . Interview was conducted by Jason P. Mulderrig '18.
JPM: What did you study at Princeton? What was your senior thesis about?
DF: I studied Geoscience as an undergraduate, and I was primarily interested in gaining a basic understanding of environmental processes and mechanisms for human interaction. My thesis focused on sensing and statistical methods for understanding the world and translating it to actionable information. My thesis is titled “The Creation of a Statistical, Time-Dependent Earthquake Risk Model”.
JPM: What is your current job title?
DF: I am the Director of Strategic Planning and Business Development at Customized Energy Solutions, an electric grid consultancy based in Philadelphia. I work to identify and implement methods to reduce cost of electric power provision to large industrial users.
JPM: Tell us about the day-to-day for your job?
DF: My job is to develop a business that offers power cost savings through automation of power consumption. This entails identifying cost saving opportunities (through developing and maintaining a detailed understanding of electric market regulations and tariffs), coordination/planning for realization of these opportunities (through synthesis of computing and communications technology), and education/negotiation with customers to secure contracts to be paid for delivering the benefits. On the day-to-day, this involves paper and in-person research of power markets, meetings with industrial power consumers, and documentation.
JPM: What has your overall career path been like? Why did you make specific pivots/switches in your career?
DF: Leaving Princeton, my goal was to learn the basic tools to translate my interests into potential for action. So, I began my career working for an analyst program at a large investment bank - translating my technical and science interests into financial terms and allowing me to access relevant decision makers. To accelerate my desire of deploying improved technologies and methods in markets of interest, I then transitioned to working as an investor researching and developing investment opportunities in the energy, industrial, and agriculture sectors. A little more than a year ago, I took my current job as an opportunity to focus on the electrical power industry - a longstanding interest - and to learn the practical aspects of wholesale and retail power market operation.
JPM: In what ways did Princeton prepare you for what you are doing after graduation?
DF: Princeton provided amazing access to individuals and ideas to cultivate my curiosity and a great framework for research and development of ideas. The University's holistic focus on the undergraduate education (down to all housing and every meal) left me unprepared for the practical realities of life beyond school. Even though I was fortunate to have a couple summer working experiences away from home in advance of graduation, I would have greatly benefited from a practical home economics curriculum on "the way the world works."
JPM: What is the most surprising thing about energy that you have learned about since graduation?
DF: I am often surprised at the significant gap between potential and actual efficiency in the regulations, market, and operations of the electrical power industry. From the persistent low efficiency of global coal generation (~33%) to low utilization rates of the electrical power grid (>55% load factor), there are still tremendous opportunities to improve markets, technology, and regulation.
JPM: Is there anything in energy that currently excites you?
DF: I am currently excited to be learning about and involved in the deployment of technologies and processes that enable reliable power delivery at lower economic and environmental cost.
JPM: Do you have a recommendation/tidbit of advice for current students?
DF: As the near "universal input", energy fundamentally impacts almost every aspect of our society. The breadth of the industry offers opportunities for practically all disciplines: from fuel extraction and renewable generation technology development, energy conversion and transport methods, market design and operations, regulatory concerns, through end use efficiency, and economic impacts. Whatever your primary interest or expertise, I would offer the advice to challenge yourself to learn and make contacts outside your area of comfort since I believe that important future innovations will most likely be enabled by cross-disciplinary understanding and collaboration. Furthermore, ask big questions and be willing to "naively" challenge the status quo answers. Finally, while you are still in school, spend some time learning how you might apply your passions and curiosities in becoming part of a solution.