Caitlin Smith

Senior Director - Regulatory, External Affairs, and ESG

Jupiter Power

What is your role at your company? What are your responsibilities/focus areas? 

I am the Senior Director, Regulatory, External Affairs & ESG at Jupiter Power. I have responsibility over the company’s policy and political activities, communications on behalf of the company, and Environmental, Social, and Governance strategy, reporting, and messaging. 

My focus is on PR and advocacy for Jupiter Power’s battery energy storage projects. Utility-scale battery energy storage is still a new technology for energy markets, and I focus my time and resources on educating the public and policymakers on the operational realities of how batteries interconnect to power grids and interact with the markets. This includes authoring press releases, participating in media interviews, and speaking or writing on energy storage on behalf of Jupiter.  

I also act as a resource to Jupiter Power’s commercial development and operation teams by forming and enacting strategic plans to advocate for market opportunities and against market threats. In policy advocacy and ESG, I focus on aligning goals for zero emissions power with market incentives.  

What was your pathway to getting a career in the industry? What did you study in school or what previous job-specific training did you complete?  

When I was growing up, my father was an oil and gas attorney, who worked in complying with environmental regulations of on and offshore drilling, and he encouraged me to study the growing area of environmental policy and regulation – in this way I see him as a leader in energy transition jobs!  

In college, I studied Economics and Mathematics and earned a B.A. in Economics from the University of Texas and followed that with a J.D. from The Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of law. I earned an additional degree, an LLM Master of Laws in Environmental & Natural Resource Law & Policy. During the coursework of my LLM, I had my first exposure to policy work in the power industry, with an internship that included a research project on the Colorado Clean Air Clean Jobs Act with ACP regional partner, Interwest Energy Alliance.  

I then worked briefly in land title for a natural gas company in Oklahoma. I was wanting to move back to Austin and responded to a job posting to be the first Attorney for the Independent Market Monitor to ERCOT. The then head of the Independent Market Monitor emailed me on a Saturday when I happened to be in town, and I met him on Monday morning on my way out of town and the rest is history! My background in law, as well as economics and mathematics, was a good fit for the Independent Market Monitor, which proposes wholesale market design for the ERCOT markets, and I told a charming story about knowing Peyton Manning would go to the Denver Broncos (another part of my path from studying in Denver). In that role, I gained expertise in wholesale energy market design and was able to start making connections and forging my network in the industry.   

Extra Questions

Why did you choose a job in clean power? What was it about a career in the industry that appealed to you? 

I often get asked “How do I get a job in clean energy?” by students or very young professionals. Although I studied environmental policy in school, at the time I was starting my career in energy after law school and my LLM, we were in the Great Recession, and I was not able to be that choosy in targeting specific causes or companies. What I have found is that clean energy has become so pervasive, due to both economics and consumer interest, that whenever I am seeking a job there are exciting clean energy opportunities available.  

In advocacy roles, my personal style is to always try to recognize the objective landscape and why other companies might oppose your goals, and I am usually not a “bleeding heart” for environmentalism or clean energy. However, I am a true believer in energy expansion and the ability to incorporate low-cost clean and low-emissions energy into existing markets. What appeals to me about the energy storage industry is that it presents a solution that enables more firms and existing renewable energy resources by “time-shifting” that power from times of high renewable energy availability to times of high customer demand, and with an instantaneous response time, it can provide the same response via less and cleaner capacity than an older thermal resource, resulting in customer affordability. 

What is the best part of your job? 

The best part of any job for me is the opportunity to learn something new.

As a more senior leader at a start-up and the head of ESG, one of my favorite aspects of my job is witnessing how the environment and culture in energy jobs has changed for women and getting to be a part of that. At Jupiter Power, I started the Women’s Professional Development Initiative last year with an associated mentoring program. I also do a lot of public speaking in my role – public speaking is not always the best part of my job, but I believe that opportunities like that are a great way to shift the paradigm to one in which young women are more used to seeing women leaders and speakers and I love that.  

How do your background and fundamental skill set support your current role? 

I believe a fundamental understanding of economics is the single most useful skill set in understanding the energy industry. Knowing that where supply and demand meet equals price will get you most of the way to understanding which companies or industries are for or against a proposal and why.  

What is the best decision you ever made at work or that impacted your career? And the worst? 

The best decision I have made in my career is to say “yes” and be a little brave. I live and work in Austin, Texas and have a strong background in the Texas energy market design and policy. When Winter Storm Uri hit, I was working for an advisory company, advising, but not speaking on behalf of, clients on rule and law changes regarding energy in Texas. As an independent voice with connections to energy academics, I had the opportunity to do media interviews, including on TV, with about fifty different media outlets. So many things can be taken the wrong way when you speak publicly (as Darrell K. Royal said “Three things can happen when throwing the ball and two of them are bad”) that this was scary, especially after such a traumatic event, but I hoped to provide value from institutional knowledge and subject matter expertise that wasn’t coming from a specific company or political party. Learning how to explain complicated subject matter in a digestible way is incredibly valuable – people do not like acronyms or jargon, and they want to know how energy policy decisions affect their lives. These experiences led me to cover communications in my professional roles and have taught me so much about the energy industry, as well as politics, traditional and social media, and messaging.  

The worst decisions usually come when I have not had enough rest. If you have not gotten enough sleep – don’t send the email! 

What advice would you give to the next generation of the workforce? What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your career? 

My favorite piece of advice is “If you are the smartest person in the room – find another room.” I do not believe the goal should be to be the one who knows the most in every situation – learning from others leads to better answers and prevents boredom and hubris.  

I think at the beginning of your career, it helps to spend more time listening than talking. I know many professional women advise younger women to be more aggressive in order to be taken seriously, but as things have changed, I now think anti-sexism in the workplace dictates that you can be yourself and people should take your career seriously. 

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