National Grid's Ryan Cote on a solar farm for green collar jobs story about driving electric

Green collar jobs: Ryan Cote – driving electric

As we continue our ‘green collar jobs’ series, we catch up with Ryan Cote, Senior Program Manager on our electric transportation programmes, who’s all about encouraging more people to drive electric in Rhode Island.

I help to manage our growing portfolio of electric transportation programs. Right now, I oversee our Fleet Advisory Services Program that provides business customers with a roadmap on how to electrify their fleets. I also manage a residential ‘Off-Peak Charging Rebate’ study, which incentivizes participants to charge their electric vehicles (EVs) at night, and I support the roll-out of our EV charging station infrastructure.

Crucial for carbon reduction

Transportation is responsible for roughly a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. Electric vehicles play a pivotal role in helping us reduce carbon emissions – by nature they have zero tailpipe emissions and are a highly efficient mode of travel. Additionally, the energy to power these vehicles can be sourced locally from renewable sources – a win-win! Helping our customers realise these benefits and making it easier for people to travel emission free is at the heart of my green collar job.

Green-minded even in grade school

I’ve had an interest in clean energy and the environment from an early age. My earliest memory of this is taking a field trip in grade school, where we spent the day cleaning up a local beach that was littered with waste. I remember feeling a sense of pride and happiness, knowing that my actions made a difference to the environment around me. From there, I made a conscious effort to reuse and recycle wherever possible, which I still practice with my family to this day.

From economics to clean energy

I attended the University of Rhode Island, where I received my BA in Economics. My academic background shows that you don’t need an environmental-focused degree to get a green job.

Before joining National Grid, I was fortunate to start my clean energy career with the State of Rhode Island’s Office of Energy Resources, working on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. It was a rewarding feeling to help facilitate all sorts of energy projects around the state – from boiler replacements to wind and solar projects. Later, I was promoted to lead efforts around clean transportation, where I helped manage the installation of the first 50 public EV charging stations for the state.

Number plate developed for electric and hybrid vehicles on Rhode Island, US

Practical solutions for EV cars

In a previous job, I worked with my local Department of Motor Vehicles to help create the first and only EV-specific license plate for Rhode Island. This was modelled after Massachusetts, which found a quickly identifiable license plate could help first responders more easily identify EVs at an accident scene. It helps them realise that there’s a high-voltage cable with the vehicle (although the cars automatically shut off on-board electronics in the event of a collision) and also means they can figure out how to fight any potential chemical fire related to the battery systems quicker.

Working on the ground to increase EV adoption

I’m most proud of the ability to help impact my local community by playing a small role in ‘greening’ our transportation systems. From helping site and install charging stations to working with fleets on ways they can save money and the environment by going electric. My hope is that all of these early small actions lead to exponential growth and, eventually, the complete decarbonisation of transport.

I get to work with a great group of people at National Grid, who are just as passionate about electric transportation as I am. We have a fantastic team in place, with various backgrounds and expertise, which makes the job really enjoyable.

Overcoming the EV sceptics 

One of the biggest challenges that I’ve faced, and continue to face, is trying to explain to people why EVs make sense. There are, unfortunately, a lot of naysayers out there who are afraid of change and, understandably, are very connected to their ‘gas guzzlers’. Sometimes it’s easier for people to simply write off EVs rather than take the time to consider all of the facts.

Generally though, I enjoy talking about all the benefits of electric vehicles to our customers, especially those new to EVs. Being an EV driver myself, it’s gratifying to share my positive experiences first hand and allay any fears people may have about going electric.

Someday when I’m old and grey, my hope is that I can look back and be able to say that I helped make a difference in our environment. I want to leave things better for my kids and grandchildren than how they were left for my generation.

Hoping for a cleaner energy future

I hope that adoption of EVs and emission-free transportation as a whole will continue to increase. Ideally, I look forward to the day when they’re the norm and gas and diesel vehicles are the minority.

We only have one planet Earth and I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to think and act more sustainably, even if they are small changes.

Globally, I’d love to see a more concerted effort to move to more sustainable, net zero practices. We only have one planet Earth and it’s everyone’s responsibility to think and act more sustainably, even if they are small changes. It all adds up!

Loving being an EV driver

On joining National Grid, I learned of the company’s awesome EV Central rebate program and decided to finally jump in with both feet and purchase my first EV. Twelve thousand all-electric miles later, I can confidently say it was a great purchase and puts a smile on my face every time I drive it.

Twelve thousand all-electric miles later, I can confidently say it was a great purchase and puts a smile on my face every time I drive it.

When I’m not working, I still try to promote EVs to friends and family. I have a lot of fun taking people for a ride in my car and attending annual Drive Electric Week events.

Beyond this, my other green efforts are that my family and I recycle whenever possible, have installed all LEDs and smart thermostats in our home and try to be as efficient as possible in our day-to-day activities.

My eco hero is…

If I have to choose, it’s Elon Musk. I believe that he and Tesla have forever changed the automobile industry for the better and are a major reason why other auto companies are now producing EVs to stay competitive. He has brought a level of excitement and cool to his vehicles that was missing with EVs prior to Tesla’s arrival.

He’s also helped grow the solar and battery storage industries, while also creating the first commercial reusable spacecraft through SpaceX. I admire his innovative approaches to modern-day issues and his willingness to take chances and develop products that challenge the industry status quo.