We talk to Lead Product Developer Sara Harari, who is working towards a greener future for all with clean energy innovation.
Working in the Solar and Storage DER (distributed energy resources) team, my role is all about making it easier to build and use new energy solutions, such as solar and storage – the team rethinks how we use new technologies and their value to our customers, partners and company.
Right now, I spend most of my time on a project that could allow solar developments in places where before they would have been too expensive to build. When my team talks about DER, we mean any electric resource that can change how we use, generate or transmit power – this could be anything from a solar plant to a residential hot water heater.
The problems we think about are multidisciplinary, so I get to work with a lot of other groups around the company. It’s rewarding to collaborate with experts from every part of the business to design solutions for our customers.
When I was 14, I did a science fair project to determine whether a (theoretical) wind turbine installed in my backyard would meet my family’s energy needs. Unsurprisingly perhaps, it turns out industrial-sized turbines can meet residential demand no problem! My science was a bit questionable, but I’ve been hooked ever since and very focused on how we can use clean energy to mitigate the impact of climate change.
My first step was an undergraduate degree in civil engineering – I wanted to be a part of physically building the better world I imagined. After college, I worked as an energy engineer, designing energy efficient buildings and power plants. I enjoyed it but felt like I could be doing more – I wanted to expand my impact.
I went to grad school at Yale where I got my MBA and Master of Environmental Management, focusing on how we can accelerate the pace of clean technology adoption.
So much of innovation is being told ‘no’ and coming back with a ‘maybe’.
I joined National Grid in February 2020. I work with a lot of different teams and people always come at a problem from different angles. I really love that moment in a heated discussion where we realize we’re in agreement on how to move forward. So much of innovation is being told ‘no’ and coming back with a ‘maybe’. It’s fun to see that hard ‘no’ change!
Building a strategy around clean energy is new and it’s different. It can, in the short term, be more expensive. To justify our programs, we have to be creative and explicit in the benefits we can provide. I really enjoyed our Chief Executive John Pettigrew’s recent webcast ‘We Bring Energy to Life’. It’s wonderful to hear from such a high level that driving a clean energy future is core to our mission.
I’d like to see a global consensus on prioritizing climate change. This extends far beyond clean energy, which I think is one of the more straightforward areas to address. How are we going to continue to sustainably support an ever-increasing population with limited resources? This question isn’t new, but I hope that the COVID-19 crisis will lead to greater respect for science and a focus on planning for the future.
In a way, any job can be a green collar job if you want it to be. I’d encourage everyone to think creatively about how their role impacts the environment. How will your customers be impacted by sea level rise or drought? What influence do you have to incorporate climate change into the discussion? We’re not going to be able to shift our global trajectory without strong leadership from people inside businesses and institutions with good ideas.
I went vegetarian a few years ago and I support the environmental studies curriculum at local middle and high schools. It’s a lot of fun to work with teens – they always have great questions.
While quarantining the past few months, I’ve also rediscovered knitting! I think that it’s a great, low-carbon hobby and flaunting your hand-knit items can be a great reason to turn down the thermostat and save a bit of energy. My next project is knitted hats for all the children of the DER team (sorry to ruin the surprise y’all!).
Cheryl LaFleur is one of my personal heroes. She’s the former Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (also former EVP & acting CEO of National Grid USA). She really understands the ins and outs of the power industry and decided to take that knowledge to the public sector to help create a better future. She’s also been a great advocate for women in the energy sector. I got to see her speak a few years ago and was so impressed with her focus and analysis of the current climate.