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Juggling Energy Trades in Real Time

  • Jane Almeida BA ’19

Jane Almeida BA ’19

Jane Almeida monitors eight large computer screens stacked two high and four across as she sips an iced coffee at her curved desk.

Each screen is open to a different application that supports the economical and reliable operation of Arizona’s energy grid.

“One of the applications tracks outages for every generator in our fleet, one tracks energy being generated, and one helps me manage the natural gas position,” she says. “My job has lots of moving parts that can go haywire in an instant. Being able to quickly jump between tasks is important.”

Almeida is a real-time energy trader at the Arizona Public Service Company in Phoenix. The company owns seven natural gas-fueled plants with access to an eighth during hot summer months.

A curious self-starter who thrives on challenge, Almeida landed her high-powered job right out of college. She set the tone for her career path while at Lewis & Clark, where she majored in economics and minored in computer science and environmental studies.

“Jane was one of those dream students who initiates contact with faculty and staff early in her time at L&C,” says Amy Dvorak, director of sustainability. “She knew what she wanted and worked hard—and smart—to make it a reality. I hold her up as a model of how the liberal arts, combined with hands-on experience, creates great opportunities for our students.”

Almeida’s interest in energy developed organically over time. Her dad, Keoni Almeida, works for California Independent System Operator, a nonprofit public benefit corporation that manages the flow of electricity across high-voltage long-distance power lines in California. On family road trips, he would point out how transmission lines followed the highways.

During her first semester at Lewis & Clark, she knocked on Dvorak’s door to get acquainted and ask for projects to tackle. “Amy’s really focused on giving students real-world experiences. She’s amazing,” says Almeida. “She encouraged me to do independent research and report back to explain what I’d learned.”

Thriving under Dvorak’s guidance, Almeida landed a total of five energy-related internships, including two at Portland General Electric and one at Innogy Innovation Hub in London.

In addition, she chaired L&C’s Renewable Energy Fee Fund Committee, which included researching and purchasing renewable energy and carbon offsets for the college. The committee also allocates surplus funds to several student renewable energy projects per year. Under Almeida’s leadership, the funds went to a solar energy project in Cuba; a battery and solar installation project in Malaysia; and an internship that focused on solar installations and land management in eastern Oregon.

“Money to fund student projects is one of the most important components of the fund,” says Almeida. “Students write grants and undergo the review and approval process—experiences they can put on a resume.”

Because Almeida has always been interested in the operational side of the energy industry, she gravitated to an economics class taught by Moriah Bostian, associate professor and chair of economics, during her first year at L&C. “Moriah was a great mentor,” says Almeida. “She helped me understand and articulate how economics drives operations, making it easy to pitch myself in internship and job interviews.”

Almeida says that studying at L&C allowed her to grow and stretch in several directions at once. “As a real-time trader, I need to reference different types of thinking and quickly execute tasks,” she says. “I also learned patience by accepting environmental realities while believing things can change for the better.”

When it comes to future career plans, she says the possibilities are nearly endless, from day-ahead trading to resource acquisition to management of utility generation portfolios.

“I’m still in the honeymoon phase of my first job,” she says. “But the door is wide open. My future job may not even exist yet.”

—by Pattie Pace

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