Meet Sonoma Clean Power's Rachel Kuykendall, one of North Bay Business Journal's 2019 Forty Under 40
Rachel Kuykendall, 32, senior programs manager, Sonoma Clean Power in Santa Rosa, is one of North Bay Business Journal's Forty Under 40 notable young professionals for 2019.
Responsibilities with your company: I serve as senior programs manager at Sonoma Clean Power and am responsible for design and implementation of programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support affordable energy for Sonoma Clean Power customers. Manages Sonoma Clean Power's aggregated demand response offering, GridSavvy, which leverages residential electric vehicle charging stations, commercial and industrial battery storage, heat pump water heaters, and smart thermostats to shape Sonoma Clean Power customer load to match supply.
Collaborated with PG&E and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to design and implement the Advanced Energy Rebuild program, which offers incentives to homeowners rebuilding all-electric carbon free homes after the November 2017 firestorms. Wrote and was awarded $9.9 million in California Energy Commission EPIC grant funding (GFO 17-304) for establishing a physical Energy Marketplace where Sonoma Clean Power customers can directly procure energy efficiency and fuel switching technologies. Helps support and manage Sonoma Clean Power's Drive EV program, which has deployed over 1,000 electric vehicles and over 2,000 residential EVSEs to SCP customers.
How do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty Under 40 professional?: I challenge traditional utility business models by bringing carbon-reducing programs... like the Advanced Energy Rebuild effort... to Sonoma and Mendocino residents.
Years with company: 2
Length of time in current position: 2 months
Greatest professional accomplishment: After the 2017 fires, I worked with PG&E and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to set up a program providing up to $17,500 in incentives to Sonoma and Mendocino county residents that were rebuilding their homes.
Each of the participating organizations has their own unique goals and regulatory challenges, and it was incredible rewarding to steer the program design process for what would become Advanced Energy Rebuild. I worked hard to create a program that was accessible to homeowners who may know very little about energy efficiency and to reach compromise between the three organizations on program design features.
Greatest professional challenge: I have a tendency to involve myself in every project because I like being able to contribute to multiple projects. As I've gotten older, I've tried to discipline myself to delegate and focus more strategically and long term.
Best advice received: There is no one brand of leadership, so lean into the unique person that you are.
Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: We just had our first homeowner finish rebuilding their home in November, and he invited me to his housewarming party. It was amazing to see the impact of the $17,500 first-hand. That homeowner is now taking the lessons he learned and helping his neighbors rebuild.
What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?: Sonoma Clean Power is great about separating work from personal life. It's the first company I've worked for where everyone is out the door by 5 PM from the CEO to the interns. While we work extremely hard, emphasis is put on valuing employees by encouraging reasonable hours, vacations, and work/life balance.
Next professional goal: My career is all about finding ways to reduce local carbon emissions. I'd like to spend the next year tackling emissions in existing buildings and in transportation. For existing buildings, our team is working to open a physical storefront where homeowners can test and buy discounted energy efficiency technologies like heat pumps and induction cooktops. For transportation, I want to focus on how to provide more electric vehicles to low-income markets, as these customers are often disproportionately affected by climate change.
Education: B.A. in architecture, University of California at Berkeley
Hometown: Walnut Creek
Community/nonprofit activities: Since high school, I've been actively volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. There's something very satisfying about being able to see your volunteer hours come to life in the form of a home. I also recently got involved with my local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program. I love feeling like I may be able to provide basic medical and search and rescue support to my local community during the next natural disasters.
Mentor/admired businessperson: I'm a fan of Kim Scott, who wrote “Radical Candor.” I also owe a lot to the supervisors throughout my career; Andy Brooks, Nick Dirr, Geof Syphers, Cordel Stillman, that have challenged me and helped inspire me to lead with kindness.
What is your most disliked buzzword?: Low hanging fruit
Typical day at the office: My time is split between moving forward new initiatives with contracting and program design, maintaining current programs with our outside vendors, and meeting with our customers, outside contractors, and staff.
Best place to work outside of your office: I've started to work from home one day a week and generally find myself cuddled up with my French Bulldog puppy on the couch.
Hobbies: I love hiking and backpacking, and recently got back into yoga. One of my goals for this year is to be able to do a yoga handstand (ideally without falling on my face).
What you wanted to be when you grew up?: My first dream job was a veterinarian. That changed quickly when I realized I didn't like either blood or needles.
No. 1 thing you want to accomplish by the time you turn 40: Write a book
First job: Ride operator at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Social media you most use: LinkedIn for work-related browsing and Facebook for personal use.
Favorite book: I'm an avid reader of both fiction and nonfiction, but one of the books I always come back to is “The Little Prince.” This also has personal significance to me, as my husband and I used a passage from “The Little Prince” as one of our wedding readings. My favorite books that I read in the last year were: “A Path Appears,” “There There, Merchants of Doubt,” and “The Remains of the Day.”
Favorite movie: “The Labyrinth”
Favorite after-work drink: A good IPA or cider. My local favorite is the 3rd Street Aleworks Bodega Head IPA.
Last vacation: Spain
What does your mom or dad brag most about you?: I went straight to the source for this one. My mom said she's proud that I'm saving the world through green energy and my dad said he admires my compassion, productivity, and persistence.
Favorite app: With a long commute, I use the podcasts app daily. My current playlist includes: 99% Invisible, Ologies, Planet Money, Ask Me Another, and Forever 35.