Author: Sarah Krieger, communications associate, EPSA
Throughout Women’s History Month, we’re featuring women in the competitive power industry. Our series continues with Jill Davies, Shell Energy’s Senior Vice President of Trading, as she shares years of knowledge, emerging trends and a unique perspective of the competitive power industry.
As Women’s History month continues, we’re sharing stories and advice from women working throughout the competitive power industry.
Competitive wholesale power markets are the most effective tool to achieve our nation’s shared energy, environmental and economic goals – and women play a vital role in bringing the benefits of competition to over 117 million households in America.
Last week, we sat down with Virginia Fuller, chief compliance officer at Competitive Power Ventures, and Alexandra Witteveen, senior associate at Energy Capital Partners. This week, we’re turning to a distinguished senior executive at Shell Energy Americas.
What does a senior vice president of trading do? How does energy trading impact our grid and American homes and businesses? And what’s something everyone should know about competitive power suppliers?
In our latest interview, Shell Energy’s Jill Davies, an EPSA Board member, brings rich experience and a unique perspective to the competitive power industry. She also dives into emerging industry trends and closes with advice for women entering the workforce.
Jill Davies, senior vice president of trading, Shell Energy Americas
Q: What does a senior vice president of trading do? What does a typical day look like?
A: It’s never the same day twice! I am part of a team running a large business across many markets. Trading is an integral part of how we manage our portfolio comprised of gas, power and environmental products. We work with our Upstream partners and our customers as we manage generation, transportation and transmission, storage and our retail businesses. A day might include everything from studying the market fundamentals, trade strategies and positions and proposed regulatory changes to evaluating deals or new customer products. There are also many annual or ad hoc workstreams such as goal setting, creating talent development and succession plans, business continuity plans, budgeting and internal audits.
Q: How does energy trading impact our grid and American homes and businesses?
A: Ultimately customers want affordable, reliable energy which is sustainably sourced and provided. In competitive markets, there are different stakeholders that need help managing market risk. They include large consumers of electricity that want price predictability as well as developers and owners of generation resources that need hedges to build and operate resources. For example, Shell Energy has provided hedges for the development of natural gas-fired and renewable resources which led to their development. We have been a critical ingredient to the development and operation of these resources. This has allowed policymakers to achieve their goals of having developers and firms that have expertise in this area assume market risk – instead of customers.
Customers have benefitted significantly from this model as energy supply costs have been their main consideration for a long time. Now, however, many of our customers have sustainability goals and ambitious targets around lowering their carbon footprint, and we have helped customers understand and manage risk around building portfolios that meet their goals. We look forward to continuing to work with customers who want control over how they build and manage their energy supply portfolios and will work with policymakers to allow this model to continue and flourish.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about your career path and what led you to the role you’re in today?
A: I started my energy career in Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), then moved to Natural Gas, then to Power when I joined Shell in 2016. All three commodities are connected and vital for reliable energy supply. As the world progresses through the energy transition to cleaner fuel sources, gas is increasingly important both in replacing heavier carbon intensity fuels, and also in supporting the growth of renewables to meet the energy demands of consumers and societies. When I moved to Houston almost 20 years ago, I decided to make a career change into the energy sector because I wanted to work with the best and the most talented, experienced professionals who are in the energy hub of Houston. There is a reason why Houston is called the “energy capital of America.” It is a vibrant and dynamic space where people are addressing complex challenges in meeting the nation’s – and the world’s – energy needs. And I wanted to be part of that challenge.
Q: What’s something you wish everyone knew about competitive power suppliers and in general, competitive electricity markets? How do you think competitive power benefits the country?
A: First, I’d want to be sure everyone knew that at Shell we consider safety our number one priority, and we are always striving to operate in a safe and reliable manner. We take our role as a supplier very seriously and we understand that the product we sell is not just another commodity. The public interest is impacted by the performance of suppliers like us as well as grid operators we work with to ensure people have light and heat and the economy can function.
Competition typically drives down the price for end consumers and can help meet their desire to have choice and control over their decisions. When companies compete, they have to constantly improve and be the best at what they do – or they won’t win the consumer’s business. Competition forces companies to meet the needs of consumers and of societies. If companies are forced to compete it ultimately causes efficiency gains in those business models which then drives cost down – but this cannot be at the expense of reliability, because with energy that is the most important priority.
The benefits of competitive wholesale electricity markets, especially in the organized electricity market, are well documented. The electricity markets were designed to treat every megawatt on the system the same with the goal of reducing costs and maintaining reliability standards put in place by reliability coordinators. Competition in power markets improved efficiencies in many ways, and as we decarbonize the power sector, it is our hope that the positive elements of competition such as having developers assume market risk, improvement in performance, development of new and better technologies and solutions for customers will continue.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about your work?
A: I love that every day and every year is different than the last. I love being part of a team that is bringing more and cleaner energy and solutions to the marketplace. I love meeting customers and entering new markets which are evolving and have unique challenges. At Shell Energy, we spend a lot of time thinking about what our markets will look like in the future and how we can successfully participate in those markets. We also examine how we can grow our business and meet the needs of our customers in the future.
Shell is working hard to be a leader in the energy transition, in step with society. So we are doing things like growing our renewable portfolio, which is something about which I have a lot of personal passion.
Each year brings a new set of challenges and opportunities, and the markets are always changing. To be successful, we need the right people, the right assets in the right markets, and we have to manage risk effectively. I enjoy the challenge of working to figure out how to create the best balance of all of those things within my organization.
Q: Are there any current issues or trends you see emerging in competitive power?
A: Electrification of economies, decarbonization, digitization, and more scrutiny and engagement on energy policy. Solving for intermittency challenges to ensure reliability and affordability and better protections of consumers where the risk is managed by those who are best able to do so.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to young women entering the industry, or more broadly, the workforce?
A: Understand your strengths and where you can add value. Always be focused on results. Don’t be scared to try different jobs or change commodities. Ultimately lateral moves build a strong foundation of knowledge and experience and will position you for taking on more responsibility in the future. Be a good team member – always be willing to help others and focus on the team’s and company’s success.
The energy sector is very dynamic and always changing. It is a vital industry which directly impacts people’s lives. A career in the energy industry can be very impactful and rewarding. It is a space where talented people who are creative, analytical, resilient and have good problem-solving skills can thrive.
Meet more women in competitive power:
Competitive Power Ventures’ chief compliance officer Virginia Fuller and Energy Capital Partners’ investment analyst Alexandra Witteveen share how their roles contribute to affordable, reliable and cleaner power grid. Read more in Women in Competitive Power: Part One.
“The energy sector is an exciting and dynamic industry with significant opportunities for women at all stages of their careers.”Virginia Fuller, Competitive Power Ventures
“I strongly believe, and history has shown, that competition is the most effective way to respond to these trends in a way that saves customers money, maintains reliability, spurs innovation, and accelerates environmental progress.”Alexandra Witteveen, Energy Capital Partners
bp’s Tina Chui and Eastern Generation’s Natalia Hernandez are managing major environmental projects and executing power transactions that benefit America’s grid. Learn more in Women in Competitive Power Part Three.
“The people I work with, the unique challenges we face, the vital service we provide are all part of the reasons I do what I do. There is also something sort of magical about the work we do, as people don’t realize what happens in the shadows when they turn on the switch that lights up the room!”Natalia Hernandez, Eastern Generation
“The most rewarding thing about my work at bp is building relationships and learning from a wide range of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences. A big part of what also makes careers rewarding is working with others who motivate and challenge you, and bp constantly challenges me to re-imagine and re-invent.”Tina Chui, bp
Senior Vice President of Asset Management Carolyne Murff is leading the charge for a more diverse and inclusive workforce while also overseeing big changes for the generation fleet at LS Power. She shares what’s ahead as LS meets the needs of an evolving grid in Women in Competitive Power Part Four.
“We need to have a very thoughtful, methodical approach to how we transition our markets into a decarbonized market. And we can do it. In my 30 years in this field, I have never felt the sort of momentum that I feel now.”Carolyne Murff, LS Power
Learn more about other competitive power suppliers like Shell Energy in EPSA’s membership.