Advanced Energy recently honored Kitt Butler for his 20 years of work at the company. Kitt started his career in the textile industry, primarily in sales, and received a degree in textile management from North Carolina State University. After moving back to the Triangle, though, he was looking for something closer to home.
When Kitt joined Advanced Energy in 1997, the company had been undergoing change. Advanced Energy was exploring possibilities outside of North Carolina and sought someone to help market its industrial services. With Kitt’s background in sales, he seemed like a great fit, and he joined as the industrial sales manager. Kitt did not stay in that role long, however, as the company determined that having a full-time account manager for its largest stakeholder, Duke Power (now Duke Energy), was needed. This position was a great learning experience for Kitt; it allowed him to gain an understanding of how utilities function and interact with their customers. In the early 2000s, Kitt transitioned once again, this time settling in with the motors and drives team.
Over the past 1.5 decades, Kitt has managed Advanced Energy’s motors and drives work and lab, which is currently staffed by three motor and drive engineers and two rotating engineering co-op students. With Kitt at the helm of this program, Advanced Energy has tested thousands of motors and drives and provided trainings and resources to customers across the globe, helping ensure motor driven systems are reliable and energy efficient. “Under Kitt’s leadership, our motors and drives lab has become recognized internationally for the quality of service provided,” noted Brian Coble, senior vice president at Advanced Energy.
The most recent stop for Kitt has been in business development, and in 2016, Kitt added business development director to his responsibilities. He now has an additional team of two salespeople with support from Advanced Energy’s administrative and communications groups. This position allows Kitt to apply his background in marketing and sales to help sell all that Advanced Energy has to offer. Kitt had been interested in pursuing this type of role for many years and is excited about this next phase in his career at Advanced Energy.
Kitt identified the following milestones as highlights in his Advanced Energy career.
U.S. Department of Energy Rulemaking Process
Even before Kitt arrived at Advanced Energy, the company was contributing to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) notice of proposed rulemaking, and this role has continued during Kitt’s tenure. In particular, Advanced Energy has worked in the development of minimum efficiency performance standards (MEPS) in the United States and abroad. The U.S. standards specify the minimum level of energy performance that an electric motor must meet before it can be used in appliances and equipment, and they initially went into effect in 1997, the same year Kitt joined Advanced Energy. Advanced Energy’s duties have included advising, consulting, developing new test methods for motors and drives, assisting manufacturers with compliance, and enforcing these U.S. regulations.
This work has made a significant impact on the motors and drives industry, and Kitt and Advanced Energy continue to advise the DOE as rules expand to cover more and more motor types. The DOE estimates that new and amended standards going into effect can produce lifetime savings for electric motors of 7 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) over a 30-year period. Seven quadrillion Btu of savings are equal to powering more than 185 million average U.S. homes for an entire year, or avoiding the CO2 emissions of approximately 375 coal-fired power plants running for a year. “The Advanced Energy team has stayed committed to the DOE MEPS process since they started, and to have had a role in achieving these types of savings is extremely rewarding,” stated Kitt.
Developing a Motor Repair Program
In the late 1990s at Advanced Energy, Kitt and his coworkers envisioned and started a third-party quality assurance program for motor repair, now known as the Proven Efficiency Verification (PEV) program. Initially, the industry did not appreciate the need for such work, but it has caught on with a large audience in recent years. In 2014, the Electrical Apparatus Service Association (EASA) launched its own accreditation program, and Advanced Energy is one of just four corporations worldwide to be sanctioned by EASA as a third-party auditor for this program. “It is extremely rewarding to see an entire industry finally adopt ideas we had been pushing for many years and work to bring quality to the forefront,” noted Kitt. “Maintaining motor efficiency during repair will save huge amounts of energy and make a significant impact in the long run for all of us.”
Kitt’s work over the past two decades has allowed him to travel across the world to promote Advanced Energy’s abilities and share insights and research. He has had the opportunity to visit places such as Canada, Korea, Japan, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Italy and China, and this global component has given Kitt a new perspective on and appreciation for the work he has been a part of. The rest of the world follows America’s lead when it comes to motor MEPS, and with Kitt having been involved since these regulations started, he is often asked to help on a global scale.
Working with the People at Advanced Energy and Beyond
Kitt has a tremendous amount of respect for the people he has worked with throughout his time at Advanced Energy, including those on the board of directors and at the company more broadly. He also has cherished the relationships he has formed with customers and clients, many of whom continue to stay in touch, “even the retired ones,” Kitt added.
Kitt also praised his collaborators in the motors and drives lab and the unique perspectives and capabilities they have brought. “We have an incredible team in our motors and drives lab that has been together for many years. They are the technical experts that earn the respect of our key stakeholders and customers. I am proud to have had a hand in building this team and in helping bring to them a customer service focus. My job now is to support them and get out of their way,” noted Kitt.
One particular aspect Kitt is proud of is Advanced Energy’s participation in North Carolina State University’s Cooperative Education Program. This program gives students the opportunity to join the motors and drives lab and gain hands-on experience for up to three semesters. The people who come through the lab are always eager to learn and produce, and many remain in contact even years down the road. Kitt elaborated, “After 15 years of utilizing students in our lab, I have been to weddings, seen families start and helped many get their first jobs. When anyone questions the youth of America, I can tell them firsthand not to worry; we’re in great hands for the future.”
Next Steps and Future Challenges
Looking ahead, Kitt outlined some challenges facing Advanced Energy and the energy industry more generally.
Generation Mix Changes
Electric generation is changing: Traditionally, power has come from large, centrally located plants, but with the rise of distributed generation and renewable energy, electricity is being generated closer to end uses. This shift is affecting our grid structure and how utilities embrace and capitalize on new opportunities. The continued growth of electric transportation and solar power poses new challenges but offers exciting possibilities in areas such as storage.
With the changing grid come new needs for Advanced Energy’s member utilities. They will be looking more at the possibilities and potential of technologies such as renewables, battery storage, distributed generation and electric vehicles. It will be critical for Advanced Energy to be flexible and able to adapt to these developments as member needs change. Fortunately, Advanced Energy has a long history of working with investor-owned utilities and electric cooperatives both in North Carolina and across the U.S. Every utility has unique needs based on the geographical territories they serve, the economics of generation and delivery in their respective service territories, and the variety of customer types they serve. Advanced Energy’s job is to help them understand the possibilities and assist with the development and delivery of programs that save energy and have a lasting impact.
Much has changed in the world of energy in the past 20 years, and Kitt has been there every step of the way, using his experience, knowledge and skills to tackle many exciting developments. “Kitt’s enthusiasm for working with industry to find practical solutions to their needs is what’s driven his success with Advanced Energy,” emphasized Brian Coble. Please join us in congratulating Kitt on this big milestone!