Mary Johnson

HERWorld18: The DOE's Carol Battershell on energy, progress and exploration

Blog Post created by Mary Johnson on Mar 3, 2018

Carol Battershell cartoonCarol Battershell is principal deputy director in the Office of Policy at the U.S. Department of Energy, one of the Agency’s most senior executives. At the DOE, she has led multibillion-dollar technical programs. She ran the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy field operations office, which at its peak was responsible for approximately $7 billion of grants, research and construction. And she was a key contributor on two multi-agency energy policy reviews.


Suffice it say, she’s kind of a big deal.


That’s why we’re thrilled Carol will speak at HERWorld Energy Forum in Houston on March 8 (Get your tickets here!). Until then, read our interview below to learn a little bit more about this incredible woman in energy.


Q: Tell me about your first job in energy. How did you get interested in this sector?


I started as an environmental engineer in a refinery in my home state of Ohio. I came into energy through my interest in the environment: There were summers when we couldn’t swim in Lake Erie because it was too polluted). I have stayed in energy for 35 years because energy is the most fascinating area I have every encountered — essential to our way of life, impacts GDP, big part of geopolitics, highly technical, related to national security.


Q: Tell me about your role now? How has your career brought you to this position?  


I am the deputy of the Policy Office in the Department of Energy. I worked 25 years in industry in conventional and alternative energy. I saw how the lack of regulatory certainty and policies that really understood the industry could hurt companies. Now I work on “all of the above” energy policy for the U.S.


Q: Our theme for HERWorld — and really for 2018 as a whole — is about GRIT: growth, resilience, innovation and transition. What does GRIT mean for you?


I have been thinking a lot recently about the word “resilient” and energy. The people working in energy need to be adaptive and resilient as technology advances and energy discoveries continually change the comparative prices and geography of the primary energy portfolio. This also relates to energy infrastructure, which needs to be reliable and resilient as it is exposed to extreme weather and cyber threats.


Q: What excites you about energy now? And what are the biggest challenges the industry is facing, in your view?


I am usually excited about the biggest challenge so same answer for both. I am energized to be working on understanding digitization opportunities for the industry, as well as the cyber security threats they pose.


Q: What’s been the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?


As a leader, you should learn and adapt to how each of your staff needs to be managed and motivated. You should not expect all of your team to adapt to the one management style you prefer.


Q: What’s been the biggest personal challenge you’ve faced in your career?


I change jobs frequently. I find people know you for what you are doing right now. I have started over with nearly a blank slate again and again in new cities, new countries, new functions and new sectors. Learning a brand new job takes effort and determination; but I really enjoy that learning. Re-establishing a track record and credibility for expertise and competence, however, is very challenging (especially when you are female).


Q: What are your thoughts on the state of women in energy now, in 2018? What excites you about our progress, and what continues to hold women back?


I am excited about the progress I have seen over my 35-year career. There are many more women in the energy field, which shows an improvement. And just the presence of more women, for me, improves the work environment. An area I see for further progress is bringing more men into helping and seeing that issues like diversity and work-life balance are important for them, too.


Q: Tell us something about who you are outside your career. Any driving passions that define you?


I think I am an explorer.  I love the world — how the cultures, landscapes and animals vary. I have visited over 40 countries. And over the last several years, I have started exploring a new part of the world — under the sea. I am leaving in mid-March for a week with whales, giant mantas and sharks.