Treasurer and Board Member Vijay Betanabhatla: Counting the Money and Helping to Shaping the Educational Agenda

By Peter Kelly-Detwiler - TREIA Storyteller in Residence

By Peter Kelly-Detwiler - TREIA Storyteller in Residence

Vijay Betanabhatla is a busy person, but he’s committed to TREIA’s mission and passionate about renewables.  Volunteering on the board, he comments, “forces you to think outside of your daily job…that’s the best way to learn. That’s why I put my hand up for board member and treasurer.”

He has been in the electric industry for over a dozen years, and cut his teeth on power as a senior engineer at ERCOT before moving into financial and management consulting. He joined the TREIA board early in 2018, where he ably serves as treasurer. Given his background, that role was probably a given, and it’s a huge help to the organization.

Events and Education Are Where the Fun Is

But the lion’s share of his volunteer effort is devoted to chairing the Events and Education (E&E) Committee, because that’s where ideas are shared and much of the value is created for TREIA members.  It’s also where he finds intellectual challenge.

“In the E&E work, it makes you think and ask questions like ‘what are the uses cases for blockchain in energy, or what is the impact of tariffs on solar industry ?’”  To invite experts to speak at webinars and luncheons, ‘you have to be knowledgeable about the topics you want them to speak on. You want to present topics that will shape the future of our industry, so it provides motivation to stay on top of things.”

Breaking Bread with Colleagues in Four Cities

Vijay is working to further expand on the solid foundation the E&E committee has built in previous years. To that end, he and the other 13 members of the E&E committee have set a goal to expand the E&E program both geographically and in number of events, which are composed chiefly of luncheons and webinars.

“One of things we discussed” he comments “was to get more membership from the four largest cities in Texas.  We’ve had a lot of activity here in Austin, but TREIA is Texas based.”

To broaden its exposure and create additional value, the committee has scheduled member lunches in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio this year. The recent Austin event highlighted TREIA members’ activities in helping with the restoration of Puerto Rico’s power grid. An upcoming Austin luncheon will feature work being done by new member Francis Solar at Whisper Valley.  The upcoming luncheon in San Antonio will highlight the City’s Climate Action Plan and the one in Houston will address PACE financing for renewables.

Vijay observes that frequency and consistency of events are both helpful in adding value to the organization, as members come to expect and plan to attend high-quality educational and networking opportunities.

“I’d like to see a monthly luncheon going forward.  That’s when you start getting momentum for an organization.  Where we want to get to is to have a cadence – something that’s on top of people’s mind and they look forward to every month.”

He comments that identifying the topics and speakers is actually relatively easy, given the willingness of committee volunteers to pitch in and the breadth of expertise on the board.

“The people on the committee are all experts on renewables and the emerging technologies.”

Vijay is also excited about the bi-monthly webinars organized by board member Chris Reeder, since they offer more members the ability to participate and learn.

Passion Without Action is One Hand Clapping

Vijay observes that given today’s environmental and energy challenges, there is a tremendous need for individuals to commit to a cause, and actually get things done.

“You see a lot of people in the industry that are “passionate” about renewables” he comments “but you want to take the next step and put that passion into action. Unless you do things, passion gets you nowhere. It is easy to find reasons to shy away from taking additional responsibility.” But if you volunteer and truly commit, he asserts, “you somehow find the time and a way to do it.”

Vijay indicates the reward is well worth the effort, reaching well beyond the opportunity to network and learn. It’s about working and collaborating “with leaders that I looked up to as a rookie when I joined the industry.  Now I get to share  the board with them and get to understand their thinking, their perspectives , and learn how they get things done.”