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May 21, 2021

Weathering the Storm: How Meteorologists Help AEP Deliver Reliable and Affordable Energy

“Typically when you tell someone you’re a meteorologist, the first question they ask is, ‘What news station do you work at?’,” said Meghan Klee.

But you won’t see Klee forecasting weather on the evening news. She’s the manager of American Electric Power’s meteorology department, a three-person team that helps AEP deliver reliable and affordable energy to customers. 

On Friday, May 7, AEP hosted “Weather, Science & Power: How AEP meteorologists keep your electricity on” through LinkedIn live. The event was part of COSI’s Science Festival, which was held virtually this year due to COVID-19. Watch the replay on LinkedIn.

AEP’s meteorologists talked about the importance of weather forecasting for an energy company, what types of weather often impact AEP and tips for those considering a career in meteorology.

Klee explained weather is a big driver of energy demand and consumption, referred to as “load” in the industry. The temperature outside influences how customers use their heating or cooling systems, which can use the most energy in homes or businesses. Weather forecasting helps the company generate, buy, sell and move the appropriate amount of electricity at the right time.

Marcus Smith, a senior meteorologist, said that when his team produces accurate day-ahead hourly forecasts that influence load models, they help AEP save millions of dollars annually, which translates into savings for customers.

“The thing that satisfies me the most about working at AEP as a meteorologist is using my training and experience to make these different forecasts to help save our customers money,” added Ed Kieser, also a senior meteorologist.

Kieser said another crucial part of their job is forecasting damaging storms. Through predicting the timing and severity of storms, the team can help the company make critical decisions to get resources in place in advance to speed up restoration efforts. AEP meteorologists work directly with storm coordinators along with mutual assistance teams to allocate and stage crews and equipment.

AEP’s diverse 11-state footprint faces everything from ice storms, which can be especially damaging to power lines and other equipment, to high wind events, like derechos, to hurricanes and tropical storms. Approximately 65% of significant outages created by weather are caused by strong to severe thunderstorms.

All three of AEP’s meteorologists said they were weather enthusiasts at a young age.

“Watching meteorologists on TV talk through storms to help people prepare for them made me interested in doing the same thing,” said Smith. “Really what I wanted to do was make a difference, and I feel like I’m doing that here at AEP.”

Smith advised aspiring meteorologists to be humble and keep up with advances in technology, while Kieser suggested exploring internships and job shadowing to get hands-on experience. Klee encouraged those interested in the field not to get discouraged by struggling in high-level math and science classes.

“I had to take Calculus 2 twice to move on,” she said. “Reach out to classmates and tutors for help. Don’t let others talk you out of getting a degree in meteorology.”

Kieser said he initially thought he would pursue a role on TV, radio or with the National Weather Service, but quickly learned there’s more to meteorology.

“Once you get into the field, you realize there are so many other interesting opportunities. Now I’m here at AEP, and I love it,” Kieser said.

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