Summer 2022 Fellow: Merritt Vassallo, Electrical Engineering BS ‘25

Learn more about Merritt’s experience:

This fellowship is part of a partnership between Stanford in Government, the Precourt Institute for Energy, and the Bill Lane Center for the American West. If you are accepted as a fellow for this office, you will be required to complete a one-unit course on energy in California taught by Professor Bruce Cain and Visiting Fellow Felcia Marcus. 

The fellowships run from Monday, June 24, 2024 to Friday, August 30, 2024. If a potential mentor(s) is listed in the posting, address your cover letter to this person(s).

Program requirement:

Take a one-unit workshop spring course, ‘Energy Policy in California and the West’ taught by Bruce Cain that will provide an in-depth analysis of the role of California state agencies, the Western Interstate Energy Board, and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council in driving energy policy development, technology innovation, and market structures. Course number is CEE 263G / POLISCI 73 / PUBLPOL 73 / ENERGY 73.

Schedule: Wednesdays from 9:30 am – 10:20 am. (Please note: You can only enroll in the course after getting approved for the fellowship and receiving a permission number.) Please refer to the Shultz Energy Fellowships website for the most up-to-date information about the course.

All Shultz fellows must be enrolled in the spring quarter before their fellowship.

Organization/Agency mission or role in state government

The State Water Project (SWP) is one of the largest water and power systems in the world. It is a water storage and delivery system of reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants, and pumping plants extending more than 700 miles—two-thirds the length of California. It conveys, on average, 2.4 million acre-feet of water annually to 29 long-term water contractors serving 27 million customers and 750,000 acres of farmland.  The SWP consists of 21 pumping plants, 8 hydroelectric power plants (includes three pumped storage plants), 25 dams, and 34 reservoirs. This infrastructure includes USA’s highest earth-filled dam (Oroville Dam) and the largest single lift pumps (close to 2000 feet) in the USA, used to move water over the Tehachapi Mountains into southern California. Though the primary purpose of the SWP is water supply, the project produces hydroelectric power to operate pumping facilities required to move water from Northern to Southern California, and also sells power when it generates a surplus of electricity.

The State Water Project – Division of Operations and Maintenance (O&M) – Power Operations Management (POM) is responsible for managing the SWP power portfolio and mitigate risks from climate change and evolving power markets while supporting grid reliability in an environmentally sustainable and regulatory compliant manner to meet SWP water deliveries. POM’s objective is to have a process in place to plan the SWP portfolio of energy resources to ensure reliable, efficient, and cost-effective delivery of water to State Water Contractors. To be able to accomplish these goals POM closely follows and adapts strategies to energy markets’ evolution and market design changes, energy price profiles, renewables development costs, reliability obligations and mandates.

Potential Projects

Conduct study on grid reliability and market volatility as the state transitions to 100% renewable and zero-carbon power grid: California’s clean energy goals, meant to mitigate climate change, have resulted in major changes in the State’s resource mix. With increasing renewable resource integration and retirements of fossil fuel generation the grid’s price trends and reliability needs are continuously evolving. SWP O&M -POM studies current and future power market evolution, its associated risks to SWP’s power market participation, and potential improvements to mitigate identified risks. Examples of potential projects include, but not limited to, enhancements to demand response, market volatility and drivers, and displacement of firm capacity (i.e., Resource Adequacy).


  •  Ryan Wilbur, Manager Power Management and Optimization Section

Desired Skills 

  • Basic knowledge of power engineering and economics
  • Basic knowledge of the CAISO energy market
  • Basic knowledge of California energy and climate policies and Integrated Resource Planning (IRP)
  • Strong written and oral communication skills
  • Quick and eager learner
  • Preferred: Modeling, analytical skills using quantitative analysis and computer software, etc.

Stipend amount


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