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Drew Frye

Senior Power Utilization Engineer | Chattanooga

Drew Frye spends his days looking into the future of TVA, working to make that future better. He’s one man who can truly say his job is driving change.  

“I work in the Technology Innovation group,” says Frye, a senior power utilization engineer in Distributed Energy Resources and an expert in electric vehicle transportation. “What we’re doing is working toward an integrated power system: one that is flexible, resilient and connected, so we can optimize how we produce energy, deliver it and help customers use it as efficiently as possible.”

Evolving the Es

As the marketplace evolves, TVA will be called upon to do other things besides just generate electricity. With the growth of electric vehicles and renewable energy—especially residential and commercial solar generation—TVA will have an unprecedented opportunity to become the trusted energy partner of Tennessee Valley power consumers, helping them use energy in new ways.

Frye is a Chattanooga native who has an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering and a graduate degree in power systems engineering. His father worked at TVA for almost 40 years, finishing his career as the general manager of Customer Delivery in the Southeast region.

“We grew up knowing about TVA,” Frye says. “I always understood what they did, but it wasn’t until I started working at TVA that I understood why they did it—the mission of service. I see that what I’m doing in research can really be the evolution of the TVA mission.”

Everyone has access to energy now, Frye says, so his group Is working to evolve it in the best possible way. “It touches all three Es: how we use energy; how we tie to local businesses and save money, helping economic development; and how we do it in a way that impacts the environment less.”

Plugging into the Future

Frye was a key player in the launch of an electric car sharing service in Chattanooga where you can now rent an electric car by the hour or by the day from your cell phone.

“Over 25 percent of all energy consumed in the U.S. is used for transportation; either moving us or our stuff, and it is also the single largest source of pollution because it is almost exclusively through burning fossil fuels,” he explains. “Electrification of transportation can really change the energy equation in the U.S., help improve the environment, and attract jobs and investment to our communities. I’m proud of working on electric transportation initiatives. In the research world, nothing’s promised. You do your best and work on things that matter the most.

“In the Chattanooga electric car sharing fleet, there are stickers on the cars with names, and a couple of the people on the project have cars named after us,” he added. “So one of them says, ‘Hello, my name is Drew.’”

Frye’s group studies the newest technologies in the power industry, including smart thermostats, better batteries and new ways to generate energy efficiently.

“My group is working toward a world where no matter what goes on, no matter how people use energy, TVA understands, sees what’s going on and operates the power system efficiently—this will ensure all consumers get the best deal possible,” he says. “That includes Local Power Companies—how they operate their systems. I’ve probably worked with 20 LPCs in the past few years, installing electric vehicle charging stations, testing plug-in electric bucket trucks with them—partnering on a lot of different things. Outside of EVs, I’ve worked on projects with efficient home construction, smart thermostats, solar power, efficient water heaters for schools and more.”

What Lies Ahead for TVA?

“TVA will continue to make lives better, just in new ways,“ he says “I hope we’re doing a lot more with EVs because that means more people are buying them, more manufacturers are making them—it can be a big part of the evolution of how people use energy in the future.”

Moreover, the delivery dynamic will change. “People will also be making their own electricity, storing it and using it more efficiently,” he explains. “Our role in educating people will be very important: providing tools to help people understand energy better, like sensors that tell you how much you’re using at home and where, and give you the ability to control how much you use and when.”

Frye sees a future in which some things change, but the core mission of TVA stays the same.

“The TVA mission is to make life better for the people of the Valley.” Frye says. “Are we making their lives better if we help them use energy more efficiently? Yes. It’s an evolution of the TVA business. One part may shrink but another part will pick up the slack. If you’re always focused on helping people and making life better, we’ll never run out of work. I’m excited to be a part of that evolution and to see how TVA will make life better for my three-year-old daughter when she’s grown.”

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