Like most of his peers, when Paul Roller was studying meteorology at Texas A&M University, he dreamed of covering the weather in one of the country’s major markets, like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.
But a funny thing happened en route to the big city. Roller interned at CBS affiliate KBTX in College Station, Texas and soon realized the TV business wasn’t for him. So if you’re a trained meteorologist and you’re not going to forecast weather on TV, what exactly do you do?
Well, you still forecast weather: Roller’s “first job out of college” was forecasting weather for a private aviation firm — his forecasts were used to build air-routes for pilots — and today he is the senior meteorologist at Southern California Edison (SCE).
If you are having trouble wrapping your arms around that, you are not alone. When Roller tells people what he does and where he does it, he usually gets strained, quizzical looks.
So what does he do?
“Short-term demand forecasting,” said Roller, who’s joined on staff by a second meteorologist, Nicholas Sette. “Our first (weather) forecast is due at 5 a.m., and it goes into a load forecast that is then sent to the traders on the trade floor.”
Typically, higher temperatures mean higher demand, and higher demand means higher prices. If they can project heavy usage far enough out — he’s responsible for forecasts from one week up to three months — and purchase the energy early enough, when the price and demand are lower ...
“We’re trying to minimize the cost of procuring energy for our customers,” he said simply. “Minimizing the procurement cost helps keep rates down — something customers appreciate.”
In a perfect world, this plan would be great. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, especially when it comes to the weather.
“There’s always something,” he said. “Just last week we had tropical moisture from the remnants of a tropical storm that moved into the area. It kept temperatures up overnight and allowed temperatures during the day to rise about 10 degrees higher than we expected.”
Roller said he has wanted to be a weather forecaster since he was a first-grader in San Antonio, and while his initial dream was diverted a bit, he couldn’t be happier with “what he does” and “where he does it.”
“I love what I’m doing,” he said. “And I like California a lot. L.A. hasn’t grown on me yet, but I love everything around here … the beaches, the mountains … I really like it here.”