SED's 2023 Net Zero Forum/Spring Wrap-Up - Diversified Communications

Commercial, Distributed Energy Resources, GHG Emissions, Industrial, Regulation  -  March 29, 2023

SED's 2023 Net Zero Forum/Spring Wrap-Up

Smart Energy Decisions' spring edition of the Net Zero Forum, held March 15-17 at La Cantera Resort & Spa in San Antonio, Texas,  brought together a community of energy customers and suppliers to develop and execute net zero strategies and other sustainability goals.

“Net Zero Forum Spring showcased just how critical peer learning, up-to-date industry information, and the right vendor relationships are for advancing energy and sustainability professionals’ Net Zero goals,” said Wes Doane, Vice President, Smart Energy Decisions. “It was great to see the connections made between buyers and suppliers throughout the event.”

Among the event highlights:

  • Hundreds of personalized meetings between more than 70 energy and sustainability professionals and #nzf23’s supplier sponsors.
  • 15 Track sessions exploring the challenges around Net Zero strategy, energy efficiency, data collection/management, and more during sessions tailored to Institutions, Manufacturing, Buildings, and Cross-Sector.
  • A dynamic peer-to-peer discussion dedicated to exploring the definition of Net Zero and other industry terms, led by  Peter Kelly-Detwiler, author of "The Energy Switch."
  • Multiple networking events to encourage new connections and meaningful small-group discussions.
  • The 2023 WISE Awards ceremony to celebrate women making strides in advancing the energy transition.

General sessions were held throughout the event. Here are brief recaps of each session:

 Opening Keynote: Heavy Duty Cargo Handling Equipment and SSA Marine’s Movement towards Near and Zero-Emissions
During the opening keynote, Joe Carrillo, Regional Vice President at SSA Marine, explored how the company is advancing its ambitious net-zero emissions goals by modernizing cargo handling through clean transportation. He revealed how they are deploying low- and zero-emissions equipment, “We have a lot of renewable diesel in all the ports where we operate. We do some carbon offsetting. We’re even moving to hybrids with fuel cells and batteries. We also have $54 million in grant funding that we’ve been awarded to move our fleets to zero emissions throughout our network.”


Presenting Sponsor Interview: The Intersection of Energy Market Volatility and Sustainability
Although the energy market is strongly rooted in supply and demand, surprises can and do disrupt its stability, explained Hans Rottman, Senior Manager of Technical Sales at NRG. “I believe that, ultimately, price trends in the market are going to be driven by supply and demand, and while we may have other factors – technical factors, market speculators – that create some noise in the market, the fundamentals of supply and demand will win at the end of the day,” he said. Rottman provided an overview of the factors that can contribute to market volatility – including weather, disasters, changing infrastructures, material discoveries, and government initiatives – and strategies to apply when planning for sustainability and stability.


Realities of Solar for B2B Customers Today
In a discussion with Peter Kelly-Detwiler (right), Author of "The Energy Switch"  Mark Walter (left), Senior Director, of Legislative & Regulatory Affairs at Savion, LLC (a division of the Shell Group) noted how combining solar generation with battery storage translates into value, Walter stated, “Reliability is tantamount. With temperatures getting hotter, it’s becoming more challenging to operate the grid. So, storage solves a lot of that quickly. You can permit and construct storage and begin operation on storage faster than you can a transmission line or a new type of generator. That is the immediate value to the grid and to the customer.”


WISE (Women in Smart Energy) Panel
In a panel discussion led by Debra Chanil (far right), Director of Editorial and Research at Smart Energy Decisions, winners of the second annual Women in Smart Energy (WISE) Awards shared their perspectives, insights, and experiences in industry leadership.

Kate Peterson (far left), V2X Program Manager at General Motors and a recipient of the Rising Star Award spoke on developing talent by creating allowable paths. “Waiting to see if your employees have that initiative and drive to find those new spaces is OK, but if you can encourage and open that doorway for them and create that allowable path to give them new experiences, knowing that it's going to be investing further in your company's future … it can be a huge jump for both that individual and the company,” Peterson shared.

“When we think of mentorship, we tend to think, ‘There's some person with experience, and they're mentoring somebody who has less experience,’” stated Kulsoom Khan (middle left), Energy Efficiency Manager at Congebec, Inc., and recipient of the Mentorship Award. Khan shared insights on mentorship and its multidirectional benefits. “Sometimes, I'm teaching things to people who are my management, my seniors, and they have many, many years of experience, but something comes across the table, and they say, ‘Oh, this is brand new information, brand new technology!’ I'm teaching them something new, and they feel inspired by me.”

Discussing the skills that brought her a Leadership Award, Ibolya Yolas (middle right), VP, of Campus Planning and Facilities at Pace University noted, "Listening skills are really important - and perhaps they are underrated. As a leader, I pride myself on being an active listener. When you are trying to get a project approved, you need to listen and understand what is important to your own leadership and to board members. Working in a university, I also need to listen and understand what is important to our students." Her advice: "Develop those listening skills and be true to yourself. Be honest if you don't know something and be clear about where you are coming from." 


Top 3 Clean Energy Myths Busted: How You Can Achieve an Economically Sustainable Business

Among the myths tackled by Jessica Johnson, Project Director, Renewable Origination, and her colleagues at NextEra Energy Resources, is that renewables are expensive.  "If you were in the market two years ago, that $18 wind project is now probably trending between $30 and $35." And yet, she noted, "There are still a lot of projects out there that are cost-neutral or NPV slightly positive. Those are the ones you'll want to look for when submitting your RFP. " She also advised, "If you are already thinking about purchasing RECs, you are looking at millions of dollars. If you opt instead for a VPPA, you'll have a cost-neutral project and you get those RECs basically for free."



 Sustainability & the City of Atlanta
Chandra Farley, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Atlanta shared her experience on viewing sustainability through an environmental justice framework, the importance of public-private partnerships, and the value of "positive pressure." She specifically addressed how the City of Atlanta has accelerated its clean energy transition along with the undercurrents of equity and racial justice. “How do we really make sure that when we say 100% clean energy for the city of Atlanta, that it means 100% of Atlantans?” she challenged. “If we are always asking ourselves the question of who benefits and having a real conversation around who's missing from this table … then we're able to really push forward in making sure our partnerships are as strong as possible.”


Getting Creative to Make Net Zero Pencil
The sustainable warehouse was in the spotlight as Chris Thurston, Director, Energy & Sustainability at Lineage Logistics described how his company got creative. “Being a physical asset-focused company, we thought: ‘Why not make our sustainability approach physically focused?’ Our strategy is to take a physical approach to net zero, where you see our buildings’ sustainability in action, beyond the solar panels, to every other carbon-emitting source. When we think about the physical approach, it starts with having the most energy-efficient assets in the world.”



 On the Radar Screen – Emerging Trends and Technologies to Watch
In his closing keynote, Peter Kelly-Detwiler returned to the stage to provide an overview of current trends and technologies influencing the clean energy transformation. “There’s a lot of money about to head our way, with both the bipartisan infrastructure law and the IRA,” he said. From nuclear and hydrogen to carbon capture and biofuels, Detwiler offered a glance into the near future based on emerging technologies. “This might seem like Jules Verne looking out in the future, but let me remind you that in 2009, the amount of installed solar in the U.S. was 1,000 megawatts. Now we're roughly close to 80,000 megawatts for utility-scale, and another 25,000 sitting on people's rooftops and factories So, things that seem improbable, sometimes tailwinds hit them and they scale up really, really fast."


Smart Energy Decisions' next event is the 2023 Renewable Energy Forum, set for June 5-7 at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Registration for energy customers is limited; click here for more information. Suppliers interested in sponsoring can get sponsorship information here.

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