Net Zero Forum Fall 2023 Wrap-up - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, GHG Emissions, Microgrids, Regulation  -  October 2, 2023

2023 Net Zero Forum Fall Wrap-up

The Net Zero Forum Fall event once again gathered Smart Energy Decisions’ community of energy customers, suppliers, and industry experts to participate in educational sessions, 1:1 meetings, and networking opportunities, all with the goal of helping energy customers create and implement Net Zero and other sustainability strategies for their organizations. The event was held September 19-20 at the Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix.

“The level of participation and collaboration among our attendees has been impressive to see,” said Wes Doane, Vice President of Smart Energy Decisions. “Through our exclusive content and educational sessions, one-to-one business planning meetings, and networking opportunities, we’re excited to see the growth of the SED community.”

The event kicked off with the pre-conference, “Destination: Net Zero,” a boot camp-style workshop that provided comprehensive, interactive onboarding to fundamental Net Zero concepts, strategies, and tactics for energy customers looking to support or lead change in their organization.

The official opening offered two separate Peer-to-Peer Conversations, the popular energy customer-only session and a new opportunity for sponsors to share industry challenges and solutions.

In addition to a series of keynotes, Net Zero Forum (NZF) featured 16 Spotlight Sessions on a variety of industry topics presented in smaller settings to allow for more interaction among subject matter practitioners, industry experts, and energy customers.

SED’s DEI Impact Awards were celebrated at a special breakfast presentation sponsored by NRG. Award winners in the categories of Project/Initiative, Team, Mentorship, Catalyst for Change, Pay it Forward, Partnership, and One to Watch were called to the stage to accept their awards in recognition of their efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion in clean energy.

NZF also featured a podcast booth, where interviews with attendees were recorded. “Heard at NZF” will be featured on the Smart Energy Voices podcast in the coming months.

As always, the heart of the Net Zero Forum was the hundreds of one-to-one business planning meetings between energy customers and suppliers. These consultative sessions offer both parties the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas that could lead to developing strategies and projects together.

The event closed with a thought-provoking “Ask the Experts” session led by Joby Carlson, independent management consultant; Peter Kelly-Detwiler, Principal, NorthBridge Energy Partners LLC; and SED’s Wes Doane.

 Following are brief highlights from the Net Zero Forum’s keynote presentations:

 Opening Keynote: Balancing Profitability and Sustainability at IKEA

Noting IKEA’s major focus on becoming a circular and climate-positive company, Adrian Avino, Engineer US Cluster, North America Real Estate, IKEA Property Inc., offered his perspective on meeting this goal from a real estate perspective to provide a better understanding of how IKEA has increased its energy efficiency improvements.

Avino opened his keynote with a photo tour of IKEA projects around the U.S. “Our preferred solutions are the carports,” he explained. “They really show our commitment to sustainability to our customers, and in sunny areas, they also provide shade, a quantifiable variable where we also see great success from a marketing perspective.”

Avino also showcased examples of the company’s newly inaugurated net-zero-energy building in Presenting a series of battery energy storage systems currently being implemented, Avino said, “I strived to get sexy pictures of batteries, but what's really sexy about the battery is the super intelligence behind it. It uses artificial intelligence to predict and forecast weather models using algorithms to tag into the utility grid and optimize the shape of peak demand production.” The company has implemented a series of one- and two-megawatt battery systems, mostly in California and other states that have demand response programs.


Future-Proofing Sustainability: How to Thrive Amidst Changing Protocols

In a conversation with Peter Kelly-Detwiler, NRG’s Greg Kandankulam, Director, Sustainability Advisory, discussed the discernible shift in emphasis on renewable energy toward carbon. “Ten or 15 years ago, we saw the first commitments that were being made were for renewable energy. RE100 was what a lot of people hung their hats on. Now, with SBTi and pending SEC rules on climate disclosures, there has been a shift to recognizing carbon as most detrimental to planetary warming. It makes sense that we’ve moved from renewables, which is primarily a Scope 2 conversation, to an overarching carbon conversation that gets to Scope 1 through Scope 3.”


Sustainability, Reliability, and Security While Managing Costs – a View from Microsoft & Constellation

 With a checklist of key issues for energy customers including reliability, security, electrification, and availability of resources — and noting Microsoft’s rapid growth, particularly in data centers — Chuck Hanna, Vice President, National Accounts, Constellation, kicked off this conversation by asking about the company’s energy and sustainability plans in a rapidly changing environment. 

“We've been trying to look at this as a mix of challenges and opportunity,” noted Michelle Lancaster, Global Sustainability Strategy and GTM Leader at Microsoft. “Our data centers are in business because everyone is using more data storage than ever, and everyone is investigating AI. That’s good news for our business, but it creates new challenges for us. Data center companies are facing all sorts of challenges based on our electricity load.” She continued, “We are trying to manage our overall impact with supply-side renewable energy purchases, along with some changes in the way we run our operations.”

Discussing the importance of reliability, she said, “We rely in our business on the ‘five nines,’ which means that your access to your data in any Microsoft data center should be available 99.999% of the time. That means that we have no tolerance for any latency, any disruption at all.” To meet this challenge of reliability, Microsoft has adopted the “Three Rs”: redundancy, resources, and reduction. Lancaster explained, “The more efficient we make the code, the more secure it is, and that also means we use less carbon.” 

Achieving Renewable Solutions for Retail Power Consumption

In 2018, only 10% of T-Mobile’s energy came from renewables — with a goal to hit 100% by 2021. Complicating this target was the 2020 merger with Sprint, which doubled the company’s size.

Don Wong, Sourcing Manager, Energy & Sustainability, T-Mobile, reported that the company achieved its 2021 goal, but as it continues to grow, challenges also continue. “Back when I started, 3G was the thing. Then we introduced 4G, and now we are up to 5G. Every time we increase, we’re using more energy. As we gain more customers, we use more energy. We’ve used a variety of approaches to meet this challenge.” Of working with Shell, he said, “We've had multiple discussions over the years just to say, ‘What are some new products that you can bring to the market?’”

David Visneau, Chief Commercial Officer, Shell Energy Solutions shared, “T-Mobile knows what they want, which is somewhat unique in the space — especially as we get into something like renewable power, which is relatively new. The acceleration in the last five years has been significant. I've been in the industry for 23 years, and for the first 15 years, this was something we talked about that was fun and cool, but it was always something that was coming. Well, it is here now, and everybody wants it at the same time. If you don't know specifically what you want, there is a lot to sift through, so having tight communications in a partnership lets us bring solutions that help T-Mobile meet its goals through multiple renewables technologies.”


Get ready for Smart Energy Decisions’ 2024 Events!

Net Zero Spring: The Woodlands, Texas, February 27-28

Renewable Energy Forum: Aventura, Florida, June 12-14

Net Zero Forum Fall: Westminster, Colorado, September 17-18



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