2024 Net Zero Forum Spring Wrap-UP - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Efficiency, GHG Emissions, Sourcing Renewables  -  March 13, 2024

2024 Net Zero Forum Spring Wrap-up

Net Zero Forum Spring once again gathered Smart Energy Decisions’ community of energy customers, solution providers and industry experts to deliver qualified connections, up-to-date information, and real-world inspiration to energy, sustainability and facility professionals pursuing emissions reduction targets. The event was held in February at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in The Woodlands, Texas.

The centerpiece of the Net Zero Forum was more than 300 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.

In addition to a series of keynotes, Net Zero Forum featured 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. A new “Ask the Experts” series featured seven industry leaders, including energy customers and advisors, who fielded audience questions on a variety of topics. 

The Forum began with a pre-conference workshop, “Destination: Net Zero,” which provided comprehensive, interactive onboarding to fundamental Net Zero concepts, strategies tactics for energy customers looking to support or lead change in their organization.

A variety of networking opportunities were offered throughout Net Zero Forum, including separate Peer-to-Peer discussions for energy customers and sponsors that allowed them to share industry challenges and potential solutions.

Here are a few brief highlights from the Net Zero Forum’s keynote presentations:

"What’s Old, New and Next for Hourly Carbon-free Matching Products?"

In describing the long-term vision of 24-7 procurement strategies to make it possible for organizations of all sizes to buy carbon-free energy, Katie Soroye, Vice President of Granular Procurement Solutions at LevelTen Energy, explains: "We’re working to create a market for granular certificates. That’s an energy attribute certificate that's stamped with time and location information so we're able to address more elegantly where we may have gaps in the market today. Absent that, the solution is to over-procure, which is certainly not the most cost-effective path forward."

"There are definitely some policy tailwinds that bear on the development of these types of procurement strategies," said Brian Megali, Director of Clean Energy Policy at Constellation. "There is an executive order directing the federal government to procure 100% Clean Energy for its own loads by 2030, and half of that procurement must be hourly matched." He also discussed a proposed federal clean hydrogen procurement bill that calls for hourly matching.

On developments at the state level, Megali shared, "The way RPS (Renewable Procurement Standards) are currently structured, it's an annual matching requirement, but we see some discussions happening in states like Maryland and Massachusetts, where policymakers are looking to refine those procurements to better align the types of resources that they're getting for the ratepayers in their states."

"This procurement strategy (of hourly carbon-free matching) is not meant to be something that's only accessible to the most deep-pocketed, well-resourced and well-funded organizations," added Chuck Hanna, Vice President of National Accounts and Solutions Sales at Constellation. "If we're talking about matching and ensuring that the clean energy that's brought onto the grid matches the load that exists on the grid, it has to be a profile that is representative of the broader grid. (As this develops) we’ll bring these types of solutions in a broader fashion to a wider swath of customers. This is meant to be achievable and accessible to everyone."


The Decarbonization Journey Begins with Energy Efficiency

While energy efficiency is not the only key to decarbonization, it does offer a lot of advantages, said Sharon L. Nolen, Fellow, Global Natural Resource Management at Eastman Chemical Company. "Higher energy demands typically lead to more expensive equipment, and some solutions that may be available at a smaller scale may not be available at the larger scale needed by industrial users,” she said. “Also, if you're operating at a lower demand, you can often extend the life of your existing assets; so we believe when you do energy efficiency first, you're not only reducing your demand and saving money now, but you're making those future decisions with larger solutions simpler and more cost-effective.”


Planning Right: Decarbonization Strategies for the Four Organization Archetypes

"To achieve net zero, a collision course could be happening between your asset management plan and your sustainability teams,” explained Trevor Joelson, Energy & Decarbonization Services Account Executive at Trane Technologies. “You bring all the different stakeholders together to understand what that asset management plan looks like, but when you start to approach net zero, you're going to have to be integrated to save your organization from itself — especially in a decentralized decision-making situation."

For example, Joelson continued, a local plant might purchase a low-cost natural gas boiler that is going to last 30 years but counters sustainability objectives." A key piece of advice is to have well-communicated, clear metrics,” he said. "The more you have this mechanism in place in your corporation and the more that you can be open about it, the more these projects are going to flow and hit that drumbeat."


 WISE Panel

A panel discussion among three winners of the WISE (Women in Smart Energy) Awards showcased experiences and advice for those in attendance.

Leigh Pearson, Senior Director of Facilities, Sustainability, Sourcing and Procurement at Staples Canada and Winner in the category of Industry Veteran, spoke on the value of finding allies as a female leader. “The industry has shifted a lot in terms of female presence in leadership roles,” she said. “Early in my career, I realized there were issues I needed to work through. And you need allies — you need to grow relationships and partnerships. That starts to instill confidence. It opens the conversation so we can be strong and vulnerable all at the same time. And that's OK — that’s how we grow and how we influence change.”

Continuing on the topic of building relationships, Eryn Beddoes — Project Manager, Facility Infrastructure and Engineering at Red Deer Polytechnic and Winner in the category of Rising Star — discussed revitalizing the Green Campus Working Group at Red Deer Polytechnic. “Students, staff and faculty get together once a month to discuss initiatives for infrastructure and net zero goals,” she shared. “(We ask questions like) what can we do every day? What can we take home with us? How do we make our classes or our labs more sustainable? How do we make our lives healthier? It’s a true pleasure to be able to work on this project because we’re actively pushing these ideas forward. They are not just words on paper. We're making it happen.” 

Renée Yarmy, Program Director for Maritime Sustainable Development at the Port of San Diego, spoke on her optimism about female leadership and mentorship in a traditionally male-dominated space.

“Thankfully, I worked in a very supportive industry early on as a consultant, then as the director of engineering at the Port of Long Beach, which gave me my first opportunity to work in this port space,” she said. “What I've observed is that, despite starting my career in a male-dominated space, through STEM and other applications in our educational systems, you're seeing a lot more women that need fostering. So I've created a series of mentorships throughout the years with local universities and community colleges to expose them to the type of work that we do within the port sustainability engineering space.”


Get ready for Smart Energy Decisions’ next event: Renewable Energy Forum,  June 12-14, 2024 at the JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa, Aventura, Florida. Energy Customers can request an invitation here. Suppliers can inquire about sponsorship opportunities here. 


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