AP Philly Wrap-Up: Creating Opportunities - Smart Energy Decisions

Commercial, Distributed Energy Resources, Energy Efficiency, Industrial, Sourcing Renewables  -  December 16, 2019

Accelerate Philly Wrap-Up: Creating Opportunities

Accelerate Philly, Smart Energy Decisions' first city-specific event, created an opportunity for corporate energy buyers from the Philadelphia region to make connections with suppliers and share best practices to accomplish their objectives of improved energy efficiency and expanded use of renewable energy. The event was held at Philadelphia's Logan Hotel, December 9-10.

Derek Green, Philadelphia City Councilman At-Large, welcomed the audience with a letter from Governor Tom Wolf, which stated, "Accelerate Philly offers a platform for large power users to explore new technologies, supply options and innovative strategies for promoting sustainable energy consumption. The victories celebrated and information shared at this event resonate with people across the Commonwealth and provide new options for an affordable renewable energy supply. I’m proud to serve as the honorary chair of the Accelerate Philly Host Committee as my administration is deeply committed to advancing sustainability in the energy sector. It is my hope that the work done at this event will continue to influence change and inform all individuals about energy solutions.

Councilman Green added his welcome: "I hope you have a great opportunity to network, meet people you’ve never met before, and really throughout new ideas and new concepts and solutions as we try to address climate change and at the same time provide economic development opportunities not only here in the City of Philadelphia, but around the country."

Smart Energy Decisions Founder, John Failla reflected on the successful launch of Accelerate Philly: “We’re encouraged by the positive response we’ve received from the large power users, suppliers and government officials that participated in Accelerate Philly. We look forward to the launch of our next city-specific event, Accelerate Houston in March and returning to Philly in 2020. Smart Energy Decisions is committed to helping accelerate the adoption of renewable energy sourcing and energy efficiency in support of city-specific climate action plans being rolled out across the country”.

Following are brief highlights from the Accelerate Philly general sessions. More extensive coverage will follow in our upcoming Accelerate Philly Insights report, available in January. 

“Powering Our Future: A Clean Energy Vision for Philadelphia
Christine Knapp, director, Office of Sustainability, City of Philadelphia, opened the General Sessions by setting the stage for “where Philadelphia is and where we want to go.” She noted that while the environmental backbone of the city’s goals – including reducing the city’s carbon footprint by 25% by 2025 and 80% by 2050, as well a moving to 100% clean energy – are well known, the economic context is often overlooked, “Cities that do this work well are thriving, they have strong business creation there, businesses want to locate there, the workers at those businesses want to live in cities that do this well. By virtue of doing this, you create more jobs. You create economic opportunity, and you save money through a lot of these actions, so we want to make sure that people know about that opportunity and that benefit.

Noting that Philadelphia is often referred to as 'the poorest big city in America," Emily Schapira, executive director of the Philadelphia Energy Authority, said that economic conditions "flavors everything that we do in the city at the Energy Authority. We keep this in the back of our mind when we’re doing big municipal projects or when we’re doing big school district projects.” Among the Authority's initiatives are the Philadelphia Energy campaign, launched in 2016. "It’s a billion-dollar investment over ten years in energy efficiency and clean energy work to create 10,000 jobs," said Schapira. The program focuses on four sectors: city buildings, schools, affordable housing, and small businesses. "In the first two years of the campaign, she reported, "we helped launch over $100 million in projects and created almost 1,000 jobs. We’re right on track with where we thought we would be."

“Customer Success Stories from the Philadelphia Region”
A panel of energy executives from the area discussed programs already underway in the Philadelphia area. Rebecca Collins, director of sustainability, Temple University (left), described their Climate Action Plan, released in April, which calls for carbon neutrality by 2050. Addressing her peers in the audience, Collins focused on the importance of the planning process: "Putting out a solid plan for your program, looking at your efficiency and your carbon reduction, and really making sure that you are talking to all of the stakeholders that have some kind of skin in the game for the energy efficiency programs is key. In order to implement you need partners who are doing the work day in and day out."

Phil Laws, Senior VP, Arena Operations, Wells Fargo Center, Comcast. Spectator (right), discussed the drivers for the arena's current renovation project, which includes LED retrofits and other lighting programs, HVAC, and mechanical systems. "We're a very public-facing part of our company and we have our own ticket buyers and clients that sustainability goals speak to. We have artists that come in the building that are a big part of our business and sustainability is a big part of their message to their fans. All of that story is important for us to tell. Then, of course, there’s the P&L. These projects make a lot of sense and we've saved a lot of money by investing in them.

Blair Sturm, process sustainability and energy manager, Saint-Gobain North America (middle),  explained the origins of their as-a-service program. "As a large manufacturer with 130-plus sites all over North America, we’re always competing for capital with regular manufacturing investments. Our payback period requirements are pretty short, so a lot of those great energy projects that have longer-term payback don’t always get the capital investment. Using the as-a-service model, we’re able to use a third party to finance those investments and share the savings." He added, "It's been a great opportunity for us to find savings without any upfront capital."

“Inspiring Diversity in Energy”    

Carolyn L. Green, managing principal, Casa Verde Energy Service, LLC (right), explained why the energy industry is lagging behind in making progress in diversity: "Interestingly, when we look at an industry like energy efficiency and clean energy, because they are more entrepreneurial and are not necessarily governed like the utilities are by a public utilities commission, there is less external encouragement for diversity to happen. It’s got to be more organic. And, unfortunately, in this industry, we have done an even worse job than the utilities have in terms of both diversity of staffing and diversity of leadership." She added that the industry should be able to make up some ground because "it’s an industry that technically is not as capital intensive as the traditional utility spaces. There should be, in theory, a lower barrier to entry. For some reason, that has not happened. The only thing I can think is that it winds up being an intellectual or an emotional barrier, and that’s what we need to talk about and get through."

The importance of having those tough conversations was echoed by Darlene Phillips, senior director, operations engineering support, PJM (left). "It’s hard to teach these lessons without being up-front about how divisions impact folks. It speaks to how you hire, who you promote, why you picked that person. Why do you think you’re most comfortable with that person? Is it really because they’re best suited for a position or is it because you have a lot of commonalties outside of the office that makes you believe that they are in the best position for the next job? Those are the conversations that are important and that we have to have if we’re really going to change the makeup of our organizations."

"A Vision for Renewable Energy Sourcing Partnerships" 
In discussing a series of changes to the energy industry, Sayun Sukduang, president & CEO and head of energy management at ENGIE said, “I don’t know a business model out there, energy or otherwise, that isn’t facing the challenge of going from linear to circular.” Explaining linear as “take, make, use, lose,” he said, “We have to continue to look at ways to go from that model to one of circularity.” Noting the examples of AirBNB and ride sharing, he said, “Energy is going through that same transition from linear to circular. Consider fossil fuel: we make it into electrons, use it to power our lives, lose it in the form of emissions that make our habitat less sustainable. As we transition to renewable energy, that’s the first step towards circularity. It’s an ingredient in the recipe. As you look at your business, as we do ours, value will be created if you adopt a circularity mentality."


Day two of Accelerate Philly opened with a welcome from Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, who said, "The City of Philadelphia is deep in history. When you have a city used to tradition, you tend not to do anything differently." However, Clarke, who chaired the Accelerate Philly Steering Committee, continued, "This city, right now, is getting people on board with the need for clean energy." As companies in the city move towards clean energy, Clarke's message is: “We are open, we are excited, we are interested in participating with you in a meaningful way to grow your opportunities, to grow your companies.” He added that from a legislative and regulatory perspective, "We are putting things in place to make it easier for you to do business in the city of Philadelphia."


“The Future of Renewable Power”
Discussing the recent PPA signed by the City of Philadelphia and Community Energy for 70 MW of solar power, Adam Agalloco, energy manager for the City (left) said, "The City of Philadelphia is one of the largest purchasers of electricity in the city, along with the University of Pennsylvania, which puts us in a leadership position." He described two parts of this leadership brought about by the PPA: first, "thinking about it as an economic win for the city and spurring new developments and new jobs locally." The second part is "making sure we’ve got a diverse population and a diverse set of businesses and diverse workforce working on this project."

With the solar farm sited in Gettysburgh, Jay Carlis, executive vice president, origination, Community Energy (right), said he is often asked why the project was not located in Philadelphia. "This is about the size of 60 Rittenhouse squares and you’re not going to find that kind of land in Philly," he explained. "We looked at this project with a view towards wanting to make a big mark and wanting to lead. This project, as big as it is, and it will be the largest in the state once it is built - will only cover 22% of the city government’s electricity needs. We still have a long way to go and plenty of opportunities to put solar on our assets. .With this first one done, the next ones will be easier."

 “How to Thrive in a Changing Legislative Environment”

Thomas P. Szarawarski Jr., PE, CEM, MBA, LEED AP, CDSM, Edison Energy (right) and John Failla, founder and editorial director, Smart Energy Decisions (left), discussed new legislation for the city. In November, the Philadelphia City Council passed a bill to create a new Building Energy Performance Program. Signed by the Mayor last week, the Office of Sustainability will work with building owners and operators to implement this legislation in early 2020. Szarawarski explained that requirements for this "building tune-up" legislation, will be sorted out in the next six to eight months with a pilot next fall.  He urged "those in the room to consider the importance of influencing the legislation. This is an opportunity to go and help with the bill by giving input" during the development stage. "One of the challenges of legislation like this is that there are a lot of vertical markets that need to be included so it needs to be aggressive enough to have an impact without being cumbersome enough to dissuade people from being able to do it well. It’s a fine line so your voices need to be heard and shared with regard to where the bill is going."

 “An Update from PJM” 
PJM runs the largest power market for electricity in the US with $40 billion a year in transactions, serving 65 million people. Discussing the likelihood of a carbon tax,  Andrew Levitt, senior business solution architect, applied innovation at PJM said, "How state governments decide to tackle climate change is going to make a huge difference. It’s very difficult to go the customer choice route and the competition route without a carbon tax. PJM has all but expressly invited states to  put a meaningful carbon tax out there because we are a platform for customer choice and competition."

Executive interview: Strategies to Simplify Energy Management

Samir Das, director of marketing and analytics, WGL Energy (left), and Clint Zediak, vice president, sales and marketing WGL Energy (right), in conversation with John Failla, discussed the main challenges customers need to sort through when deciding on products and technologies. Das said, "What’s great about where we are now in the energy industry is the influx of new technologies, data, analytics and this wealth of smart meters and what info we are able to glean from our energy use. This is one of the reasons I joined the industry — the potential value we can unlock in your energy spend by looking at the data.

Zediak listed three areas of questions all energy buyers need to answer to determine their energy management strategy. "First, what is your energy usage requirement?  Can you live with an outage? Second, what are your sustainability goals? Do you want to reduce your carbon footprint? Do you want behind the meter renewable generation?  Further, what can you do with that sustainability goal? A lot of companies use them to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Third, what kind of budget certainty can your company withstand. No one likes uncertainty but it’s part of life so the more risk-averse you are, the more you may not only want to control your energy price but also your volume. That's where energy efficiency projects come into play."  


Smart Energy Decisions' next event is the 2020 Innovation Summitset for March 9-11, 2020, followed immediately by Accelerate Houston, March 12-13 at the Houstonian Hotel in Houston, Texas. The Innovation Summit is recognized as the premier industry event for energy, sustainability, and facility executives at electric power users featuring ideas, connections, and solutions necessary to create and execute a successful enterprise energy management strategy. Click here for more information on the entire Smart Energy Decisions 2020 event line up.


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