Beyond the Meter - Episode 15

Beyond the Meter - Episode 15: Innovation Through Electrification

Innovation through Electrification, with Diana Kotler

        

This episode is made in partnership with Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions.

In this season of Beyond the Meter, we’re taking a closer look at the meaningful impact renewable energy projects have on the world around us. Industry guests discuss how their cleaner energy transitions are driving change, both within their organization and the larger community. Our guest for this episode is Diana Kotler, Executive Director at Anaheim Transportation Network. Host John Failla and Diana discuss one of the hottest topics in the industry: fleet electrification. Diana has extraordinary insights and experience on the topic that we’re excited to share. Listen in to learn more.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...

  • The drivers for Anaheim Transportation Network [04:00]
  • The community and social benefits of electrification [10:01]
  • Anaheim’s transportation fleet [13:57]
  • Community reactions to electric transportation [15:50]
  • The infrastructure needed for electrification [18:06]
  • The benefit of microgrids [25:52]
  • Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions role in Anaheim [28:45]
  • Obstacles in expansion [31:12]
  • The finances of electrification [39:01]

Early motivation for electrification

Diana is from Southern California, which is known to have the worst air quality in the nation. To ensure that the air remains liveable and breathable, the City of Anaheim had to find alternatives to fossil fuels. They looked to electrification in order to improve air quality and ensure that their developments would allow the city to continue to depend on tourism and convention business. This combined approach created the opportunity to generate local revenues and taxes, which, in turn, provide services to the community.

Interestingly, while the electrification effort in Anaheim started with a focus on air quality and health benefits, most organizations today are getting involved because of the need to decarbonize operations. While they did discuss fossil fuels and reduced carbon footprint, those were just peripheral discussions at the time. Diane says it doesn’t matter so much where the emphasis is placed, as long as the work provides a better environment for future generations.

Community impact

Anaheim is on its way to becoming the largest operator of electric buses in Southern California. The city is also beginning to integrate some twelve-passenger electric vans into the fleet for on-demand services that don’t require as much capacity as a bus. They also have 10 slow-speed smaller vehicles that operate in neighborhoods connecting schools, libraries, and eateries downtown. Altogether the city serves about 10 million passengers annually.


The service for the smaller vehicles is called FRAN: Free Rides Around the Neighborhood. It is based in the Colony district of the city, which is rooted in tradition and history. When FRAN was introduced in the neighborhood, it was an immediate success. As FRAN began to go deeper into the neighborhoods, people started asking when it could serve this park or that area. People were fighting to have FRAN serve their community. While capacity declined due to the pandemic, service is slowly but surely being reinstated.

Overcoming challenges in electrification

The technical expertise and guidance of Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions has been immeasurably valuable to the City of Anaheim. DESS had the in-depth experience connecting a public sector participant with private capital that the city didn’t have the reach to achieve. Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions supports operations and ensures that the infrastructure is robust. The partnership of Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions and the City of Anaheim means that the Anaheim Transportation Network operates not only today but also twenty years into the future.

As more vehicles are added to Anaheim’s fleet, infrastructure needs to adapt. For example, if the city were to switch to another bus manufacturer, the charging technology and chargers would be different. Therefore, standards will be necessary at some point so that any brand of vehicle can use any charging station. Acceptance of electrification is another challenge. At the beginning of electrification, there was a lot of opposition because people were afraid of this unknown entity. Over time, that hesitancy has faded, and people are embracing technology. As with any new technology, there is a learning process of people adapting to change, and change is the hardest thing to accomplish.

Resources and People Mentioned:

Connect with Diana

Diana Kotler - Executive Director at Anaheim Transportation Network

Ms. Kotler’s career includes over 25 years of experience in the transportation field. She began with the City of
Anaheim overseeing transportation planning efforts. Since 2003, Ms. Kotler serves as the Executive Director for the Anaheim Transportation Network (ATN). ATN’s mission is to provide public transit services for the residents, visitors, and employees of Anaheim and surrounding communities. Ms. Kotler is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) with an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Finance. Ms. Kotler also earned her graduate degree from California State University, Long Beach with a concentration in Economics and Urban Planning.

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