Smart Energy Voices - Episode 22

Smart Energy Voices- Episode 22

The Future of Sustainability Strategy with Greg Kandankulam

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2020 has definitely produced a number of challenges, but the need for societies and organizations to move toward sustainable energy solutions has not gone away. In this conversation between Smart Energy Decisions founder, John Failla, and Greg Kandankulam, Senior Manager of Sustainability at NRG Energy, John was interested to know what the NRG team is experiencing as it works with large organizations and municipalities that are moving toward renewable energy solutions.

Greg speaks about the current situation in the push for renewable energy, how and why the focus has shifted away from renewable energy procurement and toward the reduction of carbon emissions, and how sustainability consultants are playing a large role in the transition. It’s an interesting and informative conversation you’ll find very helpful.

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

  • The ever-changing nature of sustainability roles inside organizations [1:44]
  • How NRG began offering sustainability advisory services for large power users [2:58]
  • A shift away from renewable energy procurement targets toward carbon emission reduction targets [6:05]
  • 2021 brings challenges when shifting to a focus on carbon emissions reduction [8:57]
  • How cities are addressing sustainability issues [14:25]

What’s driving the new emphasis on carbon emissions reduction?

In the past, much of the focus large organizations placed on renewable energy was directed toward procurement issues. But the year-over-year increase in renewable procurement from 2018 to 2019 was over 40%, which was at a cost of somewhere between $20 million and $30 million. That’s significant progress. But naturally, once a company has addressed its procurement issues, what’s next? It’s that question that seems to have shifted the focus away from procurement solutions and toward carbon emissions reduction.

There are many options when it comes to the next step but a focus on carbon reduction is one of the primary areas where huge gains can be made. As a result, there is much discussion around issues of facilities automation, electric vehicle strategies, cities moving toward system-wide electrification efforts, and more. These are just some of the areas where a reduction of carbon emissions can be achieved in dramatic ways.

Cities are leading the way with renewable energy in spite of the hurdles of 2021

In spite of the financial hurdles municipalities deal with on a regular basis, many cities are doing great work when it comes to sustainability initiatives. Houston is a great example of a city that is making huge commitments to sustainability. Chicago is looking to go 100% renewable as well. Regardless of COVID and the various other challenges 2020 brought, such as issues of continuity and the future of work, cities are still moving forward on the need for renewables.

Municipalities are demonstrating that in spite of the difficulties happening in the world, significant progress can still be made in the drive toward renewable energy. But it will include a process that is more complex and much more integrated with an organization’s entire operation. Those in sustainability management are taking on a more prominent role and from an advisory standpoint, as companies are recognizing their need for expert advice about the options and approaches available to them.

Sustainability advisory services are increasingly vital for large organizations

The numerous challenges associated with the development and execution of a sustainability strategy have many large organizations calling on sustainability advisors for assistance. NRG is uniquely able to leverage their direct experience as they work with customers on sustainability advisory engagements. The company was among the first of nine companies that entered into the SBTI (Science Based Target Initiative) and has gained an understanding of climate change and how to save large organizations the time, energy, and resources of researching the options themselves.

Resources mentioned in today's episode

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Connect with Greg

Greg Kandankulam is a Senior Manager, Sustainability at NRG where he leads the Sustainable Energy Advisory team. This team of sustainability advisors assists clients in driving their organizations toward a cleaner energy future. He has 15 years’ experience in strategic analysis, financial modeling and project management with a sustainability focus. Mr. Kandankulam has a strong background in public-private partnerships, smart grid assets, climate risk and utility regulatory policy. He has presented on the future of the grid to public and private sector audiences throughout the country.

Greg holds an MBA from Presidio Graduate School in sustainable management and a BSAST in nuclear engineering from Thomas Edison State University. Mr. Kandankulam has previously held positions as a program manager of a public-private partnership for the Dutch government, based on sustainable energy projects, and as a chief nuclear mechanical operator in the U.S. Navy for six years. He also served for 4 years as Sustainability Commissioner for the City of Sausalito in California.


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