Scott Wentzell | October 22, 2015
Listening to the speakers today at EDF’s Energy Solutions Exchange, I knew I was in the right room. Puns about LED lighting were made – and appreciated. Microgrids were spelled out on power point presentations as “µ-grids.” VFDs were touted as important albeit not photogenic. And when asked, “Who here knows what CHP is?” almost every hand was raised.
In addition to these cues, knew I was in the right room because of all the thoughtful insights I came away with. Before I re-join the group for cocktails and an awards reception and then dive into another day of sharing and learning about how companies are “moving the needle on energy management,” I want to share with you some of my key takeaways from today. Hopefully, then, the ripples of our discussion will travel outside of the conference room to the other sustainability and energy managers out there who weren’t at the event.
1. Companies are doing a lot, even if they aren’t talking about it
Today’s speakers were talking about pioneering microgrid installations, solar PPA agreements and scaling LED and VFD retrofits across their operations, when it dawned upon me: these companies are doing a lot more than they are talking about publically. Perhaps it’s because not every company is in the business of sustainability – it isn’t necessarily everyone’s first consideration when buying a pair of sneakers or switching cable providers. However, seeing the variety of companies present today, I am pleasantly surprised by their quiet adoption of energy and sustainability best practices.
2. The power of partnerships
The benefits of forming partnerships were emphasized in every session today. While most businesses as well as professional fields are competitive, sustainability is fundamentally a collaborative field. That’s how we all ended up in the room sharing our lessons learned with each other, but it’s also something energy managers and facility managers could use reminding of when they run into obstacles. While they might be the sole FTE tasked with achieving a particular greenhouse gas or energy reduction goal, most of the success stories I heard about today included working with not only EDF Climate Corps, but also partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy, consultants, engineering firms and other non-profits like the Business Renewable Center – who I’m excited to hear from tomorrow. Tapping the skills of these external partners can provide much needed resources to accelerate companies’ progress toward a clean energy future.
3. Getting to “Yes”
Although many energy efficiency projects make clear business sense, several of our speakers today talked about how to get the necessary stakeholders to say “Yes!” to their projects. One organization commented that they even “built a business plan for yes.” Often times, it takes piloting projects and proving the real value before scaling efficiency wins more broadly. In other cases, company representatives spoke about how it was more important to find the right person to be a champion. And, in a few special cases today, speakers talked about how successive years of EDF Climate Corps fellows were able to build upon each other’s work to eventually establish successful projects.
4. The solutions are here now
The last take away I’ll share for now is that, while we discussed a wide variety of issues and barriers today, the group did not run into a single problem that there wasn’t a solution for. Green revolving funds, rebates and PPAs combatted funding obstacles. Partnerships enabled companies to bridge knowledge gaps. Renewables and microgrids enable cities and organizations to operate sustainably, curb peak demand and increase resiliency. It was inspiring to be in a room with so many creative problem solvers who are as passionate and determined as I am about curbing climate change.
About EDF Climate Corps
EDF Climate Corps (edfclimatecorps.org) taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has uncovered nearly $1.4 billion in energy savings. For more information, visit edfclimatecorps.org. Read our blog at edfclimatecorps.org/blog. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/edfbiz and on Facebook at facebook.com/EDFClimateCorps.