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Beyond The Meter

Smart Energy Decisions

Beyond the Meter addresses timely topics of interest to executives responsible for renewable energy procurement and distributed energy resources at Fortune 1000 companies, higher education and cities. Each episode delivers insights and information that listeners can use to make smarter energy decisions beyond the meter.
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Top 10 Beyond The Meter Episodes

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09/14/20 • 58 min

Most of us live day to day in our city of choice without giving much thought to the infrastructure and services that living in the city provides. But when a natural disaster or outage happens, we immediately recognize that vitally important things were going on behind the scenes that we benefit from directly.

This episode highlights the steps the city of Greensboro, NC has taken to begin its “Smart City” initiative, which includes a number of renewable energy approaches. You’ll enjoy hearing from three officials from the city of Greensboro and how their varied roles provide unique looks at the challenges of becoming a Smart City.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...
  • The guests on this episode and their role in energy & renewables [0:58]
  • How Greensboro started its “Smart City” journey [4:48]
  • The overview of Greensboro’s energy management evolution [9:01]
  • Greensboro’s actions compared to other municipalities [12:59]
  • The consequences associated with power outages for cities [18:08]
  • How does resiliency intersect with renewable energy sources? [26:25]
  • Greensboro’s kiosk program: why it was created and what it’s accomplished [28:43]
  • How Duke and other energy suppliers can partner toward renewables [33:46]
  • Prioritizing investments in smart city and renewable energy projects [35:41]
  • Are energy-as-a-service programs helpful for municipalities? [40:10]
  • Emerging priorities for cities and the communities they serve [47:17]
The Smart City journey the City of Greensboro is on

The city of Greensboro, North Carolina started its journey to becoming a Smart City when neighboring cities began working on fiber installations. Greensboro’s leadership began investigating its own options for fiber installations since high-speed data connections are foundational to the technology needed to implement Smart City approaches. From there, many additional developments have come about.

In their current approach, the city’s leaders are continuing to ask, “How can we leverage the Smart Cities approach for growth and economic development?” Some of the initiatives they’ve implemented so far are the city’s smart connected corridor, which includes informational kiosks visitors can use to find out about the city, locate destinations, and connect with public transportation. Find out more by listening to this conversation!

Why resiliency is vital for municipalities like Greensboro

The situation in Greensboro mirrors the reality of many municipalities around the nation. For Greensboro, 30 out of 80 facilities are emergency-related, so when the power for the city experiences a disruption, there’s not only a dollar impact, it can also create a logistics nightmare. A tornado a few years ago made it abundantly clear that resiliency for the city’s power grid was of the utmost importance.

Greensboro’s CIO, Jane Nickels says that if the data center goes down, everything in the city shuts down, and it would take days to get the data center back up. For that reason one of the resiliency measures they are adopting is a migration of everything possible to the cloud. As well, all projects — Smart City related or not — have resiliency in mind. From the creation of “battery buses” to the use of solar power to charge them, the city is well on the way to making its power needs resilient.

How Greensboro pursues financing through partnerships

City budgets are not known for being lavish and the budget in Greensboro is no exception. The city had no budget at all set aside for Smart City initiatives when the idea came to the forefront, so those leading the charge had to look for partners. When they keep their ears open to what’s going on in the city and do the legwork of discovering what projects are slated by other companies, they can often find ways to attach a Smart City initiative to that project. These are collaborations that enable them to leverage Smart City ideas into the projects other organizations are already budgeting. Listen to learn more about how Greensboro is utilizing smart energy and building resilient systems.

Resources & People Mentioned Connect With Our Guests

Michael Kilpatrick, Key Segment Manager, State Governments, Municipalities, and Co-ops

Michael leads strategic planning and engagement within state government, municipal, and co-op segments and is tasked with expanding revenue, profitability, and customer satisfaction by delivering solutions from an array of Duke Energy products and services, including but not limited to renewables, microgrids, and other energy-as-a-service offerings.

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09/14/20 • 45 min

Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy were each crisis situations in their own right and one of the sectors impacted that brought the issue of power resilience to the forefront was healthcare. It’s easy to see how life and death are on the line when power outages or disruptions impact a care facility. Join host, John Failla as he speaks with Eric Bennett of Duke Energy and Matt Stiene of Novant Healthcare as they discuss the current state of resiliency in healthcare systems, the challenges faced in becoming more resilient, and what the future may hold.

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...
  • The role and responsibilities of today’s guests [1:12]
  • Resiliency is an important consideration for the healthcare sector [3:05]
  • How does compliance impact the application of resilient measures? [7:27]
  • The unique challenges to adopting new technologies in light of regulations [10:16]
  • Utilizing partnerships to move redundant systems and projects forward [19:11]
  • Energy management budgets and the challenges organizations face [21:47]
  • Guidelines Novant uses to consider financing renewable energy structures [28:35]
  • The greatest challenges in resiliency management going forward [31:33]
  • What’s next for Novant and the healthcare industry in terms of energy? [36:45]
Healthcare resilience can easily be an issue of life and death

Life support and medical systems of all kinds that are typical to health systems require power to operate. Those in charge of running healthcare facilities and those responsible for their construction have to think through how to provide that power in an uninterrupted fashion so that patient care is not compromised.

Matt Stiene shares how Novant Healthcare is committed to multiple sources of power for its facilities, with secondary systems many times taking the form of backup generators that can power entire facilities for long periods if needed. But even so, the desire to move toward sustainable sources of energy is becoming a greater consideration. Listen to hear how Novant is addressing these challenges and how the healthcare sector is doing at addressing the energy challenges it faces.

The application of microgrids promises great potential for healthcare

The latest statistics reveal that the healthcare industry is the 5th largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. With the amount of power required for the average healthcare facility, that shouldn’t be a surprising figure. But given that healthcare should be focused on overall health, including how health is impacted by the environment, those figures are dominant on the radar of many senior leaders in the healthcare sector.

Microgrid solutions, built on-sight as power backups are one option being pursued. Two of Novant’s facilities only have one primary service available either in terms of the source the power comes from or in the means of delivery the provider employs. An on-sight battery storage facility is one microgrid option the organization is pursuing in those situations. Matt admits that due to the limitations of how battery systems work, it’s not a long-term fix but could allow for uninterrupted operations for a significant time while getting the facility’s primary power systems back online.

How do renewables fit into the resiliency picture?

Healthcare organizations are taking a closer look at renewable energy these days. That’s because leaders in the industry see it as their responsibility to contribute to the overall health of those in their communities, not just to the acute or responsive care that’s typically provided in a healthcare facility. For Novant, the mission of “Improving the health of our communities one person at a time” is taken very seriously and sustainability figures into that. He says that the internal pressure to move toward sustainable sources of energy is growing and also says that the communities they serve are expressing growing concern about the issue as well.

But the metrics around costs make it challenging. Novant shoots for energy projects that they can pay back within two years and many others in the sector consider a three to five-year payback of capital acceptable. But when power from the regular power grid can be bought for less, it can be a hard sell to the finance department. Listen to hear how Novant and other organizations are addressing these issues with the help of their energy partners, like Duke.

Connect With Our Guests

Eric Bennett - Duke Energy, Key Segment Manager Health Care

With over 15 years of experience in the energy industry, Eric leads Duke Energy One’s Health Care segment. He works with customers and stakeholders across the Health Care segment to identify emerging trends, technological developments, and market Solutions.

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Lower emissions are one of the many goals being set by corporations across the country to reduce their carbon footprint and exercise corporate responsibility. Naturally, every company has its own unique set of hurdles to overcome in setting and attaining such goals. In this conversation Amy Bond, Energy and Sustainability Program Manager at Sprint explains how Sprint started looking into what it could do to procure energy from renewable sources back in 2008, but nothing fit their situation at that time. Fast forward to 2018 and it’s an entirely different story.

Join Smart Energy Decisions Founder, John Failla as he speaks to Amy about Sprint’s journey. Joining the conversation is Scott Macmurdo, Business Development Director at Duke Energy, Sprint’s partner in its recent Virtual Power Purchase Agreement.

Outline of This Episode
  • [0:33] John’s introduction of this conversation from the 2019 Renewable Energy Sourcing Forum
  • [1:20] Amy Bond’s big announcement: Sprint’s first PPA with Duke Energy Renewables
  • [4:20] The beginning of Sprint’s journey, the SED conference in Austin, TX
  • [6:20] Starting on the journey with no overarching climate goals
  • [8:09] Internal and practical obstacles faced in getting the deal done
  • [12:36] Explaining the opportunity across departments
  • [15:17] Key things corporate buyers should be thinking about
  • [21:13] How the CEO was enlisted as an ally early in the process
Sprint’s first Power Purchase Agreement in partnership with Duke Energy Renewables

At the recent 2019 Renewable Energy Sourcing Forum, Amy shared the culmination of Sprint’s journey for the first time. It’s a 12 year Virtual Power Purchase Agreement that Duke Energy has put together. Duke will build and operate a 182-megawatt wind farm in West Texas and Sprint will purchase 95% of the output from the facility for use in its facilities. Amy says that amount us almost 30% of Sprint’s entire energy consumption.

But please understand, Sprint did not come to this place overnight. Their journey toward sustainability goals that made sense for them as a company was begun in 2008. Ten years later, it’s finally coming to fruition.

Ten years of trying, iterating, and striving to come to renewable energy success

Sprint first launched its environmental goals in 2008 and hoped to meet them by 2017. One of those goals was to acquire 10% of the company’s energy from alternative sources by 2017. Those goals were not met. The first option the company considered was the purchase of hydrogen fuel cell racks in 2008. The project proved to be impractical from a cost perspective.

The first VPPA Sprint ever considered came in 2014, but again the economics didn’t make sense at the time. But Amy says that the unexpected by-product that came from those efforts was that an internal renewable energy team was assembled, so when 2018 came around all of those team members were still with the company and were still interested in working toward a way to reduce emissions as a company. This gave them a jump start on moving projects forward once the costs were more aligned with their goals and needs.

Sprint had no overarching climate goals - but engaged with renewable energy anyway

The goals Sprint generated back in 2008 were never realized. When Amy came to see that the practical and financial limitations previously experienced were no longer the case, she began pitching the idea to key stakeholders right away. Through months of discussion and hard work, the team cooperated with Duke Energy Renewables to put a plan in place that everyone involved could sign off on.

Notice something important - Sprint had no renewable energy goals in place at the time but the company was able to move forward anyway. Don’t let any perceived lack in your renewable energy policy or goals hold you back from moving to reduce emissions for your company. You can do it!

Key things for corporate buyers to be thinking about

When looking at a potential VPPA deal, there are many things to pay close attention to in order to move the deal forward. First, you need to work hard to frame the project in ways that make sense within your organization. Amy also stresses that you need to look closely at your developer (Duke Energy Renewables, in this instance). The relationship will be a 12-year relationship in Sprint's case. It’s important to feel comfortable and confident - and to know that all the stakeholders can feel the same - as you move into that kind of relationship.

Scott points out that corporate buyers should understand that the timeline you work from initially will not remain intact. It’s not that anyone is communicating wrongly or misrepresenting the deal, it’s that hurdles will arise and you'll have to find workarounds. Because that’s always the case - be sure you seek help. Third-party consultants that specialize in renewable energy...

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More and more companies are making corporate sustainability pledges - and it’s a good thing. Corporations are some of the largest consumers of energy in the world. When these companies take steps to reduce their carbon footprint by procuring their energy from renewable sources, they have a significant impact on the overall environmental issues our world is facing.

This conversation inspires hope because it illustrates how a communication industry giant is leading the way in the sustainability movement. That company is AT&T. Guests on this episode are Shannon Carroll, Director of Global Environmental Sustainability at AT&T, and Scott Macmurdo, Business Development Director at Duke Energy Renewables. Their companies recently partnered on a renewable energy project that illustrates the kind of steps that can and should be taken by companies large and small. You will enjoy this conversation.

Outline of This Episode
  • [1:01] The background of each guest in the sustainability arena
  • [8:09] The role corporate sustainability goals have in driving asset sourcing
  • [12:37] The involvement of the C-suite in sustainability pledges
  • [17:18] Who are the main stakeholders in the AT&T pledge toward sustainability?
  • [21:36] AT&T’s journey in renewable energy sourcing
  • [27:26] The anatomy of a renewable energy purchase
  • [34:40] The challenges that had to be overcome in the recent Duke / AT&T deal
  • [40:15] What’s the future of renewable energy hold?
The AT&T 10X Goal for environmental responsibility and sustainability

When it comes to corporate sustainability pledges, AT&T has set the bar pretty high. Not only are they committed to lowering their own operational carbon footprint as much as possible they are also committed to enabling their customers to reduce their carbon footprint as well. That’s where the 10X Goal for Environmentally Responsibility and Sustainability comes in.

The AT&T pledge is this:

We’ve set a goal to enable carbon savings 10 times the footprint of our operations by 2025. We’re calling this our 10x Carbon Reduction Goal, or more simply, our “10x” Goal. To meet the goal, we’re making our network more efficient and we’re working with our customers to deploy technology that can help reduce GHG emissions, save water, and more. AT&T is also teaming up with companies to measure the GHG emissions reduction of specific products.

The AT&T energy team worked with experienced third party consultants in the renewable energy space to come up with the strategy and then put it into place officially. Listen to this discussion to learn how they made it happen.

The fastest and most significant way to reduce your company’s carbon footprint

In recent years we’ve seen record rates of sustainability goals by corporations. Not coincidentally, we’ve also begun to see record levels of corporate renewable energy procurement. Simply put, companies are taking the initiative to sidestep traditional forms of carbon-based energy to use renewable energy instead. Undoubtedly, this is the best way to dramatically draw-down on a company's CO2 footprint in the least amount of time.

As explained by the guests on this episode, there are a handful of things companies could do to be true to their commitment to corporate sustainability. Some of the solutions are:

  • Moving toward energy efficiency
  • The build-out of renewable energy sources of their own
  • Changing gas-powered fleet vehicles to electric

While good and needed steps, in most cases, these are not the way to create a significant change in a short amount of time. Then how are they doing it? Through large-scale renewable energy procurements. Think of it as the largest “ROE” - return on effort. Limited resources demand the biggest bang for the buck - which is accomplished through switching energy sourcing to large scale solar or wind projects.

Goal alignment and good communication drive corporate sustainability efforts

As the AT&T team began to make efforts to reduce the company’s CO2 footprint, many options were considered and tried. But by far, large scale Power Purchase Agreements became the fastest and best way to make a difference. The team researched what would best meet the needs of the company and best serve the customer and solicited the help of third parties from the renewable energy industry who could advise about best-practices.

The key to aligning stakeholders was to stay focused on their common sustainability goals and to talk to all the teams involved: energy -supply chain - finance - C-suite - and on-the-ground managers. Their goal was to ensure that the projects being considered made sense across the board, while at the same time understanding and quantifying the risk openly. In the AT&T approach, the upside had to outweigh the risks...

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As one of the largest energy providers in the United States, Duke Energy is positioned to make a significant impact on the move toward renewable sources of energy. Duke provides electricity to 7.7 million retail customers in six states. While some might see the renewable energy movement as a threat to a company like Duke, its leadership sees renewable energy as the future of energy providers across the nation.

As a result, Duke’s commercial business owns and operates diverse power generation facilities in North America, including a growing portfolio of renewable energy assets. The company is leading the way with the modernization of its energy grid, generating cleaner energy to create a smarter energy future for customers. This conversation features Doug Esamann, Executive Vice President of Energy Solutions at Duke and Chris Fallon, Vice President of Duke Energy Renewables. Listen to learn how energy providers like Duke are positioning themselves to serve customer needs through renewable energy.

Outline of This Episode
  • [1:10] The background and involvement Doug and Chris have in energy utilities
  • [4:00] Duke Energy’s history in renewable energy procurement
  • [7:41] In deregulated markets, Duke has been very active. Here’s how
  • [9:16] The role renewable energy has played in the company overall
  • [13:10] How Duke communicates with customers regarding renewable energy
  • [18:20] A wide range of customers in renewable energy projects
  • [24:56] The biggest obstacle for Duke’s renewable energy projects: uncertainty
  • [29:35] Why Duke is bullish about renewable energy
  • [34:40] How the “Energy Integrator” concept impacts the approach of utilities like Duke
The renewable energy story at Duke begins with commercial business

The leadership at Duke energy could see the writing on the wall as more and more states were becoming focused on renewable energy in the development of legislated energy standards. It meant a change for the way Duke creates and supplies energy to its customers, but the team was ready to respond.

Renewable energy at scale was a natural fit for Duke to consider as it sought to offer utilities to municipalities and cooperatives who were under the requirements to meet renewable standards. At first, justifying the investment in renewable options was difficult from a price perspective but the company’s leadership was committed to sustainably growing the business. As costs have come down in regulated markets and tax credits have made renewables competitive with traditional options, Duke has looked to replace coal plants and other carbon-free options with cleaner forms of energy.

Balancing profitability with customer needs and CO2 emission goals

Traditionally, energy suppliers like Duke have looked for opportunities of a long-term nature that allow the company to build out a power plant or facility and be able to rely on a return on that investment coming back over time. While not the same thing structurally, renewables allow customers with good credit history to provide a similar long-term opportunity for Duke through longer-term contracts. This provides the same secure deal structure but allows Duke to vary its supply chain considerably.

At the same time, renewables present an opportunity to couple investments in new generation sources of energy with the company’s CO2 emission reduction goals. Duke’s current goal is to reduce its carbon emissions by 40% by the year 2030. Its efforts have been so encouraging there is consideration within the company of shooting for an even larger CO2 reduction. Duke’s leadership understands that they have a unique responsibility to embrace renewable sources of energy as a way to get to its environmental goals while still being able to provide reliable, affordable power to its customers.

The customer’s perspective matters to the team at Duke

Modern customers want to be more responsible with their energy choices. They also want the opportunity to select the kind of energy they want to purchase for their homes and places of business. Duke has developed customized solutions using its resources and options from outside the regulated utility space. The way the company sees it, it’s about being more focused on the customer. No more building products then trying to sell those products into the market - the model is now flipped upside down with customer needs and desires coming first.

It’s an ever-evolving path that the Duke team is walking and it has required a cultural shift within the company. But it’s a decision that’s being taken seriously, manifested in part through the creation of the position of Chief Customer Officer, and tapping Barbara Higgins to lead the way in understanding the customer first when it comes to renewable energy and other issues.

The uncertainty of the renewable energy puzzle is difficult for energy suppliers


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One of the high profile corporate renewable energy initiatives in the news recently has been the unveiling of Home Depot’s sustainability goals. Home Depot is among the increasing number of corporations working to make renewables a significant part of their energy procurement strategy. But for Home Depot, this new direction is not fueled by a desire to become sustainable, it began because it makes financial sense.

On this episode of Beyond The Meter, join host John Failla and his co-host Craig Noxon, Vice President for Enterprise Sales at REC Solar, a Duke Energy Renewables Company as they speak with Craig D’Arcy, Director of Energy Management for Home Depot. You’ll learn how Home Depot started its journey toward the use of renewables, how early successes encouraged further efforts, and how both the financial and efficiency benefits of using renewable energy has motivated them to keep innovating. The Home Depot approach is a great example of how corporations can make use of renewables and increase the bottom line at the same time.

Outline of This Episode
  • [1:05] The background and role of each participant in regards to renewable energy
  • [3:25] Home Depot’s energy management strategy: key elements
  • [5:41] The primary drivers for the Home Depot strategy
  • [8:13] Comparing Home Depot’s approach to the work other companies are taking
  • [11:56] Technologies Home Depot has employed, renewable energy and otherwise
  • [16:57] The role renewable energy plays for Home Depot
  • [20:42] Which programs are most important to Home Depot (on-site or off-site)?
  • [25:11] The challenge of getting stakeholders aligned toward renewable energy
  • [27:50] Tips for those trying to get the attention of the C-suite for sustainability efforts
  • [29:35] Advice about how to enlist the financial teams to help make the case
  • [32:36] What’s next for Home Depot’s energy management strategy?
  • [35:54] The challenges of energy providers in light of renewable energy innovation
  • [40:36] Energy as a service concepts: Do they work for large companies?
Home Depot’s energy policy goals made renewables a viable option

There are typically three drivers behind a corporation’s consideration of renewables as an energy source. The first is cost, the second is the company's conscious sustainability goals, the third is increased resiliency. Craig D’Arcy says there is no doubt that all three play some role in Home Depot’s approach, but the first attempts to roll out renewable energy projects were entirely focused on the financial benefits. Renewables simply made financial sense for increasing efficiency and bottom-line profitability.

As early successes with renewable projects were achieved, they were able to investigate other options and expand their efforts toward sustainability. It's led to their sustainability story becoming public, which has driven internal excitement and created momentum for the renewables side of their energy procurement strategies. Listen to hear how Home Depot continues to consider all sorts of energy solutions, including any renewable sources that make sense for their broader goals.

3 critical elements of the Home Depot sustainability approach

When thinking of the renewable energy movement, it’s common to assume that those pushing for the use of renewables are only concerned about global issues of sustainability, but there’s incredible motivation to implement renewable energy alternatives from a variety of standpoints. In the case of Home Depot, three primary concerns guide their energy decisions...

1 - Foremost, Home Depot views everything they do through caring for their stores so that associates and customers are served well

2 - Every energy sourcing project must make sense financially

3 - Leadership has passed down a mandate to be as innovative as possible to accomplish those first two, which makes their decision-making technology and structure agnostic

Listen to hear how this plays out for Home Depot as Craig D’Arcy explains the fit renewable energy has in that three-pronged approach.

Sustainability efforts are significant for Home Depot's future

No company can survive if it is not profitable. Home Depot is no different, so it is no surprise to find out that from a financial standpoint, renewable energy is being leveraged to lower the net rates paid for energy throughout the company. But the benefits of renewable energy go far beyond that...

Home Depot has become known as a sustainability brand, recently releasing its own science-based targets for its energy policy, which includes renewable energy as a significant part. And finally, renewable energy provides natural, beneficial hedges against volatile energy pricing in the markets. Power Purchase Agreements with energy providers enables this hedge and has proven to be a huge benefit to the compa...

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The use of renewable energy is becoming more and more common on campuses of higher education across the country - and it’s not surprising. Institutions of higher education are both massive consumers of energy and are in the business of learning and teaching. That combination makes them ideal laboratories for innovation and advancement in the field. This episode features two guests, Wolfgang Bauer and Scott Therian who are both uniquely positioned to speak on renewable energy sourcing and adoption as it relates to higher education.

Wolfgang is Associate Vice President for Administration at Michigan State University. His expertise is in renewable power systems integration, micro-grid management, energy efficiency, and sustainability. Scott is Project Development Manager at REC Solar. He has spent the last 9 years in the solar industry after getting his education in electrical engineering with a focus on power systems, energy conversion, and renewable energy sources.

Join these two renewable energy experts and host, John Failla of Smart Energy Decisions for this intriguing and insightful episode.

Outline of This Episode
  • [1:05] What are the drivers for renewable energy sourcing in higher education?
  • [8:02] How renewable energy fits into the energy sourcing of many colleges
  • [18:09] Why are universities moving slowly on renewable energy sourcing?
  • [26:42] Will higher education institutions accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles?
  • [29:52] What is happening in universities by way of innovation to drive renewable energy adoption?
  • [39:27] Final comments about the topic from Wolfgang and Scott
University campuses are huge energy consumers. Is it possible for them to use renewable energy?

Most universities are strategizing around the use of renewable energy, both in terms of how to use more renewable energy for current needs, and how to increase the use of renewable energy through establishing their own sources of RE in the future. But there are many variables that either support or hinder the adoption of renewable energy in these institutions. One advantage is that universities are long-standing institutions, which provides stability and inertia that can be leveraged toward multi-year contracts with renewable energy companies. But other factors can make the adoption of renewable energy difficult. For example, many land grant institutions have the advantage of developing their own sources of renewable energy, while urban universities have less opportunity to do so.

What are the drivers for adoption of renewable energy in higher education?

For institutions of higher learning, as well as other large organizations, a choice no longer has to be made between environmental sustainability and fiscal sustainability. Both can be a reality. The levelized cost of large scale solar and wind power is now lower than that of fossil fuel generated power - even with the historically low cost of natural gas that has resulted from Fracking. For this reason, cost is a significant driving factor for the adoption of renewables at universities.

But also, due to political pressure, more and more universities are making progressive pledges that put them at the forefront of the renewable energy stage. They want to be seen as leaders in this innovative and future-oriented field. As a result, many universities are entering into cooperative agreements with public sector organizations to bring the reality of renewable energy on campuses to life. Listen to hear more drivers for the adoption of renewable energy at these institutions.

Renewable energy sourcing is not something universities are used to doing

The adoption of renewable energy is challenging for universities because it’s not like any procurement the administration is used to doing. In the past, energy needs would simply be procured from the local utility company. But the marketplace has changed and now schools have many options for meeting their energy needs. And the transition from old energy models to renewable energy involves complex projects that require much foresight and planning, which often gets bogged down in committee.

But many universities are beginning to move in the right direction - restructuring their administration to take energy needs into account with the creation of administrative positions such as Director of Sustainability or Director of Energy and Utilities. As well, the use of third party consultants is becoming more commonplace since most universities don’t know exactly what they need when it comes to renewable energy. Consultants can help the institution get through the decision-making process in an informed way so they can more quickly lay out exactly what they need. This facilitates the bidding process to get adoption projects underway.

The complex and multi-faceted needs of universities are driving innovation

The fact that higher ...

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Naturally, as any consumer technology becomes available to the public, the supporting infrastructure has to be developed right alongside. That’s the only way it can become widely accepted. But it’s not as easy as “just doing it.” There are many obstacles, financial hurdles, and unforeseen difficulties that have to be overcome. This conversation dives into what’s happening behind the scenes in the electric vehicle industry to deploy EV charging infrastructure across the nation.

John’s guests are Rob Threlkeld and Craig Noxon. Rob is the Global Manager of Sustainable Energy, Supply, and Reliability at General Motors, one of the many automotive suppliers leading the way toward EV adoption. Craig is Vice President of Enterprise Sales at REC Solar, a Duke Energy company. Both men have a unique insider’s view of what’s happening to build out the infrastructure necessary for wider adoption of electric vehicles, so be sure you listen to hear what’s happening on the ground across the nation to promote the purchase and use of electric vehicles.

Outline of This Episode
  • [1:10] The increasing demand for EV infrastructure - what’s your experience?
  • [7:06] Obstacles in meeting the demand for EV infrastructure
  • [11:09] How retailers can benefit from investing in EV charging infrastructure
  • [13:13] Can commercial fleet electrification over tax the electrical supply?
  • [23:33] What could accelerate adoption of Electric Vehicle infrastructure?
  • [37:00] The hot topics to watch over the next few years
  • [41:00] Final thoughts: Corporations and individuals need to get involved
Retailers can gain an advantage by investing in the EV charging infrastructure

Many businesses across the country are noticing the advantages that can be had by providing EV charging stations at their retail locations. When customers who own and drive electric vehicles have a place to park and recharge their vehicles, it naturally follows they will frequent the establishment that provides it - and make purchases there.

In retail, that's worth noticing. Anything that produces a competitive advantage is going to be seriously considered. Rob and Craig discuss how retailers, automakers, and local utilities are working together to roll out more EV charging stations at retail locations, on this episode of Beyond the Meter.

20 million EVs on the road in the next 10 years - what will that require from an energy perspective?

As more and more electric vehicles hit the road, many things will be needed to both support and sustain the shift away from traditional fossil fuel vehicles. What sort of things need to happen?

  • There will undoubtedly be Increases the amount of energy that utilities must provide for EV use

This means that infrastructure decisions and innovations must be top of mind now so that when the demand arrives, we’ll be able to meet it.

  • The demand for EV infrastructure will continue to grow

It’s not only the electrical suppliers that need to think about the infrastructure - employers, corporations, and even leaders of municipalities need to be involved, taking steps to ensure that the technology and innovation needed to serve their communities is happening. Demand drives supply - always.

  • Storage issues will need to be considered

Imagine the energy demand required if a good majority of those 20 million EVs were charging at the same time. Would the electrical supply chain be able to handle it? It will if we think ahead about the storage needs required to pull it off. We need to ensure that energy produced during “non-peak” times can be stored effectively and economically so that it can be used during peak times - which means the storage technologies we have now need to be improved and increased across the board.

EV as a service could be a very real possibility in the near future

One of the most encouraging things happening around the move to electric vehicles is that partnerships between energy suppliers and automotive manufacturers are being formed to help consumers make the transition. Plans are being considered to provide “EV as a service” to interested consumers.

These agreements - much like a traditional automotive lease - would potentially provide not only the vehicle, but also the energy, access to the charging infrastructure, and more. Imagine it - consumers would be able to receive a complete EV solution from one provider.

The “sharing economy” might come into play as well. Conversations are happening around the idea of “stranded assets” such as fully charged electric vehicles that are sitting idle, being used to provide electricity back to their local utilities, for other users to “borrow,” and more. Listen to learn some of the great ideas being considered.

What to expect 18 months from now

The move to EVs is happening rapidly. That means m...

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When considering both the future of the planet and the future of both industry and human thriving worldwide, the renewable energy outlook is of paramount importance. Renewable energy is of vital concern simply because cultures worldwide consume energy as part of everyday life. Renewable sources of energy are of such great importance for two main reasons:

  1. Renewable energy sources, by definition, never deplete
  2. Renewable energy options provide a way for humanity to step away from environmentally damaging fossil fuels

This conversation is an exploration into the renewable energy outlook for the near future, led by Smart Energy Decisions founder, John Failla. John speaks with Chris Fallon, Vice President of Duke Energy Renewables and Kyle Harrison of Bloomberg NEE about the future of renewable energy through the lens of varied approaches and ideas. You’ll receive a broad overview of the current state of the renewable energy industry, hear the challenges being addressed currently, and gain an optimistic perspective relating to what can be done to make renewable energy more available and useful in the future. And keep reading below to see some of the specific topics addressed in this conversation.

Outline of This Episode
  • [2:20] Why a tangible commitment to sustainability goals is the first step for companies
  • [5:15] What’s happening with companies regarding ESG investing and Green bonds?
  • [9:18] The economics of renewable energy: a double-edged sword
  • [13:18] Community Solar: the opportunities and challenges
  • [16:38] The future of large scale virtual Power Purchase Agreements
  • [22:22] Utility green tariff programs: what’s the future?
  • [27:33] Retail supply products in the renewable energy outlook
  • [30:56] Are there opportunities to integrate RE procurement with other initiatives?
  • [33:00] What might accelerate or slow the growth of renewable energy?
The renewable energy outlook relies heavily on companies

Companies, both large and small, are by far some of the largest consumers of energy worldwide. That means if companies make a commitment to renewable energy use rather than traditional fossil fuel use, the renewable energy industry will take a giant step forward. As of 2018, 42% of companies have stated both renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction goals. Today, just over 190 companies have set target dates by which they intend to offset 100% of their energy consumption with renewable energy. Those are promising facts, which will require aggressive emissions reduction steps - and buying clean energy is one of the best ways to do so.

Listen to hear the stories of companies that are striving toward their renewable energy goals and to understand the challenges they face in doing so.

The economics of renewable energy: a double-edged sword

Two of the most obvious and in-demand sources of renewable energy are wind and solar. Costs have come down in both of those branches of the industry, which has made clean energy more attractive for corporate buyers. But though the low cost makes renewable energy very attractive, there are difficulties to be overcome. Kyle Harrison refers to this conundrum as a double-edged sword.

Both wind and solar operate at zero marginal cost - which means that in some markets there is an over-saturation of renewable energy produced by solar or wind generation. When this happens, prices are depressed, which in turn decreases the profitability of the installations generating that power. When that’s the case, it makes signing energy procurement deals in those particular markets that work financially for both provider and consumer, difficult at best.

In this conversation, you’ll also learn how some corporate customers are looking at renewable energy as a risk mitigation play - taking advantage of the tax incentives offered by the government for using renewables by trying to lock in the benefits of low rates for a longer period of time.

The opportunity of community solar

When we talk about “Community Solar” projects, we’re referring to local solar facilities that are shared by multiple community subscribers (companies in most cases.). Those subscribers receive credit on their electricity bills for their agreed-upon share of the power produced. It’s a model of solar production and usage that is being adopted nationwide. Companies that participate receive the flexibility of an on-site project under purchase or lease agreements.

Not only does a subscriber company benefit by transferring some of their energy supply to renewable energy they also receive the benefit of having a good PR story to tell to the media and customers and shareholders. Unfortunately, Community Solar is not an effective way to meet the overall energy demands of most companies.

Listen to hear why Community Solar is one of the fastest-growing segm...

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Renewable energy is a big topic these days - and it will undoubtedly become a bigger topic as we move further into the 21st century. It’s not just that we want to develop more efficient and environmentally friendly energy solutions, it’s that we must. Our future and the future of our planet depend on it.

I’m John Failla, Founder and Editorial Director at Smart Energy Decisions, the first web-based information resource dedicated exclusively to addressing the information needs of commercial and industrial electric power customers. Our goal is to serve as a catalyst for change in support of the dramatic energy transformation taking place in the electric power market. To that end, we want to elevate the conversation around the topic of renewable energy, and this podcast, produced in partnership with Duke Energy is one way we are doing that.

Join us for “Beyond The Meter” - a series of conversations highlighting what’s happening in the field of renewable energy. In this series, we’ll discuss how companies and municipalities are beginning to transition, how innovation and technology are making it possible, and what YOU can do to join the movement. You can subscribe to these conversations in a number of ways, which you can find at the bottom of these notes. Thank you!

Outline of This Episode
  • [0:32] Who is Craig Noxon?
  • [1:16] The three “C”s behind the use of renewable energy in corporates
  • [6:22] The increase in use of distributed energy sources
  • [12:35] The utility companies are a significant part of the renewable energy transition
How and why corporations need to transition toward renewable energy

Corporations are under increasing pressure due to the global competition they face. The rise of the internet alongside other digital technologies enables competition from around the world to reach out to their markets. For this reason, the leadership at corporations across the world are discovering that they need ways to do more with less.

When it comes to doing more with less, energy has been a bit stubborn. It’s been hard to reduce costs in that area and still provide needed resources, but all that is changing, for a few very encouraging reasons...

1 - Policy changes have occurred that allow for more choice. Corporations are realizing that the loggerheads they once experienced when choosing utilities and energy solutions are no longer the same.

2 - Innovation in both financial and technological ways are allowing for options that didn’t exist before. Wind and solar are now able to compete with the traditional energy grid to drive down the cost per kilowatt hour. Corporations are finding this very appealing. Imagine the difference it could make to a manufacturing company to reduce its energy costs company-wide!

Control and Costs are huge considerations when it comes to renewable energy

The rise of renewable energy has had a wonderful impact on the ability of corporations to exercise greater control in how they go about using energy. They can now manage risk more effectively and plan for the future due to the options available - EVs, solar, microgrid storage, and more. These allow businesses to have a greater degree of resiliency and increased capacity. The increased usefulness of storage technologies is the glue that helps the distributed generation technologies work together.

It’s encouraging to realize that there is not a single technology that makes distributed energy solutions work. The technologies that exist are able to work together in ways unheard of previously.

Utility companies play a huge role in making the transition to renewable energy

It’s to be expected that a transition of the magnitude needed in the energy industry is going to take time and require many people and entities to participate. One of the beautiful things is that we now have solutions beyond what a typical regulated utility company can provide. For example, Duke Energy is the owner of REC Solar. Why? It gives Duke access outside its typical markets and the potential to own and operate energy assets long term. More and more partnerships like this are happening and it’s serving the public good by utilizing the strengths of the long-standing energy companies alongside the innovations found in renewable energy technologies like wind and solar.

Subscribe to this podcast to hear more about what’s happening in the industry, what you can expect to see in terms of innovation and adoption as time rolls on, and how you can be part of the renewable energy revolution.

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  • FAQ

    How many episodes does Beyond The Meter have?

    Beyond The Meter currently has 20 episodes available.

    What topics does Beyond The Meter cover?

    The podcast is about News, Management, Business News, Podcasts and Business.

    What is the most popular episode on Beyond The Meter?

    The episode title 'Resiliency and Technology in Cities, Ep #9' is the most popular.

    What is the average episode length on Beyond The Meter?

    The average episode length on Beyond The Meter is 46 minutes.

    How often are episodes of Beyond The Meter released?

    Episodes of Beyond The Meter are typically released every 27 days, 21 hours.

    When was the first episode of Beyond The Meter?

    The first episode of Beyond The Meter was released on May 22, 2019.

    Show more FAQ

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