Spotlight On: Kevin Poet, Charlotte Vice President of Operations, Siemens

Spotlight On: Kevin Poet, Charlotte Vice President of Operations, Siemens

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read AprilCompanies across sectors are fervently working to reduce emissions, switch to renewable energies and use technology to create a cleaner, greener future for the next generations. The same is true for companies directly involved in the energy industry. This year, Siemens AG. announced it will create a new company, Siemens Energy, focusing on conventional power, oil and gas, power transmission and renewable energy to position itself for the future of the industry. In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, Vice President of Operations Kevin Poet talks about the decision to create the new power and gas company, some of the challenges and opportunities in the energy industry and the near-term outlook for the industry. One of the challenges is balance, as it relates to balancing the needs and the drive to go as fast as we can to clean energy, with the need to continue to supply the demand today with the technology available

 What will be the focus of Siemens Energy?

The operations in Charlotte and Winston-Salem will be part of the new company. The largest manufacturing site in North America is in Charlotte and gives us the opportunity to focus on growing the business in new areas and markets that we have not traditionally been in. Our legacy work at the Charlotte plant is primarily large-scale, fossil-power generating equipment, and that market and demand is going down, mainly due to renewables and energy efficiency, as well as the push for decentralization and new technologies. We believe this trend will continue, and for us to thrive in a new market we have to get into different businesses and expand our portfolio. In the short term, we are looking at smaller, industrial-sized units that companies use to decentralize their power needs. In the future, we will see these units move toward hydrogen-burning technology, and potentially into new businesses altogether in the mobility, or renewables and wind areas. As a manufacturing center, we have the installed capability necessary to manufacture any of the components, products, and systems along the whole value stream. Our growth initiative aims to reshape what the future looks like as far as engineering and manufacturing.

 

What will the future of clean energy look like?

One of the challenges is balance, as it relates to balancing the needs and the drive to go as fast as we can to clean energy, with the need to continue to supply the demand today with the technology available today. For Siemens, we are the only site in North America that can service the large, traditional generating units that are in power plants. It will be critical for our business going forward, and for our customers, to continue to supply components and provide service for those units until they are transitioned into a cleaner form of energy, or retired altogether. Investment in the energy business is a huge challenge because of the size and scope, the length of the investment and payback. Typically, investing in a power plant is a 20- to 30-year investment. The changing landscape around technology, and what the future of energy will look like, and the volatility when it comes to policy, has a lot of people nervous about making large investments. There is a tug of war between the need to invest and innovate and concern with what the future could look like.   

 

How can companies take advantage of the talent based in the Charlotte region?

The Charlotte region has a developed ecosystem around providing talent. The university system in the region is superb. There is an abundance of opportunities for university partnerships in research, development and workforce training. For example, we do our apprenticeship program through Central Piedmont Community College. They helped develop the curriculum and advised on the training courses, length of time and certifications. They really helped put together a good structured approach to the needs we were trying to fill, and this is happening with other universities across the region as well. For companies looking to relocate to the region, those kinds of available relationships are a selling point.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://new.siemens.com/us/en/company/siemens-in-the-usa/charlotte.html

 

 

Face Off: Bringing More Energy to the Bay

Face Off: Bringing More Energy to the Bay

By: Max Crampton Thomas

4 min read February 2020 As the Tampa Bay region continues to grow both in population size and new developments, the need for access to more energy and cleaner energy solutions grows with it. Invest: spoke with the leaders of two of the main sources of energy for the region and their innovative approach to creating cleaner energy solutions. T.J. Szelistowski serves as the president for Peoples Gas, which has provided Florida residents and businesses with reliable, environmentally-friendly, economical natural gas products and service since 1895. Nancy Tower leads Tampa Electric as its president and CEO. The utility has served the Tampa Bay area for 120 years, with more than 5,000MW of generating capacity. 

How is your company innovating in terms of technology?

T.J. Szelistowski: The last time we spoke, we discussed implementing gas-fired heat pumps that use natural gas instead of electricity for air conditioning. We are working with several customers on installations of this technology.  Additionally, we have installed the technology in three of our facilities and have been pleased with the performance.  

In terms of other technologies, we are targeting farming and waste facilities that release methane into the air. Our environmental solution is to capture that methane and clean it up to reinject it into the system. This not only provides a cleaner form of natural gas but also reduces methane emissions. We look forward to announcing some significant projects with this technology in the near future.

Nancy Tower: We believe battery storage is a part of our energy future. The technology is new, and we’re not ready to deploy that on a large scale until we figure out the true impact it will have on our system. We have put in place a battery storage project this year near our Big Bend solar project, which will give us really good information on how solar and battery storage interacts with our system. We’re really looking at how we can integrate battery storage into the complexity of the renewable energy ecosystem.

In other technologies, we are also in the middle of a large-scale installation of smart meters, which provide a lot more information and allow us to provide customers with superior service. 

T.J. Szelistowski

Why has investment in cleaner, more renewable energy and environmental sustainability been such a focus for your company?

Szelistowski: Natural gas is the perfect partner to renewable solar energy to provide capacity when the sun is not shining and to ensure energy is available to customers around the clock. Additionally, natural gas can provide great environmental benefits by replacing diesel fuel usage in large vehicles, such as buses and waste-management trucks.   

 A variety of ships are starting to convert to natural gas because of changing environmental regulations, specifically IMO 2020, which slashes permissible levels of sulfur permitted in fuel for seaborne vessels to minimal levels and opens the door for liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative.

Tower: The biggest factor is that customers want it. When thinking back over the last few years, the number of people focused on a cleaner environment has increased exponentially. This is symbolic of the focus citizens and our customers have on environmental stewardship, and that is not going away. We are very happy with our progress.

I think it’s our obligation on behalf of customers to demonstrate that clean energy is not only our responsibility in terms of an environmental perspective, but also from a cost perspective. We are focused on both of those things simultaneously. As the entity generating electricity, we have the responsibility of doing that in the most responsible way.

Nancy Tower

How would you respond to the argument that clean energy is not yet cost-effective or readily available?  

Szelistowski: Natural gas interstate transmission pipelines are relatively new to Florida compared with the Northeast, having been introduced only in the 1950s. In addition, natural gas is a primary source of space heating in many parts of the country. With limited space heating in Florida, natural gas is primarily used for cooking, water heating and clothes drying in addition to industrial uses. We see a great desire for natural gas by people who have moved from other parts of the country and have enjoyed using natural gas in the past.  

In terms of misconceptions, people do not realize the widespread availability of natural gas in Florida. Additionally, they may not realize the affordable nature of home and business use of natural gas. With low and steady gas prices, natural gas provides a great alternative to both business and homes.  

Tower: It is our job to ensure that our generation portfolio is the most cost-effective for customers. Over the long term, we have carried out extensive cost modeling to ensure we can meet these expectations. In the next number of years, we will add more solar capacity and our generation will include more small-scale methods combined with battery storage. This doesn’t come without hard work and we need to find the right ways to keep costs low. This involves finding the right land close to our transmission infrastructure, ensuring suppliers are providing competitive prices and efficient cost management. Costs have come down, but we need to ensure we tightly manage this.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.tampaelectric.com/

https://www.peoplesgas.com/

Spotlight On: Catherine Stempien, President, Duke Energy Florida

Spotlight On: Catherine Stempien, President, Duke Energy Florida

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read February 2020 — Duke Energy Florida is not just increasing the amount of renewable power it is offering customers, with several solar plants coming online, it is also looking to harden its grid to protect it from increasingly harsh storms in the southern United States, as well as in cutting-edge “self healing” technology to reduce the impact of outages, according to Catherine Stempien, the company’s president.

 

 

 What advances have been made regarding the company’s clean energy projects in the region?

 

We are still in the process of building 700 megawatts of solar in our system and that will be completed by 2022. We are making significant progress on that. We are either operating or in the construction phase for about half of those megawatts. We brought two new solar plants online in December, at Lake Placid and Trenton, and we have two being completed in the first half of this year in Fort White and DeBary, with two others just announced in North Florida.

 

The other area where we have really made progress is in battery storage. We have said that we are going to build 50 megawatts worth of battery projects, and we have made announcements for three of these projects located in Trenton, Cape San Blas and Jennings. The battery charges when the sun is up and when the sun is down the battery discharges that energy. But batteries can do much more for our system. We have been testing a lot of cases for battery use, and the projects that we are going to be doing will help improve reliability for our customers, giving them more reliable power.

 

How is the company ensuring customers get the energy they need?

 

Our customers want power, and they want that power to stay on 24/7. We are midway through deploying our self-healing grid technology. About 50% of Pinellas County is covered by this technology now. If you think about the electric grid as a highway system, when you have a traffic jam somewhere in that system you want Waze or Google Maps to redirect you around that traffic jam. The grid works the same way: if we have an outage, or a tree falls down on a line, you want to be able to redirect the power around that problem to make sure that people get their energy. This technology does that automatically. We have sensors and communications devices all over our grid that automatically reroute the power and minimizes the problem, reducing the number of customers impacted. People might see a one-minute outage and then it will go back up again. In 2019, 150,000 outages did not happen because our system was able to reroute power, and that prevented 10 million minutes of customer interruptions. 

 

Why is Duke Energy pushing forward with sustainable power solutions?

 

Duke Energy Corp, of which we are a part, decided it was going to push itself and target climate goals that we are going to hold ourselves to. By 2030, we want to reduce our carbon footprint by 50% from 2005, and by 2050 we want to be at net zero. Duke Energy Florida is going to be an important part of the enterprise goal. We have a line of sight on how we are going to meet the 2030 goal, but we don’t have an exact line of sight into how we are going to do it by 2050. We need certain technologies to advance faster, and we need the regulators to come along with us. We believe you have to set yourself aspirational goals.

 

How much should companies involve themselves in sustainability efforts?

 

Over the last number of years, we have seen an increase in the intensity and the characteristics of storms hitting the United States. Florida is at a higher risk of getting hit by those storms. We believe we need to plan for storm events. In 2018, two major storms hit our service territory, one in Florida and one in North Carolina. Hurricane Michael was a Category 5 storm that devastated the areas it hit. We had to completely rebuild the distribution system and 34 miles of transmission lines. But it left pretty quickly. 

 

Another storm, Hurricane Florence, hit the Carolinas. It was a water storm that stalled over the eastern part of North Carolina and dumped rain for days, causing extreme flooding, which makes it difficult to access substations and lines. It is hard to predict these kinds of events, so we are looking to constantly improve our response, making sure we have the right crews, with the right equipment, available to restore power.

 

The Florida legislature recognized these challenges and passed legislation in 2019 to encourage utilities to invest in hardening their grids for storms. It cleared the regulatory path for us to work on storm hardening, from making poles stronger, undergrounding certain parts of the grid, and replacing lattice towers with monopole towers. All of this work is part of a 10-year plan to harden our system so we are prepared.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

https://www.duke-energy.com/home

 

 

Spotlight On: Anddrikk Frazier, President & CEO, Integral Energy

Spotlight On: Anddrikk Frazier, President & CEO, Integral Energy

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

3 min read January 2020 — A growing economy in the Tampa Bay region equates to growth mode for most local businesses. One of the most important aspects of keeping this growth consistent is reducing costs in a smart and consistent manner. This can be achieved through an emphasis on reducing energy consumption. Full-service energy management companies like Brandon-based Integral Energy have recognized the opportunities in the market and have found demand for their multiple services throughout the Tampa Bay region. Invest: spoke with the president and CEO of Integral Energy, Anddrikk Frazier, about his business, demand for services and much more. 

 

 How is Tampa Bay a strategic location for your business operations? 

My first job was in the energy sector in Tampa and watching the growth in the region over the course of my lifetime is impressive. What separates Tampa from other cities across Florida are features like ports, airports and the ability to connect to anywhere in the Florida within three hours. 

Where have you seen the most demand among the variety of services you offer? 

Integral Energy is a full-service energy management company. We provide natural gas marketing services for commercial customers throughout the state of Florida. We also provide solutions for transportation companies as it relates to alternative fuels. Thirdly, our energy management division helps large businesses that consume large quantities of energy to understand their operating costs on a per plate or per widget basis and then we find ways to reduce those operational costs. I think the biggest demand for service comes from energy management requests and natural gas marketing. Many of our customers do not understand how energy costs are passed on, simply because that is not where the priority lies for hotels, convention centers and other large businesses. We have the ability to reduce energy costs without reducing the quality of their product, which is a huge bonus for them. That has been our biggest growth opportunity. 

A lot of demand comes from the private sector, mainly because public procurement processes can be intensive. We do get enquiries from the public sector, but most of the time they are looking for the cheapest price. Our value is based on return on investment, which does not always translate well to public sector work. In the private sector, there is greater understanding of the concept that each dollar spent now is an investment in future CAPEX reductions. We have had a lot of success in working with companies such as Saddle Creek Transportation and Waste Connections because we are able to explain to them the true cost they are saving with our services. 

How have the needs of your clients evolved over the last three to five years? 

We are the only minority-owned natural gas marketing company in the state of Florida, and this is what started our relationship with Waste Connections. But as we began to evaluate their business, the largest overhead was their employees. We had to find ways to work with them to increase service while keeping rates the same. Over the course of the last four years, we have saved Waste Connections around $2.5 million. 

On a local and national level, what emerging or continuing trends could have an impact on your business? 

There is so much development in the Tampa area, and with new residents come new commercial activity, which is part of our core business. As long as the economy is growing at this pace, we will have the opportunity to provide our services. Regulation is a big indicator for us, and one thing we are monitoring closely is the recent push for carbon footprint reduction. We all have to be mindful of environmental impact and, primarily in the private sector, the main goal is to save money. If we can provide ways to do this while also reducing their carbon footprint, these are the best business models for all parties. 

It is vital for everyone to work toward clean energy solutions. We take pride in being subject-matter experts and understanding what our customers need. CNG and liquid natural gas (LNG), while more environmentally friendly than traditional petroleum options, may not be suitable for all modes of transportation. There is room for electric and hydrogen technologies too, so we need to understand which technologies pair better with which fuel source and the impact that has on the environment. 

How is new technology impacting how companies develop and administer environmental energy solutions? 

The smaller the company, the lesser the disruption. Take a huge company that has made large investments in a particular technology. It takes a lot of momentum to make that company change course. Small businesses are nimbler and have the flexibility to try things out on a smaller scale before launching. On the metering side, we have AMR-AMI, which allows meter readings to be sent out electronically, meaning customers can understand energy usage on a daily or even hourly basis. There will only be greater focus placed on data collection and analysis going forward. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: 

http://www.integralenergyus.com/

 

Spotlight On: Chuck Hurchalla, President, Evolution Energy Partners

Spotlight On: Chuck Hurchalla, President, Evolution Energy Partners

By Yolanda Rivas

2 min read October 2019 —  Energy efficiency and sustainability are hot topics of conversation across all industries and organizations, public or private. Numerous organizations are now embracing eco-friendly alternatives to reduce their impact on the environment and reduce operational costs. During the last few years, full-service energy engineering and consultancy firm Evolution Energy Partners has helped hundreds of clients achieve their goals around utility spend, energy consumption and long-term energy management. Chuck Hurchalla, president of Evolution Energy Partners, recently spoke with the Invest: Philadelphia team about the rapid growth of Philadelphia’s energy sector. 

What types of services or areas of business are seeing the most demand in Philadelphia?  

 There is high demand in the commercial, industrial and institutional sectors for our energy efficiency and energy procurement services. For example, commercial real estate is one of our largest and continuously growing customer segments, particularly hospitality, office, multifamily, senior living and data centers. Regardless of industry though, we address inefficiencies across our customers’ mechanical, HVAC and lighting systems and we also help our clients significantly improve their internal processes. 

 

As a professional design-build energy consultancy, customization based on customer needs and the specific property’s energy profile are key. For example, a stellar guest and resident experience is paramount for our hotel and apartment complex owners, respectively. Our considerable experience in these verticals and our customization abilities allow us to implement a large number of fast payback, customized projects that greatly improve light quality, increase HVAC efficiency, and improve air quality for the benefit of ownership and their guests and residents.

 

To what do you attribute the rapid growth of Philadelphia’s energy sector?

 The opportunities in Philadelphia’s energy sector continue to grow rapidly for a few important reasons. First, businesses and institutions are increasingly recognizing the need to establish and then accomplish sustainability goals to address their corporate environmental concerns and the environmental concerns of their customers. 

 

Second, organizations’ decision-making processes around energy have historically been, and still are, based on the economic benefit derived from those decisions. As utility costs and related charges continue to increase, the financial bottom lines of businesses and institutions are becoming more and more sensitive to utility rates and energy consumption. Understanding that the utility cost center is one of the larger line items on an organization’s income statement, it becomes obvious as to why more and more companies and institutions are focusing on increasing energy efficiency and reducing their energy spend.

 

Lastly, Philadelphia is quickly moving forward with various energy regulations that will require property owners to benchmark their energy usage and to improve their energy efficiency. One benefit of recent Philadelphia-related regulations is the adoption of C-PACE financing. C-PACE, or Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, financing allows a property owner to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with no up-front cost. The property owner then pays the costs back over an extended period of time through a voluntary property tax assessment, which leads to increased project adoption and improved cash flow for the property. 

 

What makes Evolution Energy Partners unique?

 Evolution Energy Partners is unique in the industry because of our ability to evaluate a facility’s energy cost center from an owner’s perspective in order to positively impact the three critical areas of commodity prices, energy consumption, and long-term energy management. This approach has become even more powerful and more critical to our customers as environmental sustainability has become increasingly integral and imperative to our customers’ shareholders and to society as a whole. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

Evolution Energy Partners: https://evolutionep.com/ 

Solar: The Ray of Light in Miami’s Clean Energy Bid

Solar: The Ray of Light in Miami’s Clean Energy Bid

By Sara Warden

2 min read October 2019 — This month, youth climate advocates came together around the world to highlight the global climate emergency, and Miami Beach listened. The city declared its own climate emergency in response and vowed to prioritize climate change on its agenda.

“We are so proud of the youth leaders and their allies who worked hard to make this declaration a reality. We hope the city of Miami Beach will continue this leadership trend by taking concrete action to reduce emissions, like transitioning to 100% clean and renewable energy,” Emily Gorman, a representative for environmental group Sierra Club, told the Miami Herald.

The city has dabbled in renewable energy over the years but certain technologies, like wind, are simply not viable. Land is becoming more expensive, meaning there are few options for wind power developers to install turbines in a cost-effective way. Miami Beach has access to the sea, but offshore wind turbines would be vulnerable to hurricane activity off the Gulf Coast, which could ultimately be more costly for the city. Hydro energy has been generated by Florida for decades in the city of Tallahassee, but now solar power undercuts it economically and the city proposed the closure of one of its two plants in 2017 due to inefficiencies.

Now, developers in The Sunshine State, are focusing on the shining beacon of hope for renewable energy policies: solar power. Initial outlay for solar energy in Miami-Dade is still relatively expensive, coming in at between $11,645 and $15,755, equating to around $2.74/W. But Miami’s privileged position means it has on average 248 sunny days per year, compared with the national average of 205, meaning its residents can reap greater rewards from solar power.

Major U.S. utility Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is taking advantage of the opportunity to transition to renewables by launching the FPL SolarTogether initiative. “Based on the substantial interest and support that we’ve received on this innovative, voluntary and affordable program from such a diverse array of customers, community partners, businesses, local governments and national clean energy advocacy groups, we’re confident that the time is right for this program,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL, to Renewable Energy Magazine.

In the largest community solar program nationwide, FPL SolarTogether will expand solar energy access across Florida by investing in the installation of almost 1,500MW of solar energy across 20 solar plants. FPL will offer access to its solar energy at a fixed monthly subscription cost and credits will be added to bills over the life of the plants. The utility expects most customers will receive a higher bill initially, which will reduce over three to five years and a full payback will be seen within seven years. 

The program could generate up to $249 million in net savings for FPL customers, according to the utility. But the main benefit of the program is democratization of access to solar energy, since not all citizens have the resources to install their own solar panels given the still-pricey initial outlay. “FPL SolarTogether is designed to remove many of the financial burdens associated with private solar generating systems while also providing direct savings in the form of bill credits, making it an affordable option for any customer. Participants could also utilize the program to meet state and federal sustainability goals,” said the utility in a press release.

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://www.fpl.com/

https://www.sierraclub.org/