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/

Face Off: The Sunshine City’s Future Shines Bright

Face Off: The Sunshine City’s Future Shines Bright

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

 

4 min read January 2020 Deliberate, calculated and fast-moving are just a few of the ways to describe the economic growth happening in the city of St. Petersburg. Long known as the “Sunshine City,” St. Pete has developed into an economic and arts and culture powerhouse within the Tampa Bay Region. This is in large part thanks to efforts by a motivated business community and community leaders. Invest: spoke with two of the prominent figures in the St. Pete community about their organization’s efforts to maximize the potential of their city. J.P. DuBuque, the president of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation, and Alison Barlow, the executive director of the St. Pete Innovation District, also discussed their view of the future and the challenges that await. 

 

How are you working to promote economic expansion in St. Petersburg?

J.P. DuBuque: As an EDC, our primary role is to help grow jobs in the St. Petersburg area. One way we can contribute to that is by attracting new companies into our community. The most effective means of doing this is by telling our story, and to tell the story we have to know what the story is. This means we have to understand what our local community looks like. We are spending a good bit of time focusing on our local community to really understand the targeted industries that we want to enhance and grow. We are working with groups like the data analytics community and marine science community to best understand their needs. This in turn relays to us where the opportunities lie to attract new businesses to the region. Apart from this, we spend a lot of time out of the market, meeting with individual companies and other markets to tell them the great story of doing business in St. Petersburg. Sometimes this is through coordinated business development missions, while other times it is by leveraging non- economic-development-related conferences like South by Southwest or through focused sales development efforts.

Alison Barlow: The entrepreneurial ecosystem and talent development are two big areas of focus for us. We are doing a program called Innovation Scholars, which provides unique job shadowing opportunities for first-year students at USF St. Petersburg. We have already paired 39 students with companies in the Innovation District and around Downtown. We are also exploring ways to incubate more marine technologies, such as sensors, drones and ROVs, as well as encouraging the link between marine and life sciences.

As part of our efforts to attract businesses and talent to the district, we offer a variety of office space types. We are also focusing on connecting people who are located near the St. Pete Innovation District and making them part of the district. We are supporting the creation of social spaces by encouraging restaurants and retailers to come to the area. We are also supporting the full range of housing, from fully-assisted affordable housing to workforce, multifamily and luxury condos.

From your perspective, what is one of the most significant challenges for economic growth in St. Petersburg?

DuBuque: The biggest challenge for us is perception versus reality, and I believe this is a statewide challenge. When you look at what people think regarding some of the things that are necessary to build a successful business, and a successful quality of life, there are some perception challenges for Florida. The perception that Florida is not a good business environment, and that our school systems are not up to par are a real challenge. The perception, and reality, of Florida’s lack of mass transit is a real issue that needs to be overcome. When we have an opportunity to show folks what the reality is, they are typically pleasantly surprised.

Barlow: We are leading conversations with local health institutions about how changes in our oceans have an impact on our people. Human and ocean health are becoming much more related. For example, last year we had a significant red tide, and while the marine scientists were looking at the causes that were making it worse and the impact on marine life, the physicians in our area were seeing an uptick in asthma issues due to the airborne aspect of red tide.

We have some of the best sea level rise experts in St. Petersburg. It is encouraging to see the progress of their research looking at temperature fluctuation, the infiltration of bacteria and nutrients in the water that is contributing to algae blooms such as blue-green algae and red tide. They are turning this deep research into practical knowledge for the community. 

What has you excited for the future economic growth in St. Petersburg?  

DuBuque: It is important to remember that growth is necessary for us to move forward as a society. If we are not growing as individuals and as a community, then we are actually moving backward. That said, the level of proactivity from the Economic Development Corporation allows us to select the types of businesses that we want to really bring here. That in and of itself will help move us forward. We also have a full community commitment to the Grow Smarter Strategy, which gives us a common road map for every person in the economic development game. Those things allow us to maintain the culture and character of St. Petersburg while still moving forward. The worst thing that we could do is to kill the golden goose, which for us is the vibrancy, authenticity, arts, creativity, innovation and “funk” of St. Pete.

Barlow: We are excited about our progress on our smart city project. The St. Pete Innovation District is partnering with Spectrum and US Ignite to test concepts around smart city technology to improve the lives of the people in our community. It is also a chance for us to try sensor technology and think about what it would mean for educational and workforce opportunities. We are getting closer to installing four smart light poles on the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus that will have power, internet and the ability to host environmental and traffic sensors.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

https://stpeteinnovationdistrict.com/the-district/

https://stpeteedc.com/