AEE World 2023 – Day 2

Written by: Andrew Penner, Chapter President and AEE Regional VP for Canada

More sessions. Make your choice again and reap the reward.

I was focused on chairing a session in Track L focusing on the role colleges are playing in accelerating community decarbonization. Speakers represented three colleges in Canada and the United States.

While each college has taken a unique path and created highly personalized integrated energy and carbon plans, a number of themes emerged.

  • The plan – the vision – must be owned and endorsed by the organization/institution. In these cases, the President and/or the board. In the case of other institutions, the face of the organization.
  • Establish achievable but reportable goals.
  • Ensure flexibility so that the plan need not be redrawn in the event an unplanned external disruption occurs.
  • When it comes to technology, sometimes it’s best to look to more mature markets.
    • In the case of thermal energy networks, pre-insulated pipe systems are common place in Europe while in North America, thermal networks are traditionally built/assembled in place. Leveraging the more efficient system from abroad is more cost and schedule efficient.
  • Be cautious when sharing specific measure by measure performance data with sponsors.
    • Keep reporting at the program level to avoid executives cherry picking measures.
  • College (or university) institutions have a real opporutnity to take the achievement of goals around climate change mitigation and decarbonization and leverage them for learning.
    • Establish curriculum around the projects and project outcomes.
    • Interactive exhibits provide valuable real-world transparency.

Panel Discussions

After lunch attendees could choose between two special panels:

Decarbonization and Electrification

This session was chaired by Anna Kelly, hot off her International Award for Young Energy Professional of the Year.

Panelists included Britta Gross, Maria Tikoff Vargas, Michael Chanin, and Shay Reed.

Private Public Partnerships for a Clean Energy Future

This session was chaired by Eric Oliver.

Panelists included Dr. Henry McKoy, Anne Hampson, Matthew Nemerson, and Sydney Kitson.

I attended the decarbonization panel. While it promised to focus on actions and solutions and active work – avoiding discussion around gaps or things that we NEED to do – there was a tendency to point these out. A few interesting insights were shared (certainly there are more, but these seemed interesting, perhaps a little less obvious, and important).

  1. There is a skill shortage. One panelist noted that at some point a few years back, electrical engineering saw an inflection point where students needed to choose between learning and future career opportunities in Analog or Digital systems. This resulted in a skills gap electrically for the type of expertise we need now with the electrification transition gaining momentum.
  2. When speaking to skills gaps, one panelist encouraged the audience to think creatively, relying a little less on the degree and more on the underlying skill aptitudes like:
    • Data Analytics
    • Accouting
    • Statistics
  3. We all need to continue to strengthen the synergistic connection between energy efficiency and energy generation. It has been said by many that efficiency is by far the least expensive kilowatt.
  4. It may be time for a war like industrial effort – this time focusing on transformers and switch gear rather than ships and tanks.
  5. Creative adaptation. The point was made serval times from a variety of angles. Thinking out of the box. Taking a less direct route.

International Business meeting and Dinner

Possibly the night I look forward to the most, Day 2 on Thursday represents an opporutnity for the International community of AEE to get together. We begin with our annual International Business Meeting. Updates are delivered from AEE (Bill Kent and others) as well as from the Regional VPs.

There are many regions and chapters so unfortunately, there isn’t time to get into the details, this meeting does give the international community (beyond chapter leadership) a view of what other chapters and regions are doing.

Following the business meeting, the international group took a walk up International Blvd for a evening of food, drink and networking! I LOVE the international dinner. From the first one I attended a handful or more years ago, this singular event is always on my priority in my calendar.

The international community at AEE is RICH. So many engaged and motivated people. Speaking with one it occurred to me that coming from Canada and a place of privilege, we may take for granted too much. For many internationally, accessing the network in an organization like AEE represents a lifeline or at the very least greases the wheels for opportunity abroad. Our organization needs to tap into that reality – not to exploit it for dues, but rather to build the international community. There is no reason why the internationals couldn’t outnumber domestic members many fold. To my eye, that wouldn’t be a loss but rather represent strength. Strength in numbers but also in diversity of experience.

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