By: Max Wycisk, Communications Intern
The second annual New York Energy Week, held last week, brought together more than 4,000 industry leaders and innovators – double the number last year – to discuss the dynamic changes the state’s energy sector has seen in the last twelve months, including the state’s historic move to re-examine its utility business model. In a series of panel discussions held throughout New York City, state, national, and international energy leaders reviewed key topics such as energy storage, building efficiency, and the rapidly evolving utility industry itself. While the topic of discussion varied, a number of consistent themes emerged, giving attendees a clear vision of the steps industry is taking toward adopting a modern, decentralized, clean energy future.
Communication drives innovation
One of the main themes of the conference, which was organized by research firm Enerknol, was the shift in how the energy industry will interact with consumers as well as the way in which it interacts with itself. Speakers frequently described the current energy industry as ‘fragmented’ or ‘acting within silos’ and questions arose at nearly every panel about how to stimulate conversation between different energy sectors that will lead to collaboration, investment, and innovation.
Peter Molengraaf, CEO of the Dutch power company Alliander, articulated this idea during the week’s closing ceremonies when he urged the energy industry to open up and begin sharing information, software, and solutions that will stimulate creativity and benefit both business and customers. The critical need for communication was also expressed during the NYC 2.0 roundtable on sustainable buildings, which was moderated by Rory Christian, EDF’s New York Director, Clean Energy. Panelist Posie Constable, director of Clean Heat Finance at the New York Clean Energy Finance Corporation (NYCEEC) spoke about leveraging partnerships to achieve goals, referencing NYCEEC’s success in refinancing mortgages to support energy efficiency retrofits through partnerships with corporations like Fannie Mae. She noted such relationships are among the largest opportunities currently available to the energy industry.
Technology is accelerating the transition to clean energy
Many participants at New York Energy Week spoke about the potential of technology to significantly accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy by making utilities smarter and enhancing energy efficiency. The applications for technology in the energy industry are limitless and range from using electric vehicles and large batteries to create a resilient electric grid, to enabling two-way data communication programs like demand response, which incentivizes people (via a credit or rebate on their monthly electricity bill) to conserve energy during periods of peak or high energy demand. Technological advances also support the production of renewable energy on a massive scale, with solar panels and wind turbines coming to represent an ever larger percentage of global energy generation as the technology behind them continues to improve.
Conference participants view the energy industry as being at a critical juncture for change and highlighted that actions over the next five years will define our energy future for the following 50. New York Energy Week was a promising start to imagining what this future might look like. We must continue to challenge norms and seek innovative solutions at every turn. EDF looks forward to continuing this dialogue and to realizing all the possibilities that abound when leaders of the energy community work together.