Chair's Update 2nd Quarter 2016

By Bruce Ander posted 06-25-2017 19:16


It seems to be a common experience as we age - the passing of time accelerates. This is my experience as IDEA chair; the year has flown by. At our 106th annual conference in Boston last June I launched our theme for the year, "Embracing Change." In my final message, allow me to reflect on the important connection between this year's theme and our preceding one, "Inspiring the Next Generation."

But first, to those who attended the 29th annual IDEA campus conference in beautiful Austin, Texas, in February: I know you enjoyed a high-energy, informative and record-break­ing event (840 district energy professionals in attendance) hosted by The University of Texas at Austin. Unfortunately, I was prohibited from traveling due to emergency surgery only six days before the conference. The situation was not serious, but my surgeon did tell me this injury is common with weight lifters and middle-aged men with poor judgment. I will let you speculate on my category. Sincerely, missing the trip to Austin was especially disappointing for me. Thanks to all the pinch hitters who carried my assigned duties.

There has never been a more active period in IDEA's long history requiring that we understand the shifting landscape and develop strategies to fend off threats and, more importantly, seize new opportunities. Many new players are now intersecting with IDEA and our industry. Climate change, severe weather, resiliency and the growing influence of cities: These drivers are forming unfore­seen partnerships and birthing new discus­sions of cooperation and collaboration.

All this is happening during an unprec­edented time of change in the sector's workforce. I had the privilege of recently speaking to a postgraduate environmental studies class at York University (an IDEA mem­ber system). The students were, of course, interested to know if there are job opportuni­ties in our industry. I reminded them that over 60 percent of North America's power and utilities workforce is eligible to retire over the next five years. I told them about how at our conferences a sea of gray is evident from the podium. Tim Griffin nicely summarized this generational change in his article, "The Silver Tsunami" (Second Quarter 2015 District Energy). Combine the need for new talent with the renaissance of district energy in this time of change. Are there opportunities for young graduates? Absolutely. 

If you missed the recent IDEA confer­ences in Vancouver or Austin, you will not want to miss the upcoming conference in St. Paul, Minn., the best-looking twin of the Twin Cities. Our host, District Energy St. Paul, tells a unique story of growth and innova­tion that is inspiring. This award-winning system launched in 1983 has grown to serve over 30 million sq ft in the downtown core. In 2003, District Energy flipped the "green energy switch" as it commissioned a CHP plant fueled by clean, urban wood waste, which now delivers 65 MW of thermal energy to the heating distribution system and power to the local grid. I tell this story often - how a city strategically switched its primary fuel for heating and power production from a fossil fuel mix to a renewable fuel in one event, resulting in dramatically lower emissions and stabilized future rates. Adding to the story, our conference host commissioned one of the largest solar thermal installations in North America in 2011. Touring District Energy St. Paul is reason enough to attend IDEA's 107th annual conference.

I would like to thank Rob Thornton, the IDEA board and the dedicated staff for their work this past year serving our members and advancing the industry. The calendar is full, and the demands on IDEA have never been greater. When we gather in St. Paul, I will have the pleasure of passing the gavel to Tim Grif­fin who will serve as IDEA chair with thought­ful leadership and expertise. For me, it has been an honor.


Markham District Energy Inc.

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