Chair's Update 3rd Quarter 2015

By Bruce Ander posted 06-25-2017 19:14


For district energy professionals, Boston was the place to be. IDEA's 106th Annual Conference and Trade Show wrapped up July 1 (yes, Canada Day, for my north-of-the-border colleagues), and what a few days it was. More than 960 del­egates from 22 countries came together to share success stories, technical and policy advancements, and the growing momentum in support of district energy around the globe. Not to mention a chance to visit and explore the history, attractions and beauty of Boston. Many thanks to our hosts, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and staff, who together deliv­ered a memorable conference experience. 

I was honored as chair to accept the as­sociation's gavel from my friend Ken Smith. In his year as chair, Ken led by example, gave generously of his time and expertly advocated for district energy and IDEA. As I thought about Ken in his role as chair, it led me to real­ize something we all know about our industry: Like Ken, many of our IDEA colleagues have spent most of their careers in our sector dedi­cated to the development of district energy. I can think of many in attendance at the confer­ence who are loyal to our cause and have established professional friendships that go back decades. Why is this the case? In other industries, it is common to see people jump from technology to technology or opportunity to opportunity. It's been my observation that, once entrenched in district energy, we come to believe in the legacies that we will leave behind. I would suggest that this is what drives Ken, and many others, and what forms the solid and enduring foundation at IDEA.

As chair I have the unique opportunity of selecting a theme for the upcoming year. Build­ing on recent IDEA conference platforms, I have introduced the theme "Embracing Change."

We are experiencing an unprecedented pace of change in the energy sector - with a renewed focus on energy resiliency, a realiza­tion that energy systems must be integrated, the growing role of combined heat and power and distributed generation, and, perhaps the most important trend, increasing local leadership and control. Given that some of our systems have been operational in our urban centers and on campuses for more than a century, it is fascinating to observe how dis­trict energy is quickly becoming a mainstream discussion topic in this vortex of change. 

With change come new players and new interpretations of what district energy is, what it can accomplish and what its benefits are. At our conference, we heard from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group. New organizations have emerged, including the Microgrid Resources Coalition, QUEST (Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow) and oth­ers. Most of these new voices are advocating for the integration of energy systems and the role of district energy as foundational infra­structure. Of interest, not one of the organiza­tions mentioned here appeared on the IDEA conference program five years ago. But here they are, new friends and allies.

Your IDEA board recently concluded an in­teresting strategic planning process to identify key trends and understand the changes that impact our mission as an industry. The goal was to determine how IDEA should embrace this flurry of change and how it should work with the many new players advocating for district energy. We should note that not all are in support of district energy strategies. There is also competition in the air.

We determined that IDEA needs to stay on message and be the industry voice. If we do not do so, others will fill the void. We need to strengthen the many positive alliances that support our message and be opportunistic when circumstances are presented to partner strategically.

Please plan ahead and join your IDEA colleagues at our upcoming conferences and workshops in Vancouver and Austin, and in June 2016 for the Association's 107th Annual Conference and Trade Show in Saint Paul, Minn., as we strive to encourage, learn from the best, network with colleagues and, this year, embrace change.   


Markham District Energy Inc.

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