Chair's Update 3rd Quarter 2017

By Chris Lyons posted 08-25-2017 00:00


As this is my first column as the new IDEA chair, I’d like to thank our members for putting their trust in me for this coming year. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Tim Griffin for his past year of service and “Sustaining Our Success.” And of course those of us who recently made it to our 108th Annual Conference and Trade Show in ever-so-cool Scottsdale (thank goodness for air conditioning) need to thank the IDEA staff for putting on a great event; our vice chair, Jim Lodge; and the NRG staff for hosting us. With nearly 670 attendees from 18 countries and numerous high-quality presentations, I think we should all be proud to be part of a group that can network and share our knowledge and successes.

For my year as chair I have chosen the theme “District Energy/Combined Heat and Power: Local Solution, Global Impact.” The energy industry is going through its own dramatic changes while at the same time being pressured by global climate change. As energy professionals, it is important that we do our best to use our natural resources efficiently and in environmentally acceptable ways while also improving our local economies. IDEA members – who comprise a variety of energy producers, suppliers, engineering service professionals, construction companies and policy makers – represent only part of the total global energy industry. However, because building heating, cooling and power represent a major energy use, it’s clear that our local solutions using district energy and CHP can make a dramatic global impact. My goal for this coming year is to ensure that we continue to share our successes in showing that local district energy/CHP solutions are highly efficient and help offset some of the negatives caused by the inefficient use of chillers, boilers and power plants when not operated optimally. We need to educate mayors, planners, government agencies and energy users that the use of district energy/CHP locally can make an impact globally.

Consider the fact that most buildings have individual boilers and chillers that are designed for optimum efficiency only during extreme climatic conditions, which occur only rarely. Consider the energy that is wasted by central power plants, both in the generation and transmission processes. District energy/CHP is an obvious local solution that, when deployed broadly, can make a positive impact on a global scale.

Today, some of the largest market capitalization companies have surprisingly few tangible assets; their success comes from monetizing underutilized assets owned by others. For example, people now rely on Uber for ride sharing or Airbnb to share vacant rooms. It’s all about using what we already have more efficiently. This same model can apply to our industry if we optimize, operate and maintain our energy services in a more efficient manner. At our recent annual conference, keynote speaker Brian Deese noted that citizens, universities and industry recognize the need to protect our environment. He likened district energy/CHP to a Swiss Army knife that can accomplish multiple tasks with one tool. We need to continue to spread the word to our international partners and continue our outreach to the developing cities of the world.

As your current chair, I encourage all of us to be proud of the tools we have created to tackle global climate impacts by speaking about them with our local politicians and citizens including at our upcoming campus conference in Baltimore and our annual conference next June in beautiful Vancouver. Best of luck in your endeavors, and I look forward to serving you over the next 12 months.