Strength in Numbers: Navigating the New Energy Future Together

Jana Schmidt, President & CEO, Ecova
Jana Schmidt at Ecova Insight

Last Wednesday and Thursday in Chicago, I was honored to welcome a  select group of industry leaders—representing more than 100 businesses and utility companies—to our inaugural knowledge-sharing event, Ecova Insight. This conference evolved out of numerous conversations we’ve had with our clients about the rapidly changing and highly complex energy landscape, and their concerns about navigating it effectively.

Ecova Insight provided a forum for leveraging our collective insight to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. Like-minded professionals from more than 20 industries learned from each other as they explored, discussed , and collaborated on some of the most pressing energy and sustainability management challenges and opportunities. Together, we began laying the foundation for a conversation that I’m confident will continue in the months to come.

Hervé Touati of RMI at Ecova InsightAt Ecova Insight, attendees heard both industry experts and their peers discuss ways to make better business decisions through analytics-driven insights, digital engagement, renewable energy sources, emerging technologies and progressive sustainability measures. Hervé Touati Ph.D., Managing Director of the Rocky Mountain Institute, spoke to the disruptive forces in the energy  industry—forces that are driving both widespread challenges and enormous opportunities. His insight into the rate of change, in which “the supply of ideas is moving much faster than people in the industry can absorb,” reaffirmed the importance of Ecova Insight and the engaging, educational sessions that occurred last week.

Jennifer Nolan, vice president of procurement strategy for Brookdale Senior Living, echoed a sentiment we heard from many attendees: “It’s really comforting in a way to know that companies similar to ours are embarking on similar journeys trying to understand what the future looks like and that really, that Ecova is here to bring partnership and collaboration so that we can together move forward.” Bringing industry professionals like Jen together to discuss the complex challenges they’re facing and identify opportunities for partnership was truly a thrilling experience.

Ecova Insight AttendeesThe knowledge gained at Ecova Insight extended into the utility sphere as well. Pete Cleff, Manager of Energy Efficiency Programs and Evaluation at PPL Electric Utilities, told us “To hear other people’s stories, both from the residential side and from the commercial side, things are so different in every utility—it’s just great to share these experiences.” Participants were encouraged to bring information and ideas back to their organizations, ensuring that the value of Ecova Insight translated into action. I hope Pete spoke for many attendees when he said “I’m going to talk to our key account managers, our business accounts, as well as our program managers and share some of these ideas that I heard with them and hopefully implement some of those improvements.”

Ecova Insight exemplified everything I like best about working collaboratively with our clients. Our event was designed in direct response to their feedback—they informed the topics, identified the most relevant focus sessions, and confirmed the need for opportunities to network with like-minded colleagues. While Ecova initiated and planned the event, the attendees were truly its heart and soul. Our unique approach resonated with attendees. I heard again and again that the experience was valuable and helped them advance their own organizational strategies. Because of this success, I’m pleased to announce that we’ve already started planning 2017 Ecova Insight!

“It is amazing to think that this was their inaugural year to host this conference because it ran like a well-oiled machine. The topics were relevant and educational, the networking was easy and natural and the logistics were flawless. I learned so much and I can’t wait for next year.” – Kristin Runyan, SVP of Operations, PayLease

I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from my colleagues in Chicago and hear more about what’s worked and what hasn’t in the year ahead—whether it’s addressing the convergence of energy assets and maintenance, investing in renewable projects or finding ways to engage hard-to-reach segments in utility energy-efficiency programs. Overall, this powerful two-day conversation reminded me that to effectively navigate the new energy future, we must stop working in isolation and start leveraging our collective strengths.

I hope you’ll take the time to revisit some of the highlights from 2016 Ecova Insight by viewing our special event video below. I also hope that you’ll join me in continuing the conversation we started last week. The energy landscape is more complex than ever, and we won’t answer all our questions about it today. But I know that whatever lies ahead, we’ll need to keep communicating with each other in order to develop meaningful solutions that are good for our businesses, good for our customers and good for our planet. I’m eager to hear more from you all as we move forward together.

Related content:
Press Release: Ecova Brings Like-Minded Companies Together To Plan for Energy Futures

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