Energy Central Power Perspectives™: Welcome Casey Talon, New Expert in the Utility Management CommunityPosted to Energy Central in the Utility Management Group
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- Aug 26, 2020 11:45 am GMTAug 26, 2020 11:41 am GMT
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It’s become almost cliché at this point, but it’s a truism for a reason: the utility of tomorrow will increasingly look less and less like the power sector of yesterday as time marches forwards. New operational strategies, innovative technologies, and a shifting mentality from the top down are all transforming the utilities that we once knew. As we navigated these unchartered waters, we’ll continue to look to thought leaders across the sector to guide us on how to embrace this future. Luckily for the Energy Central community, we continue to identify and accept new innovative professionals into our Network of Experts. With this insightful and inspiring interview, I want to welcome one of our newest such experts: Casey Talon, expert in the Utility Management community and Associate Director at Guidehouse.
Casey spends much of her time thinking about the future of energy and how technology, sustainability, and digitalization are going to come together to transform how we interact with energy and utilities. This topic is so rich and exciting that we had to discuss in detail for this entry into the Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’
Read on for Casey’s insights, and be sure to say hello and maybe ask a follow-up question in the comments below!
Matt Chester: Casey—we’re always excited to share these new expert interviews with our community members as a way to introduce you to those who read Energy Central and have them understand where and how you’ll bring expertise to the table. So, to start off broadly, can you please share a bit about your background? How did you get involved in the worlds of energy, sustainability, and the technologies they involve? Have these fields always been a passion of yours? What does your present-day role comprise?
Casey Talon: I have always been fascinated by the complexities of protecting our environment and managing natural resources. This curiosity led my academic path in economics, environmental science, and policy. After grad school, I started my career with a carbon project developer where I learned the ins and outs of greenhouse gas accounting and first got a sense of corporate sustainability perspectives.
After a few years, and a recognition that the regulated carbon markets in the United States were stymied, I moved on to market research and consulting. The role of an industry analyst is a fantastic opportunity to dive into how technology, sustainability, business, economics, and social dynamics shape the way in which we can tackle the biggest challenges like climate change. I love the fact that every day my job is to research, learn, and think about what the future holds for a whole ecosystem of stakeholders.
At Guidehouse, I focus on the next generation of smart buildings – how the networked building can amplify benefits with technologies and services that create flexible, digital, and resilient spaces. I work with an amazing team of analysts and consultants that dive deep into technology markets including IoT, lighting, HVAC, and residential energy management, and together we assess the impact of big horizontal issues like decarbonization and electrification, cybersecurity, digital transformation, and business model innovation on market development.
MC: You focus a lot of your attention specifically on the buildings sector. Much of the energy impact of buildings comes from how they are built originally and how those who occupy them choose to use energy, so for utilities who want to help improve the efficiency and sustainability of buildings, what role can they play? How can they best engage in building innovation?
CT: There is an exceptional opportunity to accelerate decarbonization and achieve wide-reaching financial and social benefits through investments in the built environment. We have the advancements in technology and the know-how to deliver efficiency, but what hinders the market is alignment of value propositions and decision-maker priorities. The energy efficiency story isn’t transformational on its own. Building owners, by and large, are grappling with how to keep their doors open; or today, how to reopen and get people back to work. The energy benefits are foundational, but only part of the story, and crafting a message that aligns with leadership’s priorities is critical.
The message is also nuanced and different for different businesses. We talk about how one technology stack for the smart building, for example, can enhance energy efficiency, reduce operational costs, improve occupant satisfaction, and even ensure healthier spaces. You can imagine how those benefits are stacked will garner more attention from top executives in different ways whether they are running a college, a grocery chain, or commercial office.
Utilities are uniquely positioned to showcase their capacity to be a trusted energy advisor. Measure bundling, creative incentives and financing, and other innovations to demand-side management programs can align utilities with customer demand for solutions to facility challenges and overarching corporate priorities like sustainability.
MC: Is there an area when it comes to energy technologies that you see as low hanging fruit that’s not being pursued as much as it should? Are there less popular solutions and innovations that are maybe being overlooked, and if so—why do you think that is?
CT: I think the whole digital layer, the smart building angle, is low hanging fruit. The investments can be lower cost than a retrofit of major equipment, but immediately deliver insight to redefine how buildings are operated. Data-driven decision-making is paramount for business executives and bringing the data of energy use and building system operational costs can be a game-changer. Especially now as building owners and managers will be required to monitor space use for health and safety mandates relative to the ongoing battle against COVID-19.
MC: As smart meters and other technologies are starting to give utility providers more data, and thus more insights, into how energy is being used by customers, how do you see the relationship between customer and utility adjusting in the coming years?
CT: Connected lighting is a great example of an opportunity for an innovative utility offering that can deepen engagement with customers. These systems utilize LEDs, sensors, controllers, and software to optimize lighting to reach a variety of goals from energy savings to a more tailored occupant experience. Utilities can help accelerate adoption of these solutions with incentives to overcome cost premiums and claim significant energy savings associated with the LEDs.
MC: Is there anything new and exciting coming up next from Guidehouse in these areas that you can give the Energy Central audience a sneak preview of?
CT: Guidehouse Insights, Guidehouse’s market intelligence arm, has launched a new syndicated research service, Networked Buildings. This service brings a broader strategic lens to our analysis of the future of the built environment. Our research explores the opportunities and challenges to market evolution for this next generation of smart buildings. We are analyzing the expanding competitive landscape, the development of new business models, shifting building owner/tenant/occupant expectations, and requirements to advance decarbonization. There are huge opportunities for utilities as they consider how to engage customers in new ways. As we first discussed in our Building-to-Grid white paper, new synergies will emerge between utilities, technology and service providers, and building owners as traditional market roles give way to a more fluid cooperative ecosystem.
MC: Any final words or ideas you want to leave the community with as we wrap up our interview?
CT: There is an incredible uptick in interest in engaging commercial building owners and tenants with advanced solutions that bring a layer of intelligence alongside energy efficiency. Manufacturers, energy service companies (ESCOs), tech companies, and venture capital firms are all racing to develop new “as a service” businesses that hold the promise of recurring revenue and deep and long-lasting customer engagement. There is no one company or even category of companies ready to win this nascent market. Strategic partnerships and acquisitions will be necessary to build offerings that deliver the domain expertise, technology advancements, and energy expertise. Utilities should closely watch this developing market.
I know the Energy Central community will join me in thanking Casey Talon for sharing her time and expertise in this introductory interview and for all the insights she’ll surely bring in her newfound role as a Utility Management expert in the Energy Central community. When you see Casey engaging with content around Energy Central, be sure to say hi, ask a question, and make her feel welcome!