Energy Manager’s Role in Meeting Environmental Goals: EL Conf. & Energy Manager Summit

The role of the energy manager has evolved drastically over the past several years. At the 2017 Environmental Leader Conference and Energy Management Summit, Rob Threlkeld, global manager of renewable energy for General Motors, and William Grayson, principal at Bent Branch Strategies, talked about today’s role of the energy manager.

The relationship that buildings and companies have towards energy is fundamentally changing,” said Grayson. “Before, I would just want the lowest priced energy and budget certainty, while trying to reduce the amount of energy we’re using.”

Now it’s a new world, Grayson explains, saying that an energy manager needs to think like they’re a  renewable energy salesperson.

“The language of sustainability is constantly evolving,” Grayson said, adding that, going forward, contracts will also be changing by getting a lot more complicated, in the form of:

  • Leases
  • Power purchase agreements
  • Real-time pricing
  • Energy storage

For General Motors, committing to sustainability throughout its 35o facilities in five countries has proved challenging, yet rewarding. Their are on track to reach 100% renewable energy by 2050.

According to Threlkeld, the following is how General Motors will achieve 100% renewable energy:

  1. Increase energy efficiency
  2. Source renewables
  3. Address intermittency through battery storage
  4. Influence policy to drive scale

“We’re at almost 200 megawats of renewable energy now,” Threlkeld said.


Threlkeld then broke apart the four renewable energy initiatives and how General Motors will achieve its goals.

Energy efficiency:

  • Data management
  • Real time monitoring (energy onstar)
  • Self-funding
  • Performance contracts

Sourcing renewables:

  • Capital funding
  • Power purchase agreements (physical/virtual)
  • Operations leasing
  • Community solar
  • New models

Addressing intermittency via battery storage:

  • Batteries (second-generation EVs)
  • Fuel cells
  • Pump or others
  • Vehicle-to-grid/demand energy response

Influencing policy to drive scale:

  • Green tariffs – utility engagement
  • Establishing definitions of RECS (renewable energy credits)
  • Partnerships/collaboration
  • New models

But what about new innovative energy solutions for the future?

“Energy storage will become a much bigger component,” Threlkeld said. “Also, there’s potentially developers integrating into the PPA. The digital transformation of the grid is allowing for a lot of that”.

“Power over ethernet is a really cool development,” Grayson said. “Also, the new ESCO models such as energy-efficiency-as-a-service is great and will be a bigger part of how we buy.”

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