Much has changed since New York Energy Week was first established in 2013. At that time, the state's plan to transform utility regulation, called Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), had not yet been developed. New York ranked ninth in the country in solar PV installations. And offshore wind was a distant vision.
Today, New York is at the forefront of rethinking its energy market to encourage more distributed generation, while improving reliability and affordability. The state was fifth in the nation for installed solar in 2015. And an offshore wind lease auction for New York waters will happen before the end of the year.
All that action gave participants much to discuss during Energy Week.
“There’s a lot of attention being paid in the industry to what’s happening in New York. It is clear that REV is moving into a new phase of real execution,” said Peter Siggins, head of the Americas region for PA Consulting Group.
Speaking during the opening evening of New York Energy Week, Department of Public Service Chair Audrey Zibelman discussed the need to make distributed energy resources -- and market forces -- a guide for the power business.
By having a comprehensive strategy under REV, New York has been able to bring together stakeholders who are at odds in other regions. “Outside of New York, there are huge fights, and they look like they’re ready to kill each other,” said Zibelman. “But here we’re seeing an embracing of the future.”
“The transition to the next generation utility system will be made through the actions of the utility, vendors, investors, and customers, and the New York Public Service Commission has created a collaborative process that includes all of these parties,” said Walter Rojowsky, an energy and utilities expert at PA Consulting.
National Grid is one of the distribution utilities that will look very different if the REV goals are achieved. Kenneth Daly, president of National Grid New York, is well aware of the scope of the challenge -- but he's also motivated to transform his business.
“We don’t just need change,” he said during the opening evening of NYEW. "We need radical change to bring clean energy on the system. The only way to achieve stretch goals is to set them.”
Finance was another key topic during the event. At the opening panel, Caroline Angoorly, COO of New York's Green Bank, spoke about the challenge of standardizing and aggregating data in order to leverage money for distributed energy resources. “There’s a lot of capital on the sidelines,” she said.
Capital is flowing to residential solar, where standardization has lowered the cost of capital. Other sectors -- including commercial solar -- could benefit from better standards.
“So now the markets will make the determination, not policymakers,” said Jigar Shah, president and co-founder of Generate Capital, who was a panelist at the event's solar-themed breakfast session. But there is still a lack of standardization in the commercial solar market. That could change quickly, however.
“I think at this time next year, we’ll be having a different conversation on commercial solar financing,” said Siggins of PA Consulting.
New ideas for a transforming energy landscape
With each passing year, the industry trends driving New York Energy Week unfold faster and faster.
It's not just technology and financing options that are evolving -- so too is the culture.
New York Energy Week highlighted an impressive range of women on all panels, including one on oil and gas that was made up entirely of women.
“Fifteen years ago, that would have been absolutely unheard of,” said Amanda Levin, energy and utilities consultant at PA Consulting, who also moderated the Women Disrupting Power panel. “There’s so much research showing diverse teams perform better. As we have this transformation, utilities really need to get some fresh ideas and new perspectives in there.”
New ideas are also coming from enthusiastic entrepreneurs in New York who are working in cleantech incubators. Entrepreneurs -- often millennials -- are increasingly coming to New York to work in the power sector. In an industry with an aging workforce, this is a promising trend.
“It’s encouraging that our industry is attracting the best and the brightest,” said PA’s Rojowsky.
“For cleantech companies, there is no better place to be than New York -- right here, right now, due to REV's creation of market opportunities,” said Pat Sapinsley, managing director of cleantech initiatives at Urban Future Lab/ACRE. “The Clean Energy Fund will spend $5 billion on this sector. [New York Power Authority] Recharge has coaxed $34 billion of investment from the private sector for clean energy. Is there any other place to be than in New York and at ACRE?"
During New York Energy Week, Urban Future Lab launched a competition that will bring two winning startups in smart grid and smart cities sectors to the NYU ACRE incubator in Brooklyn. Winners will be announced at GTM’s REV Future conference on September 27.
With change happening so quickly in the power sector, next year's event will likely bring a lot more new developments to discuss. “The path we’re treading here is not linear,” said NY Green Bank’s Angoorly. “There will be leapfrogging.”