Recap - Washington Advanced Energy Breakfast: Energy, Mobility & Transportation - 12.8.16

-Ossama Ayesh, Fellow, & Tanner Kenney, Fellow

How do we move toward tangible action with regard to Transportation and Mobility in Washington D.C.? On December 8th, 2016, energy industry experts participated in Advanced Energy Group’s Stakeholder Breakfast on Transportation and Mobility. Stakeholders met and discussed ways in which participation in data gathering, problem-framing the transportation industry and Electric Vehicles (EVs), and the generation of reliable power in order to move could provide a deliverable product through scaling existing initiatives and better incentivizing end-usage.

Moderated by H.G. Chissell, Founder & CEO of the Advanced Energy Group, the invitation-only quarterly stakeholder forums are held to promote constructive dialogue among key members of the energy industry and produce actionable results in the District. Hosted by Holland & Knight, some of the topics discussed at the Washington Advanced Energy Stakeholders Breakfast were transitioning the District into a fleet of EVs, increasing the number of charging stations for EVs, scaling existing pilot projects respective to transportation and mobility, and defining what a successful transportation pilot project would achieve.

Mr. Chissell opened the discussion with an update on the Peak 100 Hours initiative. According to H.G., the idea for this initiative sprung from a NYSERDA study which partly consisted of quantifying costs in downstate New York. As we move towards distributed energy systems, financially incentivizing end-usage is especially important, H.G. argued. The study then begged the question – how we can understand the true costs of these top 100 hours and how do we incentivize the end-user instead of investing in sub-stations?

Members participating in the forum then tackled the challenges related to enhancing energy efficiency in the transportation and mobility sectors. Among the notable discussion leaders was Taite McDonald, Senior Policy Advisor at Holland & Knight, who opened with a few updates from the market: The impacts made on transportation and energy storage are mainly a result of an uptick in military funding for energy resiliency; corporate investment is reported to be triple now of what it was in 2015, signaling tangible momentum in the energy market; the Department of Transportation (DOT) released its first pilot project for autonomous testing systems, proving positively to the system overall.

Another key issue mentioned in the breakfast was the challenge of reducing energy costs. Achieving the goals outlined in the Clean Energy D.C. plan, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2032 was discussed as a top action item for the District, especially because of the potential role played another plan, Move D.C. It calls for increasing ridership of mass transit by 50% and increasing biking and walking by 25% with the remaining 25% geared towards integrating EVs. Edward Yim, Associate Director of the D.C. Department of Energy & Environment explained that there are now attempts being made to conduct targeted mapping of buildings in Washington D.C. to identify peak areas and anticipate load growth.

Robert Stewart, Manager of Smart Grid and Technology at Pepco Holdings, then shifted gears towards local pilot programs pertaining to EVs. The plan here, Stewart argues, is to come forward, determine impacts, and establish a path towards gathering data to understand transforming loading as well as to manage asset replacement. The question then becomes how do we shift behavior and utilize smart technologies to understand who is driving these vehicles to then understand transforming capabilities?

From the perspective of Ernest Chrappah, Director of the Department of For-Hire Vehicles, the Department has transformed to adapt to new forms of transportation and how this ties into the Department’s overall vision. As the transition from taxis to ride sharing, car sharing, and other alternative forms of transportation takes place, policies should become more wide ranging. Their mission now, Chrappah explained, is to protect public interest in terms of ensuring people have access to a safe mode of transportation while revamping the Department from that of a legacy regulator to a brand associated with innovation.

Whilst the scaling of existing pilot projects was widely agreed upon as priority action items, Nick Nigro, Founder of Atlas Public Policy, emphasized utilizing data to achieve a number of transportation goals not only on a national level, but on a state and local level, as well. He asserted that while states have been the key leaders in this space, cities should be taking the lead. The main point Nigro wanted to drive home was the need to bolster Public-Private Partnerships in this space.

Moving forward in the discussion of key energy issues impacting the District, the conversation turned to energy and technology. Dr. Eric Rohlfing, Deputy Director of Technology, ARPA-E Department of Energy has been working with the National Academy of Sciences to maintain America’s technological lead in energy. With an annual budget of $300 million, his Department has a wide range of programs and technology portfolios, such as a developmental system to fully model and estimate the energy of urban mobile transportation systems, to develop system-wide control architecture, provide incentives both monetary and informational to influence travelers, and to measure impact. These efforts are wide ranging in terms of developing new technologies, mobile applications, multi-mobile options for transportation, and determining energy estimates and CO2 footprints for transportation.

In closing, Mr. Chissell put the breakfast discussion into context. In bringing together this diverse group of stakeholders, he has created a platform for turning these ideas into viable solutions for the District. Transitioning to EVs could come sooner than we think, Chissell noted: “Cars becoming fully autonomous and electric can come sooner than most might believe.” In closing, the priorities mentioned at the breakfast included rolling out more EVs, having more charging stations, and scaling existing initiatives. The next breakfast on critical infrastructure and microgrids will see a convergence of all these infrastructures.