Back to San Antonio for the second time in a month, this time for the American Clean Power (ACP) CLEANPOWER 2022 conference. It was very cool meet so many people interested in decarbonizing the future grid and committed to supporting this goal in a variety of ways.
In one of the panels I listened to, which I was only able to stay for a small part of, I heard a great example of how clean energy can be used to serve community resilience goals and prioritize energy equity. Onsite solar and storage is used to power a local middle school. This is a great education and outreach site, but was also selected because it serves as the local hurricane emergency center. If utility power goes out during a hurricane, the community, which may already be gathered at the school, can still have power and rely on key services needing electricity. What a great way to grow renewable energy penetration, integrate smoothly into existing community resilience plans, and ensure energy is available for those who most need it!
My key purpose for being at the conference was to present a poster based on research for the MIRACL project. The poster, titled "Variable Resource Resilience: How Systems Experience Increased Resilience from Variable and Hybrid Resources", explains how we used our Resilience Framework to analyze the resilience provided by distributed wind in two case studies, for St. Mary's, AK and Iowa Lakes, IA.
Unfortunately (for me), this conference was a little more expo focused and a little less researched focused, so I can't claim the wall of 10 posters was the most popular exhibit on the floor, but still a great opportunity for me to gain exposure to more of the industry side of clean energy developments and learn about some exciting projects that people are working on!
Another highlight from the conference? Attending ACP's first ever DEI Luncheon, where awardees where honored for their contributions and commitments to diversity and inclusion. I believe there is a lot more work to be done in this area. DEI efforts go way beyond hiring practices and retention metrics or interviews. A culture needs to be cultivated at all levels of a company, and as much as we in STEM like statistics and measurements and projections, I think this is an area that goes beyond numbers and really involves making sure all employees retain a level of respect and dignity in their personal and professional lives that allows all their coworkers to bring their real and full selves to work. This "culture" is not just reflected in company values, trainings, and accountability, but involves commitment on the business side - paying people fairly for their talents and demonstrating appreciation for their commitment to a job, encouraging work life boundaries that allow people to enjoy their lives and family outside of the office, and being willing to make "sacrifices" or take hits to combat practices that don't align with these values (this could mean firing someone with allegations of creating a hostile work environment even if their a high performer, choosing a more expensive vendor that adheres to higher ethical standards, or pursuing projects that benefit those most in need rather than those willing to pay the most). I was excited to see ACP's public commitment to DEI efforts and hope that in the future they are accessible to all, and not hidden at a paid luncheon.
Grateful for an opportunity to attend this conference, and I'm hopeful I get to interact at more engagements like this soon!