Smart Energy Voices podcast

Capitalizing on Opportunities in Community Solar, with Miro Sutton, Ep #43

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In this episode of Smart Energy Voices, host John Failla sits down with Miro Sutton, Managing Director – Renewable Advisory, Strategy and Origination, NRG Energy. This discussion covers the state of community solar, including key trends, benefits, and common misperceptions. You’ll want to listen in to learn about NRG’s unique approach to developing community solar projects. 

You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in...
  • Miro Sutton’s background and current role at NRG [02:05]
  • The current state of community solar [05:21]
  • Benefits for community solar customers [11:20]
  • Misperceptions about community solar [13:59]
  • Community solar’s environmental benefits [17:55]
  • NRGs unique approach to community solar projects [20:29]
  • A recent example of a community solar deal [26:34]

Why community solar?

The most apparent benefit of community solar is economical. Customers can get guaranteed savings without having to risk money. The only risk is the opportunity cost of a project that may or may not have worked out. That guarantee has been an attractive value proposition in the market and has opened many doors in the industry. Another benefit in some areas is the flexibility of assignment. For example, if a customer has a business that they want to close and open another, they can move their contract to the new business.

From a politician’s perspective, they can increase the solar on the grid through local projects without making a giant deal. They’re also able to democratize access to solar across multiple types of residential and commercial customers who would otherwise not have access. It checks the RPS box, equity box, and all the boxes that politicians love, making for a successful program from all perspectives.

Current trends in community solar

Today, savings are guaranteed no matter what the bill credit value is. The customer agreements have gotten a lot friendlier and are moving toward opening up to a lot more people. Financers also are starting to understand that community solar is not like onsite solar or VPPAs. There’s less risk to the individual customer. The customers’ flexibility also translates to flexibility for managing components for the developer. 

From the developer’s perspective, there are other trends as well. There’s more focus on LMI (low- or moderate-income) customers. This market brings in new considerations such as qualifying and maintaining the LMI status. The developers also have to deal with increasing grid considerations and interconnections. These factors have been seen in Massachusetts and now Maine. They’re something to consider but are, for the most part, being resolved favorably for the industry. 

Streamlining community solar

NRGs process is focused on saving their customers time and money. The main focus is on saving the customers time. Part of this is due to programs being fragmented and nuanced. Rather than customers worrying about timing and which provider to choose, NRG takes care of all of those details. They are there to prepare their customer with everything needed to take the plan to their leadership and get it executed. One of the first things NRG does is present a customized contract template to the legal teams on the customer side. After that document is finalized, NRG takes it to the development community with a request for offers. This process saves a significant amount of time for the customer and creates an entirely homogenized experience. Using a model like this, it’s no wonder NRG has been successful in community solar projects across the nation.

Resources & People Mentioned Connect with Miro Sutton

Miro Sutton leads the Renewable Advisory team at NRG, assisting Fortune 500 customers in their renewable procurement efforts by creating customized renewable and sustainable energy solutions. He has been part of 4+GW of renewable transactions in his career. Miro has 14 years of experience working in the renewable energy industry, including seven years with NRG. Miro has originated over 1.5GW of renewable energy projects for Fortune 100 C&I customers including Ecolab, US Bank, Lowes, and other similar entities. Additionally, Miro has supported C&I customers 400+MW of Community Solar subscription agreements across four states. Miro was involved in the founding of the Carbon War Room, the promotion of PACE financing solutions, the creation of the Cash for Clunkers bill (“CARS” H.R. 1550), and the development of international programs.

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    The Power of Entrepreneurial Leadership, with Chris Castro Ep #48


    In this episode of Smart Energy Voices, host John Failla is joined by Chris Castro, Director of Sustainability & Resilience and Co-Chair of the ‘Future-Ready’ initiative for the City of Orlando. Chris has accomplished a tremendous amount with the city in an amazingly brief time. Listen in to learn more about the thrilling work Chris is currently doing and about this fascinating personal journey in the field of sustainability.  You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in... Chris’ beginning in sustainability [02:40] Effectively building and creating teams [10:06] Orlando’s sustainability program [11:21] Seven key priority areas for urban sustainability [17:11] Climate strategies for cities [20:52] What’s next for Orlando? [25:30] Chris’ entrepreneurial projects [29:18] The biggest challenge in Chris’ career [36:20] Chris in the City of Orlando Over the last seven and a half years, Chris has had the privilege to work as the Senior Adviser to Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer and direct the Office of Sustainability and Resilience. He oversees some exciting policy interventions, program developments, and partnerships that are being established to advance the overall vision of Orlando. The city’s work is securing its status as one of the most environmentally friendly, socially equitable, inclusive, and economically vibrant cities in the 21st century. Sustainability challenges in Florida Changing people’s behaviors is extremely difficult to do. Changing the behaviors of an institution like a city that’s been around for hundreds of years adds a whole new level of complexity. That’s the genuine challenge that municipal government leaders like Chris and public officials are trying to address. Florida has had leadership that called climate change a hoax and made legislative sustainability measures banned or illegal. Now Florida has leadership focused on preemptions and stripping local governments’ home rule to address some of the most significant issues. In the recent legislative session, Congress and Florida’s governor signed a preemption bill regulating energy systems within Florida’s cities.  What’s different about Orlando’s sustainability program? A city might have a strong mayor who says that sustainability is a priority. Initiatives will be created — and then a new mayor with a different initiative takes office, and efforts are shifted elsewhere. When Chris began working with the City of Orlando, he started the process of institutionalizing sustainability in the city. He helped the city create an office in the executive department. Now Orlando’s ordinance has a specific chapter focused on sustainability and resilience, and it calls for a Director in the Office of Sustainability. They also have a chapter in internal policies and procedures focused on sustainability that specifically calls out this office. Importantly, they’ve created long-term permanence of this work beyond the mayor’s term. Chris now oversees an office of thirteen individuals. He describes his office as a sustainability consulting firm. Their role is to help the Chief of Police, the Chief of Fire, the Head of Public Works, and the Streets and Stormwater Department implement and change operational procedures to ensure that the city is moving towards its sustainability goals. This model for how a city can transition towards a zero-carbon economy has made Orlando one of the leading cities advancing sustainability. Resources & People Mentioned Penelope Canan - Sociology IDEAS For Us - Advancing Environmental Action Worldwide Climate First Bank Buddy Dyer Epcot Theme Park Kenneth LaRoe - Founder & CEO - Climate First Bank Paris to Pittsburgh Connect with Chris Castro Their website On Twitter On LinkedIn On Facebook Chris serves as the Senior Advisor to Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Director of Sustainability & Resilience, and 'Future-Ready' steering committee member at the City of Orlando — developing a comprehensive set of policies & programs that has turned Orlando into one of the leading cities in America accelerating sustainability, resiliency, and climate action. Chris is best known for his entrepreneurial efforts prior to coming to the City, including as Co-founder and President of the global sustainability nonprofit, IDEAS For Us, a clean energy consulting firm Citizen Energy, and a renowned urban farming social enterprise Fleet Farming. In 2020, Chris also joined partners to launch ‘Climate First Bank’, the first B-Corp community bank in Florida working to advance ESG and local sustainable investing. Outside of work, Chris serves on many nonprofit and academic boards, including the UCF Energy Research Center, US Green Building Council of Florida, Project Greenschools, and Goodwill Industries of Central Florida. In December 2018, Chris starred in the National Geographic documentary on climate change called "Paris to Pittsburgh" to share the Orlando journey on climate action with millions of people around the World. Connect With Smart Energy Decisions Follow them on Facebook Follow them on Twitter Follow them on LinkedIn Subscribe to Smart Energy Voices If you're interested in participating in the next Smart Energy Decision Event, visit or email our Event Operations Director, Lisa Carroll at [email protected] Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
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    Creating Your Roadmap to Net Zero, with Tripp Borstel, Ep #47


    In this episode of Smart Energy Voices, host John Failla sits down with Tripp Borstel, Head of Transformation at ENGIE Impact. They discuss key levers to work and issues relating to the use of carbon offsets. There’s a lot to cover when it comes to achieving zero emissions - and the scale of the challenge requires creating alignment across a variety of parties within an organization. Listen in to this conversation from Smart Energy Decisions’ recent Renewable Energy Forum. You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in... Tripp’s background and current role at ENGIE [01:46] What is needed for the energy transition? [03:29] ENGIE Impact’s definition of net-zero [06:22] The importance of science-based targets [10:54] Choosing the best pathway [14:50] Green thermal and mobility [19:35] What role should offsets play? [24:21] ENGIE’s emission reduction commitments [29:30] Energy efficiency Electrification is often thought of as a way to make the transition from short-term to long-term energy solutions. For a large-scale plant, electrification would be no small feat, so one area that’s getting a lot of interest is heat pumps to replace or augment large boiler systems or other thermal energy sources. What’s interesting is that space is going back to energy efficiency, specifically thermal energy efficiency.  On the longer-term horizon is hydrogen. One important note is the distinction between green hydrogen and other sources of hydrogen. Generating hydrogen using renewable resources is important from a carbon perspective. For instance, in Chile, which arguably has more solar capacity than just around anywhere on the planet, they’re thinking about how to ship that renewable energy since they can’t use it all domestically. A solution is that hydrogen can be put into different forms, sent to a port, shipped to another area, and then used as an energy source. Navigating energy transformation Decarbonization is a massive transformation, yet it’s often significantly less funded than other major transformations. A lot of the work is in carefully considering what investment is needed to achieve the established goals. There are two components of transformation. One is technical transformation, which includes mobility solutions, energy efficiency solutions, and renewable energy needed. The second component is the human and organizational systems that need transforming inside of an organization. That requires designing programs that engage the entire organization and create alignment and ownership across the different parties. Everyone’s role in the energy transition The scale of energy transition requires senior leaders to provide inspiration and marshal the organization’s resources. Data is crucial for measuring and managing greenhouse gas emissions. It’s what determines the progress and confirms ROI. CFOs play a critical role in planning how to finance those decarbonization solutions and procurement organizations in Scope 3 emissions. They determine how to engage the suppliers and help those suppliers reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions. Marketing has an important role, particularly internally. They establish a narrative that will engage employees in a way that’s authentic to the organization. Resources & People Mentioned The Paris Agreement Andrew Winston – Winston Eco-Strategies The Big Pivot Nikola Energy The Blue Carbon Initiative Connect with Tripp Borstel On LinkedIn Tripp is a Director with ENGIE Impact’s Sustainability Solutions. He has 15 years of experience as a strategy consultant to senior executives in developing climate and energy strategies. His focus is on managing the cultural dynamics of strategy and building high levels of stakeholder alignment throughout the strategy development process. Tripp has worked with corporations, non-profits, and cities. Currently, his work focuses on helping organizations develop net zero targets and strategies. He lives in Oakland, California, and has an MBA from UC Berkeley. Connect With Smart Energy Decisions Follow them on Facebook Follow them on Twitter Follow them on LinkedIn Subscribe to Smart Energy Voices If you're interested in participating in the next Smart Energy Decision Event, visit or email our Event Operations Director, Lisa Carroll at [email protected] Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
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    Inspiring Diversity in Energy, with Ajulo Othow and Dana Clare Redden Ep #46


    This episode of Smart Energy Voices continues our series on Inspiring Diversity in Energy with a panel from the recent Renewable Energy Forum. Smart Energy Decisions’ Debra Chanil sat down with Ajulo Othow, co-founder and CEO of EnerWealth Solutions, LLC, and Dana Clare Redden, founder of Solar Stewards. With this experience in creating companies in the solar space, they’ll discuss the challenges of entrepreneurship and what they think is needed to bring more diversity to the solar industry. Listen in to learn what you can do to help inspire diversity. You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in... Ajulo and Dana’s backgrounds in the energy industry [03:12] The founding of EnerWealth Solutions [10:08] Dana’s experience with discrimination [14:06] Regulatory impacts on energy transition [18:10] Success stories from Ajulo and Dana [23:19] What is needed for more diversity in solar? [28:35] Diversity in the boardroom The topic of diversity has been front of mind for quite some time. The discrimination and barriers have been very stark. One example is the number of anecdotes about women in board meetings voicing some expertise that no one acknowledges, followed by a male counterpart expressing the same idea - and having it be accepted. These types of experiences, microaggressions, and full-out discrimination are a very impactful part of anyone’s journey who experiences them. That’s why Dana feels that the work she and Ajulo are doing is so important. They must tell their stories to make things better for those coming along the path. There’s always a challenge to leverage that experience towards something good, and the good certainly exists. It’s an opportunity to zero in on those allies who see the value in others. Diversity is an ongoing conversation and opportunity to recognize the advantages to be gained by having a diverse team. Building resilient communities There is plenty of conversation to be had about how to accomplish the energy transition. However, there is a much more nuanced conversation around our transition to clean energy that is also important to have. There is a way in which carbon reduction occurs that reinforces the same sorts of inequities and leaves behind coal communities and others heavily reliant on fossil fuel industries in general. There needs to be much more discussion about how to make this transition equitable. The Biden Administration’s Justice 40 Initiative - focusing on delivering 40% of overall benefits of federal investments addressing the climate crisis to disadvantaged communities and the establishment of an Environmental Justice Scorecard - is a much broader effort than we’ve had before.  It’s of critical importance for this nation to make it a priority to have greater resiliency in communities. That can be accomplished in several ways, but distributed generation is one of the easiest. FERC 2222 served as the signal to the market that DERs have a place within a big, strategic energy plan. Dana’s motivation is to make sure that those assets are located in communities of color to gain the benefits. Dana believes that every private sector actor who has a sustainability goal should have an environmental justice goal incuded within that. What is needed to encourage diversity in solar? Giving communities the opportunity to see solar as an excellent career and a solution in their neighborhoods is a first step. People get excited at the possibilities of solar, but they have to learn about it first. Having visibility of the people in solar is encouraging as well. For a young person, seeing Ajulo, Dana, or people in AABE (American Association of Blacks in Energy) will help them become engaged with the solar industry. The more open and welcoming this space is to all sorts of talent, the better off everyone will be in terms of saving the planet. Resources & People Mentioned Next OMB Post: The Path to Achieving Justice40 Coalition for Green Capital - US National Green Bank FERC Order No. 2222: Fact Sheet American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE) BOSS Connect with Dana Clare Redden On LinkedIn Celebrating over a decade in the solar industry, Dana Clare Redden is a passionate solar professional dedicated to the development of distributed generation solar globally. Growing up in a small rust-belt town in western Pennsylvania, the environmental impacts of fossil fuels shaped her perspective, particularly for disenfranchised communities and those most vulnerable. Realizing this need for environmental justice and greater resources, Dana founded Solar Stewards, a social enterprise connecting corporate social responsibility initiatives with schools and universities, affordable and senior housing, places of worship, and nonprofits in marginalized communities. Dana holds a Bachelors of Science degree from Drexel University as well as an Executive MBA from IE Business School and Brown University. She is among GRIST Magazine’s 50 Fixers, a two-time judge at the DOE/NREL Solar District Cup, and an ACORE Accelerate member. She currently resides in Atlanta, GA where she continues to work at the intersection of climate action, environmental justice, and social entrepreneurship for communities worldwide. Connect with Ajulo E Othow, Esq. On LinkedIn Ajulo Elisabeth Othow grew up amidst southern traditions in her home state of North Carolina. Her parents, both teachers, imbued her with a love and caring for others as she prepared herself educationally to succeed in her chosen career. At a young age and as she grew into maturity, she traveled with her parents to continents outside of North America, where she became conscious of national and international conditions of humanity. Ms. Othow is now an attorney practicing in Granville County. Ms. Othow is also a solar project developer, one of the only women of color solar developers in the nation; her projects are designed to aid in minority land retention and rural economic development. For more than fourteen years prior to becoming an attorney, she worked with people in small towns across all thirteen southeastern United States, places where people’s one hope is for a future where their children can return home and live a good life. Ms. Othow holds a Master’s Degree in International Development from George Washington University, further graduate work in Public Policy from Duke University, and a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from Northeastern University School of Law. Ms. Othow lives in Oxford, NC with her young son, and mother. Connect With Smart Energy Decisions Follow them on Facebook Follow them on Twitter Follow them on LinkedIn Subscribe to Smart Energy Voices If you're interested in participating in the next Smart Energy Decision Event, visit or email our Event Operations Director, Lisa Carroll at [email protected] Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
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    A Guide to Addressing Your Scope 3 Value Chain Emissions, with Katherine Canoy Ep #45


    In this episode of Smart Energy Voices, host Debra Chanil talks with Katherine Canoy, Director of Energy and Climate Practice at 3Degrees. As more organizations are making ambitious climate commitments, such as net-zero emissions, many companies grapple with the most effective way to address their Scope 3 emissions. Debra and Katherine discussed practical steps that organizations can take to tackle their value chain emissions at SED’s recent Renewable Energy Forum. Listen in on the discussion of this hot topic: reducing Scope 3 emissions. You will want to hear this episode if you are interested in... Katherine’s experience with value chain emissions [03:23] Defining Scope 3 value chain emissions [05:30] The value chain emission picture [07:07] How to address Scope 3 emissions [10:33] The importance of perspective in climate action [14:15] From intern to industry leader Katherine’s experience with value chain emissions goes back about fourteen years. She joined the Walmart team in 2007 as a grad school intern. She joined full-time after the company learned that about 90% of its total emissions fell outside its operational boundaries. During her first summer on the job, the team embarked on their first supplier sustainability engagement, holding in-person meetings to address carbon measurement and reductions. There was so much they didn’t know at the time, and the questions were very simplistic. Over the years, after learning so much from their suppliers, consultants, non-profits, and customers, Walmart came to be considered a leader in this space.  Many of the challenges her team faced in 2007 with measuring and reducing value chain emissions remain today. Now, 14 years later, as a consultant with 3Degrees, Katherine has the opportunity to help other organizations navigate these challenges. Why is Scope 3 crucial? Scope 3 is an increasingly important topic in corporate climate commitments. As part of the United Nations 2015 Paris Agreement, keeping climate change at or below 1.5 degrees Celsius was stressed as critically important to avoid grim effects. To meet that limit, global emissions need to decline from 2010 levels by 45% by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. For such a dramatic decline in emissions, it’s necessary not just for governments to make Scope 1 and 2 targets but also for companies to make aggressive Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions targets. The concept is for companies to hold each other accountable, causing more swift and aggressive action. Therefore, public disclosures and corporate goal frameworks must include Scope 3 emissions. The value of perspective Perspective is just as important in climate action as in any other aspect of life. It is easy to assume that suppliers, vendors, and customers are on the same journey - but sitting in a different place in the value chain can mean different pressures, different resources, and different amounts of leverage. Cost is typically top of mind for any new initiatives, including carbon reductions. Companies need to reach the right decision-makers and show them a business case for climate action. It can be overwhelming to reach out in your value chain to gather that information. The good news is that there are a lot more people working on this now than ever before with more tools and more knowledge available. Resources & People Mentioned Project Gigaton Greenhouse Gas Protocol UNFCCC The Paris Agreement Connect with Katherine Canoy On LinkedIn With more than 15 years of experience in the energy, sustainability, and climate industries, Katherine Canoy has expertise in renewable energy procurement, energy efficiency, supply chain climate initiatives, and greenhouse gas measurement and reporting. Her client-focused perspective, gained from more than a decade with Walmart’s energy division and previously as an environmental compliance consultant, guides Katherine in benchmarking, goal setting, and project execution at a global scale. As part of Walmart’s goal to reduce supply chain greenhouse gas emissions by 20 million metric tons, Katherine led teams of internal and external stakeholders and managed greenhouse gas reduction projects in a variety of target industries. To help Walmart achieve its goal to be powered 100% by renewable energy, she awarded 420 MW of renewable energy contracts and managed a portfolio of 154 MW of installed onsite solar. Most recently, Katherine was at C2 Energy Capital, a distributed generation solar developer and investor. Katherine resides in Durham, North Carolina with her husband and two kids, and spends much of her free time answering all the questions a 4-year old can conjure. She holds an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a MEM in Energy and Policy from Duke University, and a BS from University of Mary Washington. Connect With Smart Energy Decisions Follow them on Facebook Follow them on Twitter Follow them on LinkedIn Subscribe to Smart Energy Voices If you're interested in participating in the next Smart Energy Decision Event, visit or email our Event Operations Director, Lisa Carroll at [email protected] Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK

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