Kelly Crandall, IMT Manager of Utility Engagement, shares how she guides cities to work with their utilities and utility regulators to achieve their energy goals through partnership and innovation.
Why do you value building energy efficiency and high-performance buildings? How did you first recognize that value?
I value energy efficiency because it can benefit everyone. It increases the comfort of buildings, and it reduces energy waste. Throughout the course of my career, I’ve come to see energy efficiency, demand response, solar, storage, and other distributed resources as critical parts of a robust approach to reduce carbon emissions and foster local clean energy jobs.
What perspective do you bring to your projects and clients?
As both a local government staffer and a consultant, I monitored or was involved in public utility commission proceedings in about two dozen states, and my work included providing expert testimony and analysis, drafting comments, participating in settlements, and docket-tracking/issue-spotting. My work continues to focus on grid modernization, data access, energy efficiency, distributed energy resource, and electric rate cases/rate design.
What this means is that I’ve done many of the actions I now support local government and private sector partners to undertake, from building coalitions and testifying in regulatory proceedings to collaborating with utility teams and negotiating settlements. I’ve been doing this work for over 8 years, so I’ve learned a lot of lessons (including some hard ones) on how to develop productive proposals for partnership between cities and their energy utilities. That process is not always smooth, and it can take a lot of time to build trust that will lead to solutions that are a win for the city, for all utility customers, and for the utility itself.
What does market transformation mean to you? How does your work at IMT move us toward that goal?
Transforming the private market means that all people will begin to value efficient, high-performing buildings. My work at IMT is ultimately aimed at improving and developing available information about buildings’ energy usage, which is a critical foundation to establish that transformed value proposition. Energy data has to be easy to access, understandable, and capable of being transferred to energy management vendors with minimal friction to really be actionable.
But, transforming markets also requires having a bigger-picture view of the energy system. To do that, public- and private-sector actors need more information on trends in energy usage and participation in energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. There are a lot of important data tools available today, but we often lack insight at the utility and community levels. With greater information about local energy trends, we can start to see what opportunities exist for improving the design of—and access to—the energy programs and services that can make high-performing buildings the standard throughout our communities.
I help the public and private sectors articulate this value and engage with utilities and utility regulators to transform markets. While there are good practices out there, it will take a lot of work to completely and comprehensively address the need for robust energy data to support public policy and market development.
What most excites you about working with cities and local communities?
I worked for local government for a number of years, and there are two things I especially appreciate and enjoy whenever I work with them. The first is the creativity. Cities and counties nationwide are continually thinking about how they can achieve their energy goals by working with stakeholders—including the private sector, community-based organizations, and universities—and by leveraging new technologies and data. The second is the significant capacity of local governments to drive huge changes on the ground. For example, they can benefit an entire community by setting thoughtful energy performance targets for new and existing buildings.
What is the most exciting initiative you’ve learned about in 2018?
Overall, I’ve been excited to see cities’ growing interest in engaging with utilities. In the last year, I’ve seen some really intriguing efforts emerge as cities are coming together to engage at the state level and build direct partnerships with their utilities.
I’m excited to watch the progress of organizations like Colorado Communities for Climate Action, which advocates at the state and national level for climate policies and could be a model for cities engaging with utility regulators. I’m also watching the Blue Horizons Project in North Carolina, a joint initiative of the city of Asheville, Buncombe County, and Duke Energy, which has begun the process of targeting energy efficiency and other programs to residents and businesses with a goal of delaying or avoiding the construction of a new natural gas power plant.
Cities are increasingly becoming engaged in how energy utilities make power supply and infrastructure decisions, with an eye toward transitioning to clean energy and promoting local resilience and energy equity. I’m excited to find ways to help cities work with their utilities and utility regulators to realize these local goals.
What is something your coworkers may not know about you?
I was recently appointed to my home state of Colorado’s Utility Consumers’ Board, which is a statutorily created board that provides policy guidance to the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel, the state’s consumer advocate at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. Also, I once spoke at a Pecha Kucha-style event on the changing demographics of the utility industry and utility regulation! The video is here.