"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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Energy, Info, Buildings and Transportation Converge at Greenbiz Event

By Katie Romans

At VERGE on Wednesday, from left, Joel Makower, GreenBiz group chairman ; David Bartlett, vice president of industry solutions, IBM; David Pogue, global, director of sustainability, CBRE; Saul Zambrano, senior director products, customer energy solutions, PG&E; Don Reed, director, sustainable business solutions , PwC. (Photos courtesy greenbiz.com.)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – According to Joel Makower of Greenbiz, there are 50 billion interconnected information technology devices sharing data today. And, he expects a similar phenomenon of connectivity to take place across the energy, buildings and transportation sectors, creating new opportunities at the intersection of sustainability.

There’s just one thing. Power plants, car makers and heavy industry manufacturers are all highly capital-intensive industries, unlike the virtual world that characterized the information technology boom.

The good news is each of these sectors is making headway in their respective areas. Energy is becoming more decentralized, cleaner and better managed with the help of storage technologies. Buildings are becoming smarter, more efficient and easier to optimize. In the realm of transportation, we’re seeing smart vehicles, systems and even smart roads.

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

Enter convergence.

On Wednesday (March 14), Greenbiz kicked off its three-day VERGE conference in Washington, D.C., exploring the organization and partners needed to converge innovation in energy, information, building and transportation.

At the three-day VERGE Conference in Washington, speakers share insights on how the convergence of energy, information, transportation and building technologies addresses business opportunities and corporate sustainability goals.

As a result of convergence, Makower noted that many companies have shifted into entirely different industries. Companies like DuPont, Caterpillar and PraxAir are now solar companies, while companies like Firestone, GE and Cisco are buildings companies.

In discussing what role utilities will play in convergence, Saul Zambrano, PG&E senior director of products for customer energy solutions, said, “The capability of big data is at a relatively mature stage. The gap is the availability of that data. PG&E just filed a common data access platform proposal with the California Public Utilities Commission to push data to customers.”

Zambrano was joined on the ‘Capitalizing on Convergence’ panel by David Bartlett, vice president of industry solutions for IBM; David Pogue, global director of sustainability for CBRE; and Don Reed, director of sustainable business solutions for PwC.

One common theme of the panel discussion was the need to listen to the voice of the consumer. One of the biggest opportunities to reach the consumer is not necessarily technology, but change management and, ultimately, changing people or behavior.

How do we accomplish that? Panelists had different responses:

Reed of PwC said, “Expand opportunities through acquisition.”

Pogue of CBRE said, “Engagement.”

Barlett of IBM said, “Leverage technology to improve the lives of people.”

Zambrano of PG&E said, “Integrate all components of demand-side management.”

The dialogue will continue through the week, with a keynote interview with Amory Lovins, co-founder, chairman and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute; breakout sessions on topics such as ‘Global Energy Management’ and ‘Integrating Renewables and Onsite Generation;’ and a panel discussion, ‘Utilities in the Cloud’ on Friday, featuring Steve Kline, vice president and chief sustainability officer of PG&E and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff.

Email Katie Romans at ker0@pge.com.