The Environment+Energy Leader honoree program is an annual list that recognizes the environment and energy “doers” who break trail in creating new solutions, programs, platforms, best practices and products to help their companies – or other companies – achieve greater success in commercial and industrial environment and energy management. Meet the Honorees… is an ongoing series that will feature one E+E Honoree from 2022 each week. See the complete list of 2022 Honorees here.
Meet John Horton, CEO and president of CPower Energy Management. John recalls the best advice he’s ever received: “I’ve always leaned on advice that my father shared with me from a young age. ‘Never be afraid to be a beginner. You have to be humble enough to have a beginner’s mindset.’” At CPower, the company instills the value of ‘Learn Apply Teach.’ The team is encouraged to always be curious, never stop seeking knowledge, and to reach beyond their laurels. This comes to life through extensive and consistent team training, comprehensive monthly All Hands meetings, a company library and book club, and Sustainability Clubs that focus on providing employee education, initiatives, and forums around environmental and social topics,
Tell us about your biggest energy management challenge and how you are addressing it.
John Horton: Right now, we’re seeing calls for energy and environmental equity that are putting pressure on public and private sectors alike to address climate change head on. Stakeholders are committing to ambitious carbon reductions targets and demand side management is a major way to achieve them. One of our biggest challenges as a company is educating energy users, utilities, grid operators and others about the right solutions to tackle these problems.
We do this in part by emphasizing the value of flexible demand and its ability to help balance the grid. Demand response provides more than just capacity – it provides frequency response, ancillary services, real-time emergency response and more, all of which help keep the grid balanced. Demand side energy management inherently embodies sustainability because it helps us do more with resources that are already available to us. For example, demand response can support greater deployments of intermittent renewables by filling gaps in variable generation. Especially in the face of climate change and unpredictable weather events, it’s costly and unsustainable to purchase new MWs of fossil fuels. Demand response, the biggest distributed energy resource, can optimize and be flexible with energy that already exists.
What was a successful project or implementation you worked on at your company that you can share? Do you have any tips that would help colleagues at other companies who are contemplating similar projects?
JH: I am most proud of the CPower team for their hard work to solve challenges in achieving a clean and dependable energy future, and for not resting on what’s already working. We are constantly reinventing old ideas and pushing ourselves to always be learning. It’s through this that our team is helping major industries act, drive a clean energy transition, and work together to drive decarbonization.
At CPower we believe that we are our customers’ most trusted energy guides, and we add value by helping them achieve their energy management goals. In fact, last year we added a record-breaking number of new customers who were focused on reducing energy costs, aiding grid resiliency, and supporting the renewable energy transition, and paid out $230 million in grid revenue to customers. We proudly boast an industry leading NPS score, that is comparable to Apple and Zappos, double that of the utility industry. NPS is often considered the “gold standard” customer experience metric, measuring customer satisfaction and helping to predict business growth.
What trends do you expect to see in the market in the next few years? What challenges will the industry face and what technologies or organizational changes will overcome them?
JH: At CPower, we see the ‘4Ds’ as driving the energy transition: decarbonization, decentralization, digitization, and disruption.
Decarbonization: Governments and regulators are wanting to make their local and global communities greener and create demand for technologies that can reduce emissions. The good news is that we’re seeing C&I customers increasingly motivated to decarbonize to mitigate risk, and they’re looking to demand response to help do so.
Decentralization: Distributed generation sources are being deployed at an increasing rate. While this does present integration challenges for utilities and operators, DERs can play a big role in helping balance the grid — and CPower can make that happen. We help energy users maximize the ROI of their DER assets by guiding their participation in local energy markets.
Digitization: Technology advancements and the reduced cost of AI, real-time telemetry and web enabled control are increasing capabilities and viability of distributed energy resources. With each passing day these optimizations get more data, better inputs and continually get smarter. At CPower, our technologies get smarter every day because of new data that helps automate decision making for end-users and utilities.
Disruption: Disruptions from extreme weather events, like deep freezes or heat domes, as well natural disasters like wildfires have far-reaching market implications. Rebound consumption following the global pandemic, too, is now leading to an increase in carbon emissions and demand side solutions can help keep carbon use low.
The 4Ds are changing the way energy is generated, delivered, and consumed. Beyond understanding why the energy transition is happening, we need to understand unique needs worldwide. Not all markets will move at the same pace, and what’s good for one community might not be what another community needs.
Will you tell us about a favorite hobby, passion or book you’ve read recently that has had an impact on you and your work?
JH: I really enjoy “Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration,” by Simon Sinek. All new hires at CPower receive one on their first day. It’s a wonderful little book that tells the story of the importance of working together to build a successful career and live a fulfilling life. This sentiment could not be truer in our industry. Building a greener future will not be easy, and it is not going to happen overnight. That is why at CPower we’re committed to working together — amongst ourselves, with our customers, and with other industry stakeholders — to do our part to help advance our shared vision for a more sustainable and reliable clean energy future.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
JH: A cleaner and more dependable energy future demands collaboration across the industry. One of our company’s values is ‘Do the Right Thing Today,’ meaning we know that it takes strength and resolve to make decisions and take actions in the present to enable the future energy grid. At CPower, we view every opportunity and challenge through the lens of how it will impact customers and strive to always act in the best interest of their future goals. We’re proud of efforts to work closely with each of our nearly 2,000 customers, across more than 12,000 sites in the US, as well as advocate for policy on behalf of these organizations to ensure it keeps pace with innovation.
Editor’s note: nominations are now open for this year’s E+E Honorees. Nominate a colleague — or yourself — for the 2022 E+E Honorees today.