We continue profiling our 2021-22 leadership: This month’s Feature Member is our Treasurer, Sreekanth Venkat.
Please note your affiliation and years of experience in the energy and/or environmental field.
I am a Senior Energy Advisor at Salas O’ Brien, an engineering and facility planning firm. I have 20 years of experience in the energy and climate change industry, having worked both in the US and India. A lot of the work that I have done is at the intersection of energy-environment and transportation sectors.
Any particular achievement/interest in energy/environment you would like to mention?
This is a difficult question to answer. Over the years, I have worked in a wide range of areas in the energy-environment sector ranging from electrification to energy resiliency and now climate resiliency. I must say that climate resiliency, is just today’s buzzword. In the days gone by, we used to call it climate adaptation. Having said that, even after all these years, one topic that always manages to raise my interest is Natural Resource Accounting (may be due to my doctoral training in environmental economics). I am always excited to work on projects that look at valuation of environmental impact whether be it of specific economic activities or changing weather patterns or life cycle assessment of energy technologies. Given the digitalization trends we are witnessing, I will be very interested to look at the environmental impact of the emerging digital technologies. And let me tell you, if digitalization is not managed well, the carbon footprint of the digital ecosystem will ensure that the ongoing climate fight will be a lost cause.
In your opinion, what are important issues facing the energy industry nowadays?
Broadly, I will bucket them into two categories – a) Retirement of Fossil Infrastructure; b) Electric Vehicle Recharging Infrastructure. I will go back to the climate crisis we are facing today. I think the Governments – at various levels – need to show more commitment in phasing out the fossil infrastructure but at the same time, they also need to ensure that the replacement capacity (in clean energy) exists and appropriate financing, policy and other institutional mechanisms are in place to ensure that the energy security is not compromised. I believe, sometimes the decarbonization goals are too ambitious without lining up all the ducks, so to say. We recently did a study on the environmental emissions of gas peakers in 3 states (which has about less than 5% of the peakers in the country) and estimated that the social cost of emissions from these peakers is nearly $ 1 billion per year . Now, there are over 1000 peakers in the country. Imagine the social cost of these peakers at a national scale. So, when I see a state like Massachusetts give a green signal to a natural gas peaker just a few months ago, I often wonder, whether Governments are really committed to decarbonization goals. Similarly, when it comes to EV charging infrastructure, I get worried, because when I look around, one of the biggest roadblocks is that many of us are still going to be using dirty energy to recharge. Look around, and many of the states do not even have a RPS standard. The decarbonization cannot be a zero sum game. All states and all stakeholders need to pull in the same direction.
How long have you been a member of NCAC? Any particular NCAC memory you would like to share with us?
I have been a Member of NCAC since 2017 and I have been the treasurer for the past year. Yes, the field visit to coal plants that was organized by the past-president, David Givens, is something that I fondly remember to this day. I made a lot of friends on that visit and 5 years later, my relationship with those folks has grown stronger…