10 08, 2022

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RE+ 2022: the conference of many firsts

As a quick recap, RE+ (formerly SPI) is the largest solar and clean energy conference in North America. This year, the conference convened 27,000+ attendees from around the world in Anaheim, CA!

RE+ 2022 was a “first” in many ways. It was the first time 27,000+ of us gathered in 3 years, following conference cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic, then Hurricane Ida. In addition, it was first time we gathered under the banner of RE+, combining events formerly focused on solar and energy storage, now with a new focus on large-scale clean power and infrastructure (e.g., e-mobility and green hydrogen).

For Enel too, RE+ 2022 brought “first” opportunities. For the first time since the pandemic, the event brought more than 40 Enel employees together, all hailing from different business lines and locations – we had representatives from all over the U.S., plus Canada and Italy.

Q&A with Enel conference attendees

During the conference, Enel employees met with dozens of current and future partners, suppliers, and customers, hosted software demonstrations in our lounge, and presented relevant topics on several conference stages. Did you catch us on the Master Speaker Series, Storage Central, or Eaton Fireside Chat stages? 

We caught up with four Enel employees to spotlight a few personal reflections from the conference. Thanks Alistair, Bryan, Matt, and Suraj for offering your insights!

  • Alistair Ono – Director, Sales, Distributed Energy Solutions & Demand Response
  • Bryan Quinlan – Key Account Manager, Flexibility Solutions
  • Matt Barnes – Director, Business Development, Distributed Energy Solutions
  • Suraj Patel – Senior Solutions Engineer, Distributed Energy Solutions

Alistair Ono, Bryan Quinlan, Matt Barnes and Suraj Patel

What trends and topics did you observe being discussed at RE+?

Alistair: The drivers beyond economics are taking on a more impactful role. 13 years ago, when I was working at a Scope 3 Carbon Accounting start-up, it felt at times like we were yelling into a void. This year, sustainability and decarbonization are at the forefront, and it's not just the Patagonia's of the world who are making commitments. As a California resident, I was glad to see that the topic of resiliency in the face of record heat waves, drought, and wildfires was also front and center at RE+. 

Bryan: Enabling the clean energy transition will require all sorts of partnerships and stakeholder engagement. Attracting the right people at the right time to create meaningful interactions is crucial. RE+ really showed how having all the right stakeholders in one place expedites opportunities – there is something to be said about having real, meaningful interactions in person. 

Matt: The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a tailwind, but other challenges don’t disappear with the stroke of a pen. What we do (turnkey project development, financing, operations & maintenance) is still complicated and hard. There remain issues with things like supply chain, interconnections, inflation, and complexity that we need to work through. Luckily, there are plenty of smart and talented folks working on this!

Suraj: Solar plus storage plus electric vehicle charging is not the future, it is happening right now! Companies that were previously only doing solar have changed their approach with other distributed energy resources. Storage is not an optional add-on to solar but now the centerpiece for a customer’s energy solution.There is a clear move towards a distributed and integrated solution for end-use customers.

Given these discussions, where do you see the energy industry going?

Alistair: Plus (+). Just when I was beginning to feel that the plus sign was threatening to surpass the # as the most overused symbol on the keyboard (Disney+, ESPN+, NFL+, etc,), the rebranding of SPI as RE+ finally hit home for me on the exhibit hall floor, while my colleague Suraj Patel presented his "Storage +" session on the additive value of energy storage (based on our recently launched eBook). While SPI used to be a show for solar and solar-adjacent technologies, I found myself in conversations about a whole spectrum of renewable energy solutions and beyond. The +, to me, symbolizes the end of a point solution perspective on solving the challenges of decarbonization and electrification. 

Bryan: Innovation, coupled with innovation, to find more innovation. How awesome is it to be a part of something of this scale across so many businesses!

Matt: It isn’t just about economics anymore. I heard more talk about sustainability and resiliency than I have ever heard before in our industry. Sure, economics are still important, and the IRA helps there, but the industry is looking beyond just cost. I paste in below a helpful framework we’ve been using recently on visualizing organizations’ diverse and sometimes competing priorities.

Suraj: I was excited to see so many companies offering resiliency solutions. With the recent natural disasters, the need for resiliency is more than ever and I am glad to see how companies are stepping up and balancing technical and economic constraints to provide critical back-up for their customers!

What did you walk away feeling most excited about?

Alistair: It sure felt good to be around people again. In this case, engaging with colleagues, partners and customers was energizing (pun kind of intended). While the show felt gigantic and, at times, overwhelming, there is also a tight knit community of individuals who are all driving toward a greater goal. While the company on the badge may change, and we may be working together one day and duking it out the next, this community has raised me, mentored me, and continues to motivate me.

Bryan: A tipping point is occurring in the market. With the combination of financial incentives and pressure on companies to be involved – an explosion in sustainable development is coming. 

Matt: There really is an army of clean energy people/companies out there to tackle what lies ahead. I was excited (and a bit intimidated at times, being honest) about the volume of people/companies and the level of interest at the conference to take on the decarbonization challenges. The competition will be intense, but there are SO MANY companies and people that want to be part of the solution, so let’s go out there and win (for us and for the planet).

Suraj: There was an energy and desire for collaboration about this conference that I had not felt in the previous SPI conferences. Folks were excited to talk to one another and partner up to decarbonize the grid. It was inspiring to be surrounded with such energy and was a reminder of the importance of the work we are doing in this industry.

Final thoughts

Excitement is palpable in the air – excitement for new funding and talent in the clean energy space from the IRA, excitement for this turning point in the energy transition, and excitement for all of us working together toward the shared mission of decarbonizing the economy for a brighter future. We can hardly wait for the next RE+ conference. See you in Vegas in 2023!

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