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DOE Energy Exchange conference brings industry, AFCEC together

From left, AFCEC energy engineers Dan Gerdes, Dick Fillman and Lucy Notestine interact with attendees at the Department of Energy’s “Energy Exchange” conference in Phoenix, Aug. 10. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kevin Elliott/Released)

From left, AFCEC energy engineers Dan Gerdes, Dick Fillman and Lucy Notestine interact with attendees at the Department of Energy’s “Energy Exchange” conference in Phoenix, Aug. 10. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kevin Elliott/Released)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Representatives from the Air Force Civil Engineer Center met with federal and industry peers to exchange ideas and learn from each other Aug. 10-14 during the first federal energy conference since 2011.

In Phoenix, the "Energy Exchange" event's roughly 2,000 attendees were a mix of energy engineers and energy managers, attorneys, contracting specialists and other staff from across the federal government, including the Department of Defense, and private industry players from large energy service companies to startup hardware and software firms.  

"It's been four years since the last conference, and it was sorely needed," said David Bek, AFCEC Energy Directorate chief. "One of the great advantages of a conference like this is the gathering of many different federal agency representatives who all have different perspectives but similar energy goals. Equally important, we get to dialogue with industry. We get a feel for what is working out there and what isn't. It's the kind of information that is hard to get without meeting face-to-face."

In addition to personal peer interaction, attendees were offered 90 different training modules including more than 130 speakers divided into 10 learning tracks, based on interest. Sixty-three of the modules were eligible as continuing education credits for participating engineers. Two AFCEC members, Les Martin, energy savings performance contract program manager, and Drew Jernigan, Utility Law Field Support Center attorney, were also on roundtable discussion panels.

"The training allows us to hear from some of DOD's and the nation's experts in various fields to learn what makes a good deal and what doesn't," said Dan Gerdes, AFCEC rates and renewables division chief. "We also have an opportunity to hear directly from policy makers themselves (on) ways to interpret some of the laws and rules. It's a great chance to have those one-on-one discussions."

The Air Force energy program also hosted a vendor booth for the event that gave engineers, especially Air Force base energy managers, face time with AFCEC program managers with whom they work, but have possibly never met in person.

"I think being able to put a face with a name really helps the energy managers feel more comfortable coming to us at AFCEC," said Lucy Notestine, AFCEC project manager. "For me, I get to hear their problems and concerns, and help them realize the benefits of what we ask them to do. It also allows us to move their issues up to leadership."

A significant amout of the event was dedicated to DOD-specific breakout sessions. Air Force meetings included briefings and question-and-answer sessions from Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Energy Miranda Ballentine, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety and Infrastructure Mark Correll, as well as Bek and AFCEC performance measurement and analysis division chief Dan Soto.

"This was truly an exchange," Bek said. "My message to everyone who wasn't there is you won't want to miss next year."

The next Energy Exchange conference is scheduled for August 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.