Communicating the Value of the Energy Conversation: Board Member Andrew Johnston:
In this second in a series of “Purposeful Storytelling” profiles of TREIA members, we catch up with Andrew (Drew) Johnston. He is not only a new member, but also a new board member, as well as taking on the Member and Sponsor Committee Chair. I talked up Mr. Johnston to get his thoughts on his first few months engaging with members and all things TREIA.
So far this year, TREIA has been hard at work creating its strategic plan, scheduling various member events, and planning for GridNEXT 2018, and much of this work has been performed by a very active board of directors.
Johnston currently serves as Director, Global Energy Practice for the highly regarded consulting firm Navigant. At Navigant, Johnston is focused on sustainability, resilience, smart cities, regulatory support and the distributed energy resource opportunities for utilities, communities and industry across Texas. Johnston’s role has him criss-crossing the state, sharing with prospects and clients how his firm can help in developing their energy strategies and policies and realign their organizations for success. He also wears the title of ‘Chief Evangelist’ for Resilient Grid, an Austin-based software company that serves infrastructure, manufacturing and city command center operators with an operating system across all data sets to provide real time situational awareness, and collaboration and communication features in a cybersecure environment.
Many readers likely already know Drew Johnston - either from his time at UT, interning at Austin City Hall, working at Austin Energy, or Zpryme Research & Publication where he was President of Energy Thought Summit. He is well-connected and the consummate networker who truly seems to have everybody else’s best interest in mind. He’s probably responsible for somewhere north of a million professional introductions, putting person A in touch with person B, explaining what they have in common and why they should share knowledge with each other. If he could harvest just a small commission of the value resulting from those ensuing conversations, he wouldn’t have to work anymore. But he probably would anyway given his passion for all things energy.
It was through Johnston’s work at Navigant that he encountered TREIA, where he was immediately struck by how collegial TREIA was, and how ‘timely and relevant’ their concerns were with respect to the issues Navigant was addressing. Johnston is driven by what members want to convene around and collaborate to achieve. He was impressed that so many stakeholders in Texas already aligned around the bold mission statement of the organization, saying “TREIA puts the gauntlet out there. By 2035 we want 50% renewables, and all our members work towards that.”
So far, Johnston says he keeps hearing recurring topics from members - getting a broader conversation across sectors, requests to engage more than just the narrow topic of “Renewables” but also the interdependent topics of building and technology, markets and policy. He says that most of the topics he hears cover the gambit of “resilience, sustainability and the new face of the energy user as a “Prosumer” - someone that produces AND consumes energy.
“Drew” as friends call him, has been inspired by the strong commitment and varied backgrounds of the board members, “The majority of the board is in their first and second year, and they have an energy that is infectious.”
The new “Purposeful Storytelling” campaign and similar new focuses on the stories of TREIA members were brought about in part through Melissa Miller and Johnston’s joint efforts to bring the renewable energy story to life through different mediums and media – not just the monthly newsletter.
In his board role, never short on enthusiasm, Johnston enumerates the 2018 initiatives he’s most excited about. These include:
The delivery of formalized workshops around the state, addressing critical topics that affect the transition to a new energy economy (he’s careful to emphasize that in addition to renewables, efficiency and smart grid efforts must be part of the solution);
The creation of webinars that allow attendees to learn from seasoned practitioners and stakeholders without having to jump in a car or pack a suitcase. In many cases these webinars are highly industry-specific;
The addition of new types of members from green building and construction, energy efficiency and technology sectors, and other voices that enrich the Texas renewable energy industry’s maturation into a global leader;
Addition of an Event Organizer that will bring new levels of production and quality into the GridNEXT annual event.
And most importantly to Johnston as the Member & Sponsor Committee Chair:
A Member & Sponsor Solutions Director dedicated to supporting members and sponsor goals and strategic ways to leverage TREIA - He noted, “Nothing says I care about my members quite like providing a “Member Solutions” person to support them in their efforts toward our unified mission of Renewable energy adoption in this state.”