By Katrina Fuller  |  The Post-Journal  |  February 22, 2022

Turner Winter Series Features Energy Counsel Member

Dennis Elsenbeck, a member of the NY Energy Counsel, discussed the importance of regional involvement in energy and gave insight into his background during a presentation of the Turner Winter Series.

The series was hosted at the Robert H. Jackson Center last week.

Elsenbeck, also a member of the New York State Climate Action Council, is the president of Viridi Parente, a developer of battery technology. He is responsible for the direction and alignment of products and services for Viridi’s subsidiaries, Volta Energy and Green Machine, and represents Viridi in legislative and regulatory interests and energy policy. Elsenbeck was previously employed with Niagara Mohawk now known as National Grid.

Elsenbeck was interviewed by Gregory Peterson, facilitator and host of the Turner Winter Series.

“The New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act was enacted in 2018 and that act was to eliminate 100% climate pollution caused by humans in New York state,” Peterson said. “They set targets of 85% reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and an interim target of 40% by 2030, and other standards as well. In order to achieve those ambitious goals, the act created a 22-member action council of which you are a member, and you’re really…the only member on this council who had energy experience.”

“We have Gavin Donahue who represents independent power producers and Donna Decarolis who is the president of National Fuel,” Elsenbeck said. “I’m probably the only one with actual electric system experience from the supply, delivery and demand point of view.”

Elsenbeck said when he was approached about the appointment he asked whether he was being approached due to a political point of view or if it was because he would look at it holistically and “do the right thing.” He said he was told he was being considered because he understood the system and understands the issues.

“That’s what made me convinced that I should be on that type of committee,” he said. “It’s been a…two-year commitment I’ve been involved in. It’s not something you can take lightly – you have to do research, you have to understand the presentations that are being made. There’s a lot of consultant feedback and a lot of utility-level discussions. You’ve got to think about balancing all those issues and that’s part of my DNA. I love balancing things.”

Elsenbeck said during his time with Niagara Mohawk and National Grid, he was a regional executive representing Niagara County to Chautauqua County. He said he also worked on issues with economic development and energy in and around the area.

“When you do utility planning, which means the transmission lines which are the larger lines that run across the state or the local distribution lines, the first thing we should be doing is understanding what the economic development and the developers are looking for in terms of future planning to integrate that into the utility planning so that we have a commonality among upgrading the system if it’s deteriorated or aged but then really thinking about investing for the future of the region, the county and Jamestown. You’ve got to think about it from the point of view of how do we actually bring power to the Jamestown BPU so they’re doing their job,” he said. “We can’t leave out the potential opportunities that are seen by the market participant, not so much by the regulator, by the utility or the policymaker in general. We have to respond to what’s needed by the people who understand their region best.”

Peterson asked Elsenbeck what his thoughts were on the Jamestown Board of Public Utilities. Elsenbeck replied that he is “very much in favor” of the BPU.

“They’re part of the community,” he said. “I was always proud to be part of a public utility serving different areas and different municipalities, but I could never feel the same way as the Jamestown BPU because they are part of the community – they’re part of the fabric of everyday energy use.”

To view the program, visit youtube.com/watch?v=kM9moXM9HQsopens in a new window.