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Beyond The Meter

Beyond the Meter addresses timely topics of interest to executives responsible for renewable energy procurement and distributed energy resources at Fortune 1000 companies, higher education and cities. Each episode delivers insights and information that listeners can use to make smarter energy decisions beyond the meter.

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The Home Depot Sustainability Approach, with Craig D’Arcy and Craig Noxon, Ep #4

One of the high profile corporate renewable energy initiatives in the news recently has been the unveiling of Home Depot’s sustainability goals. Home Depot is among the increasing number of corporations working to make renewables a significant part of their energy procurement strategy. But for Home Depot, this new direction is not fueled by a desire to become sustainable, it began because it makes financial sense.  On this episode of Beyond The Meter, join host John Failla and his co-host Craig Noxon, Vice President for Enterprise Sales at REC Solar, a Duke Energy Renewables Company as they speak with Craig D’Arcy, Director of Energy Management for Home Depot. You’ll learn how Home Depot started its journey toward the use of renewables, how early successes encouraged further efforts, and how both the financial and efficiency benefits of using renewable energy has motivated them to keep innovating. The Home Depot approach is a great example of how corporations can make use of renewables and increase the bottom line at the same time. Outline of This Episode [1:05] The background and role of each participant in regards to renewable energy [3:25] Home Depot’s energy management strategy: key elements [5:41] The primary drivers for the Home Depot strategy [8:13] Comparing Home Depot’s approach to the work other companies are taking [11:56] Technologies Home Depot has employed, renewable energy and otherwise [16:57] The role renewable energy plays for Home Depot [20:42] Which programs are most important to Home Depot (on-site or off-site)? [25:11] The challenge of getting stakeholders aligned toward renewable energy [27:50] Tips for those trying to get the attention of the C-suite for sustainability efforts [29:35] Advice about how to enlist the financial teams to help make the case [32:36] What’s next for Home Depot’s energy management strategy? [35:54] The challenges of energy providers in light of renewable energy innovation [40:36] Energy as a service concepts: Do they work for large companies? Home Depot’s energy policy goals made renewables a viable option There are typically three drivers behind a corporation’s consideration of renewables as an energy source. The first is cost, the second is the company's conscious sustainability goals, the third is increased resiliency. Craig D’Arcy says there is no doubt that all three play some role in Home Depot’s approach, but the first attempts to roll out renewable energy projects were entirely focused on the financial benefits. Renewables simply made financial sense for increasing efficiency and bottom-line profitability. As early successes with renewable projects were achieved, they were able to investigate other options and expand their efforts toward sustainability. It's led to their sustainability story becoming public, which has driven internal excitement and created momentum for the renewables side of their energy procurement strategies. Listen to hear how Home Depot continues to consider all sorts of energy solutions, including any renewable sources that make sense for their broader goals. 3 critical elements of the Home Depot sustainability approach When thinking of the renewable energy movement, it’s common to assume that those pushing for the use of renewables are only concerned about global issues of sustainability, but there’s incredible motivation to implement renewable energy alternatives from a variety of standpoints. In the case of Home Depot, three primary concerns guide their energy decisions... 1 - Foremost, Home Depot views everything they do through caring for their stores so that associates and customers are served well 2 - Every energy sourcing project must make sense financially 3 - Leadership has passed down a mandate to be as innovative as possible to accomplish those first two, which makes their decision-making technology and structure agnostic Listen to hear how this plays out for Home Depot as Craig D’Arcy explains the fit renewable energy has in that three-pronged approach. Sustainability efforts are significant for Home Depot's future No company can survive if it is not profitable. Home Depot is no different, so it is no surprise to find out that from a financial standpoint, renewable energy is being leveraged to lower the net rates paid for energy throughout the company. But the benefits of renewable energy go far beyond that... Home Depot has become known as a sustainability brand, recently releasing its own science-based targets for its energy policy, which includes renewable energy as a significant part. And finally, renewable energy provides natural, beneficial hedges against volatile energy pricing in the markets. Power Purchase Agreements with energy providers enables this hedge and has proven to be a huge benefit to the company. Advice for convincing the C-suite to consider sustainability projects The C-suite of any company must be on board if a move toward sources of renewable energy is going to take place. Both Craig D’Arcy and Craig Noxon offer their advice for how to secure the buy-in of company executives. First, map out the process. Have a clear projection of how and why renewable energy sources will be investigated, selected, and implemented.  Next, understand what the stakeholders care about and be sure your roadmap adequately addresses those concerns. In doing so, work hard to uncover potential landmines and head them off proactively.  Finally, be sure you know how are you going to sell the upside of procuring energy from renewable sources. Bottom-line benefits for the company will be a significant and compelling consideration for anyone in the C-suite. Home Depot’s sustainability efforts provide an excellent case study from which other corporations can take their cues - and this conversation provides keen insight into the why, how, and what of moving toward renewables as at least a portion of a profitable energy procurement strategy. Resources & People Mentioned Home Depot’s Corporate Responsibility Goals Connect with Craig D’Arcy and Craig Noxon Craig D’Arcy on LinkedIn Craig Noxon on LinkedIn Connect With Beyond The Meter https://www.smartenergydecisions.com/podcasts/beyond-the-meter Subscribe to Beyond The Meter onApple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Android, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio, aCast, PlayerFM, iHeart Radio


11 Oct 2019

Rank #1

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Look Who Switched To Renewables: Sprint’s Journey To Lower Emissions, Ep #7

Lower emissions are one of the many goals being set by corporations across the country to reduce their carbon footprint and exercise corporate responsibility. Naturally, every company has its own unique set of hurdles to overcome in setting and attaining such goals. In this conversation Amy Bond, Energy and Sustainability Program Manager at Sprint explains how Sprint started looking into what it could do to procure energy from renewable sources back in 2008, but nothing fit their situation at that time. Fast forward to 2018 and it’s an entirely different story. Join Smart Energy Decisions Founder, John Failla as he speaks to Amy about Sprint’s journey. Joining the conversation is Scott Macmurdo, Business Development Director at Duke Energy, Sprint’s partner in its recent Virtual Power Purchase Agreement. Outline of This Episode [0:33] John’s introduction of this conversation from the 2019 Renewable Energy Sourcing Forum [1:20] Amy Bond’s big announcement: Sprint’s first PPA with Duke Energy Renewables [4:20] The beginning of Sprint’s journey, the SED conference in Austin, TX [6:20] Starting on the journey with no overarching climate goals [8:09] Internal and practical obstacles faced in getting the deal done [12:36] Explaining the opportunity across departments [15:17] Key things corporate buyers should be thinking about [21:13] How the CEO was enlisted as an ally early in the process Sprint’s first Power Purchase Agreement in partnership with Duke Energy Renewables At the recent 2019 Renewable Energy Sourcing Forum, Amy shared the culmination of Sprint’s journey for the first time. It’s a 12 year Virtual Power Purchase Agreement that Duke Energy has put together. Duke will build and operate a 182-megawatt wind farm in West Texas and Sprint will purchase 95% of the output from the facility for use in its facilities. Amy says that amount us almost 30% of Sprint’s entire energy consumption. But please understand, Sprint did not come to this place overnight. Their journey toward sustainability goals that made sense for them as a company was begun in 2008. Ten years later, it’s finally coming to fruition.  Ten years of trying, iterating, and striving to come to renewable energy success Sprint first launched its environmental goals in 2008 and hoped to meet them by 2017. One of those goals was to acquire 10% of the company’s energy from alternative sources by 2017. Those goals were not met. The first option the company considered was the purchase of hydrogen fuel cell racks in 2008. The project proved to be impractical from a cost perspective.  The first VPPA Sprint ever considered came in 2014, but again the economics didn’t make sense at the time. But Amy says that the unexpected by-product that came from those efforts was that an internal renewable energy team was assembled, so when 2018 came around all of those team members were still with the company and were still interested in working toward a way to reduce emissions as a company. This gave them a jump start on moving projects forward once the costs were more aligned with their goals and needs. Sprint had no overarching climate goals - but engaged with renewable energy anyway The goals Sprint generated back in 2008 were never realized. When Amy came to see that the practical and financial limitations previously experienced were no longer the case, she began pitching the idea to key stakeholders right away. Through months of discussion and hard work, the team cooperated with Duke Energy Renewables to put a plan in place that everyone involved could sign off on. Notice something important - Sprint had no renewable energy goals in place at the time but the company was able to move forward anyway. Don’t let any perceived lack in your renewable energy policy or goals hold you back from moving to reduce emissions for your company. You can do it! Key things for corporate buyers to be thinking about When looking at a potential VPPA deal, there are many things to pay close attention to in order to move the deal forward. First, you need to work hard to frame the project in ways that make sense within your organization. Amy also stresses that you need to look closely at your developer (Duke Energy Renewables, in this instance). The relationship will be a 12-year relationship in Sprint's case. It’s important to feel comfortable and confident - and to know that all the stakeholders can feel the same - as you move into that kind of relationship. Scott points out that corporate buyers should understand that the timeline you work from initially will not remain intact. It’s not that anyone is communicating wrongly or misrepresenting the deal, it’s that hurdles will arise and you'll have to find workarounds. Because that’s always the case - be sure you seek help. Third-party consultants that specialize in renewable energy are worth having on board. Even though they will result in higher initial costs, they enlarge the pie for everyone by equipping your organization with the knowledge you need to get the deal to the finish line. Resources & People Mentioned The Renewable Energy Sourcing Forum Duke Energy Renewables Cinemark Sustainability Efforts Cargill Sustainability Efforts The Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Sprint’s Corporate Sustainability Goals Connect with Amy and Scott Amy Bond on LinkedIn,  Scott Macmurdo on LinkedIn Connect With Beyond The Meter https://www.smartenergydecisions.com/podcasts/beyond-the-meter Subscribe to Beyond The Meter onApple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Android, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio, aCast, PlayerFM, iHeart Radio


18 Oct 2019

Rank #2

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Corporate Deployment Of EV Charging Infrastructure with Rob Threlkeld and Craig Noxon, Ep #2

Naturally, as any consumer technology becomes available to the public, the supporting infrastructure has to be developed right alongside. That’s the only way it can become widely accepted. But it’s not as easy as “just doing it.” There are many obstacles, financial hurdles, and unforeseen difficulties that have to be overcome. This conversation dives into what’s happening behind the scenes in the electric vehicle industry to deploy EV charging infrastructure across the nation. John’s guests are Rob Threlkeld and Craig Noxon. Rob is the Global Manager of Sustainable Energy, Supply, and Reliability at General Motors, one of the many automotive suppliers leading the way toward EV adoption. Craig is Vice President of Enterprise Sales at REC Solar, a Duke Energy company. Both men have a unique insider’s view of what’s happening to build out the infrastructure necessary for wider adoption of electric vehicles, so be sure you listen to hear what’s happening on the ground across the nation to promote the purchase and use of electric vehicles. Outline of This Episode [1:10] The increasing demand for EV infrastructure - what’s your experience? [7:06] Obstacles in meeting the demand for EV infrastructure [11:09] How retailers can benefit from investing in EV charging infrastructure [13:13] Can commercial fleet electrification over tax the electrical supply? [23:33] What could accelerate adoption of Electric Vehicle infrastructure? [37:00] The hot topics to watch over the next few years [41:00] Final thoughts: Corporations and individuals need to get involved Retailers can gain an advantage by investing in the EV charging infrastructure Many businesses across the country are noticing the advantages that can be had by providing EV charging stations at their retail locations. When customers who own and drive electric vehicles have a place to park and recharge their vehicles, it naturally follows they will frequent the establishment that provides it - and make purchases there. In retail, that's worth noticing. Anything that produces a competitive advantage is going to be seriously considered. Rob and Craig discuss how retailers, automakers, and local utilities are working together to roll out more EV charging stations at retail locations, on this episode of Beyond the Meter. 20 million EVs on the road in the next 10 years - what will that require from an energy perspective? As more and more electric vehicles hit the road, many things will be needed to both support and sustain the shift away from traditional fossil fuel vehicles. What sort of things need to happen? There will undoubtedly be Increases the amount of energy that utilities must provide for EV use This means that infrastructure decisions and innovations must be top of mind now so that when the demand arrives, we’ll be able to meet it. The demand for EV infrastructure will continue to grow It’s not only the electrical suppliers that need to think about the infrastructure - employers, corporations, and even leaders of municipalities need to be involved, taking steps to ensure that the technology and innovation needed to serve their communities is happening. Demand drives supply - always. Storage issues will need to be considered Imagine the energy demand required if a good majority of those 20 million EVs were charging at the same time. Would the electrical supply chain be able to handle it? It will if we think ahead about the storage needs required to pull it off. We need to ensure that energy produced during “non-peak” times can be stored effectively and economically so that it can be used during peak times - which means the storage technologies we have now need to be improved and increased across the board. EV as a service could be a very real possibility in the near future One of the most encouraging things happening around the move to electric vehicles is that partnerships between energy suppliers and automotive manufacturers are being formed to help consumers make the transition. Plans are being considered to provide “EV as a service” to interested consumers. These agreements - much like a traditional automotive lease - would potentially provide not only the vehicle, but also the energy, access to the charging infrastructure, and more. Imagine it - consumers would be able to receive a complete EV solution from one provider. The “sharing economy” might come into play as well. Conversations are happening around the idea of “stranded assets” such as fully charged electric vehicles that are sitting idle, being used to provide electricity back to their local utilities, for other users to “borrow,” and more. Listen to learn some of the great ideas being considered. What to expect 18 months from now The move to EVs is happening rapidly. That means many more changes could happen in just the next few years. As the conversation wrapped up, John asked his guests what they see coming in the next 18 to 24 months. Both agree that more electric vehicles will be on the road, more will be offered by a wider variety of auto manufacturers, and additional investments in battery technologies will be made, enabling batteries to be produced with decreased costs. At the same time, the challenges of scaling EV infrastructure will become evident. As demand increases, cracks will be discovered in the existing infrastructure that will have to be addressed. And, many strong players in the industry will emerge and begin to lead the way toward innovation and further changes.  Finally, John believes that a more solid and definitive business case for the electrification of commercial fleets will be made within the next few years. Data, showing the benefits of fleet electrification will begin to have an affect. That will lead to more definitive and strong plans by utilities to support fleet conversions. Resources & People Mentioned Duke Energy REC Solar Bechtel Engineering OnStar Shell Connect with Rob and Craig Rob on LinkedIn Craig on LinkedIn Connect With Beyond The Meter https://www.smartenergydecisions.com/podcasts/beyond-the-meter Subscribe to Beyond The Meter onApple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Android, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio, aCast, PlayerFM, iHeart Radio


9 Sep 2019

Rank #3

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Renewable Energy Sourcing In Higher Education, with Wolfgang Bauer and Scott Therian, Ep #3

The use of renewable energy is becoming more and more common on campuses of higher education across the country - and it’s not surprising. Institutions of higher education are both massive consumers of energy and are in the business of learning and teaching. That combination makes them ideal laboratories for innovation and advancement in the field. This episode features two guests, Wolfgang Bauer and Scott Therian who are both uniquely positioned to speak on renewable energy sourcing and adoption as it relates to higher education. Wolfgang is Associate Vice President for Administration at Michigan State University. His expertise is in renewable power systems integration, micro-grid management, energy efficiency, and sustainability. Scott is Project Development Manager at REC Solar. He has spent the last 9 years in the solar industry after getting his education in electrical engineering with a focus on power systems, energy conversion, and renewable energy sources. Join these two renewable energy experts and host, John Failla of Smart Energy Decisions for this intriguing and insightful episode. Outline of This Episode [1:05] What are the drivers for renewable energy sourcing in higher education? [8:02] How renewable energy fits into the energy sourcing of many colleges [18:09] Why are universities moving slowly on renewable energy sourcing? [26:42] Will higher education institutions accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles? [29:52] What is happening in universities by way of innovation to drive renewable energy adoption? [39:27] Final comments about the topic from Wolfgang and Scott University campuses are huge energy consumers. Is it possible for them to use renewable energy? Most universities are strategizing around the use of renewable energy, both in terms of how to use more renewable energy for current needs, and how to increase the use of renewable energy through establishing their own sources of RE in the future. But there are many variables that either support or hinder the adoption of renewable energy in these institutions. One advantage is that universities are long-standing institutions, which provides stability and inertia that can be leveraged toward multi-year contracts with renewable energy companies. But other factors can make the adoption of renewable energy difficult. For example, many land grant institutions have the advantage of developing their own sources of renewable energy, while urban universities have less opportunity to do so. What are the drivers for adoption of renewable energy in higher education? For institutions of higher learning, as well as other large organizations, a choice no longer has to be made between environmental sustainability and fiscal sustainability. Both can be a reality. The levelized cost of large scale solar and wind power is now lower than that of fossil fuel generated power - even with the historically low cost of natural gas that has resulted from Fracking. For this reason, cost is a significant driving factor for the adoption of renewables at universities. But also, due to political pressure, more and more universities are making progressive pledges that put them at the forefront of the renewable energy stage. They want to be seen as leaders in this innovative and future-oriented field. As a result, many universities are entering into cooperative agreements with public sector organizations to bring the reality of renewable energy on campuses to life. Listen to hear more drivers for the adoption of renewable energy at these institutions. Renewable energy sourcing is not something universities are used to doing The adoption of renewable energy is challenging for universities because it’s not like any procurement the administration is used to doing. In the past, energy needs would simply be procured from the local utility company. But the marketplace has changed and now schools have many options for meeting their energy needs. And the transition from old energy models to renewable energy involves complex projects that require much foresight and planning, which often gets bogged down in committee.  But many universities are beginning to move in the right direction - restructuring their administration to take energy needs into account with the creation of administrative positions such as Director of Sustainability or Director of Energy and Utilities. As well, the use of third party consultants is becoming more commonplace since most universities don’t know exactly what they need when it comes to renewable energy. Consultants can help the institution get through the decision-making process in an informed way so they can more quickly lay out exactly what they need. This facilitates the bidding process to get adoption projects underway. The complex and multi-faceted needs of universities are driving innovation The fact that higher education is an intriguing market for developers and renewable energy contractors makes it a natural fit for universities to become laboratories for innovation in renewable energy - from a business model standpoint, from a financing standpoint, and from a technological standpoint. Partnerships between universities and renewable energy companies are becoming more and more common as a result. For example, REC Solar has developed a renewable energies lab at California Polytechnic University where students can learn, the educational offerings of the university are enhanced, and the team at REC is learning how to operate their own assets better. Over time, it’s almost certain that more and more evolutions of this kind will be created between private and public sector organizations to move the renewable energy movement forward. There are so many topics discussed in this episode, you’ll want to hear the entire thing, so be sure you listen. Resources & People Mentioned Michigan State University REC Solar California Polytechnic University The Smart Energy Decisions Forums Connect with Wolfgang and Scott Wolfgang Bauer on LinkedIn Scott Therian on LinkedIn Connect With Beyond The Meter https://www.smartenergydecisions.com/podcasts/beyond-the-meter Subscribe to Beyond The Meter onApple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Android, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio, aCast, PlayerFM, iHeart Radio


9 Sep 2019

Rank #4

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How AT&T’s Corporate Sustainability Pledge Is Coming To Life, with Shannon Carroll and Scott Macmurdo, Ep #6  

More and more companies are making corporate sustainability pledges - and it’s a good thing. Corporations are some of the largest consumers of energy in the world. When these companies take steps to reduce their carbon footprint by procuring their energy from renewable sources, they have a significant impact on the overall environmental issues our world is facing.  This conversation inspires hope because it illustrates how a communication industry giant is leading the way in the sustainability movement. That company is AT&T. Guests on this episode are Shannon Carroll, Director of Global Environmental Sustainability at AT&T, and Scott Macmurdo, Business Development Director at Duke Energy Renewables. Their companies recently partnered on a renewable energy project that illustrates the kind of steps that can and should be taken by companies large and small. You will enjoy this conversation. Outline of This Episode [1:01] The background of each guest in the sustainability arena [8:09] The role corporate sustainability goals have in driving asset sourcing [12:37] The involvement of the C-suite in sustainability pledges [17:18] Who are the main stakeholders in the AT&T pledge toward sustainability? [21:36] AT&T’s journey in renewable energy sourcing [27:26] The anatomy of a renewable energy purchase [34:40] The challenges that had to be overcome in the recent Duke / AT&T deal [40:15] What’s the future of renewable energy hold? The AT&T 10X Goal for environmental responsibility and sustainability When it comes to corporate sustainability pledges, AT&T has set the bar pretty high. Not only are they committed to lowering their own operational carbon footprint as much as possible they are also committed to enabling their customers to reduce their carbon footprint as well. That’s where the 10X Goal for Environmentally Responsibility and Sustainability comes in. The AT&T pledge is this: We’ve set a goal to enable carbon savings 10 times the footprint of our operations by 2025. We’re calling this our 10x Carbon Reduction Goal, or more simply, our “10x” Goal. To meet the goal, we’re making our network more efficient and we’re working with our customers to deploy technology that can help reduce GHG emissions, save water, and more. AT&T is also teaming up with companies to measure the GHG emissions reduction of specific products. The AT&T energy team worked with experienced third party consultants in the renewable energy space to come up with the strategy and then put it into place officially. Listen to this discussion to learn how they made it happen. The fastest and most significant way to reduce your company’s carbon footprint In recent years we’ve seen record rates of sustainability goals by corporations. Not coincidentally, we’ve also begun to see record levels of corporate renewable energy procurement. Simply put, companies are taking the initiative to sidestep traditional forms of carbon-based energy to use renewable energy instead. Undoubtedly, this is the best way to dramatically draw-down on a company's CO2 footprint in the least amount of time. As explained by the guests on this episode, there are a handful of things companies could do to be true to their commitment to corporate sustainability. Some of the solutions are: Moving toward energy efficiency The build-out of renewable energy sources of their own Changing gas-powered fleet vehicles to electric While good and needed steps, in most cases, these are not the way to create a significant change in a short amount of time. Then how are they doing it? Through large-scale renewable energy procurements. Think of it as the largest “ROE” - return on effort. Limited resources demand the biggest bang for the buck - which is accomplished through switching energy sourcing to large scale solar or wind projects. Goal alignment and good communication drive corporate sustainability efforts As the AT&T team began to make efforts to reduce the company’s CO2 footprint, many options were considered and tried. But by far, large scale Power Purchase Agreements became the fastest and best way to make a difference. The team researched what would best meet the needs of the company and best serve the customer and solicited the help of third parties from the renewable energy industry who could advise about best-practices. The key to aligning stakeholders was to stay focused on their common sustainability goals and to talk to all the teams involved: energy -supply chain - finance - C-suite - and on-the-ground managers. Their goal was to ensure that the projects being considered made sense across the board, while at the same time understanding and quantifying the risk openly. In the AT&T approach, the upside had to outweigh the risks. Trends that impact the future of corporate renewable energy sourcing Will more companies follow AT&T’s lead and develop renewable energy pledges of their own? It’s likely, for several reasons. FIRST - The cost of renewable energy is going down overall. This translates into better value for buyers, who in this case, would be corporations. SECOND - Customers are gaining a better understanding of the risks involved and are learning to mitigate those risks effectively by shifting it to developers. THIRD - Many new renewable energy companies are coming into the marketplace. The competition that is developing makes overcoming supply-chain hurdles and cost factors, less of an issue. You’ll be inspired by the commitment to corporate sustainability the AT&T goals represent and after listening, you’ll have a good idea of the challenges and benefits of developing a renewable energy plan of your own. Please listen! Resources & People Mentioned The AT&T 10X Goal The AT&T CSR page AT&T flexware product Emerson’s “Grind To Energy” AT&T’s climate change tool, developed with Argonne National Labs The “We Are Still In” Movement Science Based Goals RE100 Charlene Lake, AT&T Chief Sustainability Officer AT&T’s recent renewable power purchase deal with Duke Energy Renewables The Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit Walmart’s Project Gigaton Connect with Shannon and Scott Shannon Carroll on LinkedIn Scott Macmurdo on LinkedIn Connect With Beyond The Meter https://www.smartenergydecisions.com/podcasts/beyond-the-meter Subscribe to Beyond The Meter onApple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Android, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio, aCast, PlayerFM, iHeart Radio


11 Oct 2019

Rank #5