The Energy Co-op, a cooperative energy provider based in Philadelphia, announced last week that it hired a new executive director, Glenn Smith. Although Smith, a Bucks County native with over 15 years of experience in the energy sector, started two weeks ago, his predecessor, Jossi Fritz-Mauer, is staying on until the spring to help with the transition.
The co-op formed in 1979 around the goal of lowering the price of heating oil by increasing the buying power of members. In addition to continuing its heating oil program (and launching a buying program for biodiesel), the co-op sells energy plans to Philadelphia-area residents that guarantee a certain percentage of the energy they use will be offset by renewable energy.
Smith started his career in energy in 1997 at a company now called NextEra Energy Resources, an affiliate of a Florida utility company. He eventually took a leadership position in development and acquisition that allowed him to work with renewable energy suppliers such as wind, solar, and geothermal companies.
After leaving in 2001 and working as a consultant, Smith moved back to the Philadelphia area in 2007 for a job as the chief operating officer of Gamesa Energy USA, LLC, a subsidiary of a Spanish wind turbine manufacturer. In 2011, he moved to another clean energy development company, Community Energy, based in the Philadelphia suburb of Radnor. He left soon after, amicably, due to differences in strategic approach in how the company was expanding.
After leaving, Smith said he was “looking for opportunities with companies that wanted to be involved in the clean energy space” as well as something with a better work-life balance than some of his past jobs.
The Energy Co-op, he said, seemed to meet many of his priorities.
“I was definitely looking for a situation where I could work with a staff of folks who are principled and passionate and articulate and knowledgeable — and I think the staff here really is all of those things — but they don’t necessarily feel that this work is an end in of itself,” Smith said.
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“I wanted to be involved with an organization where I could bring my practitioner’s knowledge of the energy markets to bear and help mentor some younger people, but at the same time not be in a situation where I’m working 70 hour weeks basically trying to maximize the equity returns or shareholder returns,” he added.
Smith noted in an introductory blog post on the co-op’s website that he planned to take a pragmatic approach to leading the co-op.
“While I’ll continue to be an unstinting advocate for renewable energy, I won’t lose sight of our need to operate within the real-world constraints imposed by government policy (or lack thereof), energy market structure, and the financial resources of The Energy Co-op and its members,” he wrote.
What this means, he told Generocity.org, is that he is “willing to take a longer term view in what it means to be successful in promoting the use of clean energy.” Working with natural gas suppliers, for example, is something Smith is not necessarily against.
“Sometimes folks in the renewable power space don’t want to contemplate forming alliances with folks who are in the natural gas sector because they see it as antithetical to their goals — I don’t see it that way,” he said.
However, Smith stressed that it was still too soon to outline specifically his plans for the co-op. Right now, he said he is getting to know his employees and working with his predecessor to understand operations at the co-op.-30-
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