Q&A with Southface’s Director of Policy: Lisa Bianchi-Fossati
Last month Southface was pleased to welcome Lisa Bianchi-Fossati to its staff as Policy Director. In this role Lisa will build upon the achievements of Southface in promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions with legislatures and utility commissions. She will also help develop an expanded agenda on policy matters, including energy codes, green infrastructure and sustainable development strategies.
Lisa comes to Southface after 15 years at Accenture, where she worked with electric, gas and water utilities in North America and Europe. She designed, developed and implemented business and technology solutions across all supplier segments, including generation, network operations and retail service provision. Most recently, Lisa supported the Georgia Legacy Coalition with its efforts to establish a long-term, sustainable source of funding for land and water conservation in Georgia.
Southface’s communications intern, Diondra Powers, sat down with Lisa to discuss her experience and vision for her work in support of the Southface mission to promote sustainable homes, workplaces and communities.
DDP: So I know you were at Accenture for a while and I’m wondering how does your time with them inform your decisions surrounding Southface’s renewable energy policy?
LBF: I guess there are a couple of things I feel my experience at Accenture allows me to bring to the table as a frame of reference, if you will, for my policy work at Southface. One is, in the time that I spent with Accenture, I worked almost exclusively in the energy and utilities sector. My clients were electric, gas and water utilities, as well as oil supermajors in North America and Europe. As a result I’ve seen a lot of different business models in terms of the way these companies think, the way they operate, the way they approach their customers and the way they look at their generation, transmission, distribution and retail supply-side needs. They are complex businesses faced with interesting challenges and opportunities. I hope that this industry background will enable me to bring a different perspective to the policy discussion in the energy and environmental communities here in Georgia and the Southeast.
Another is the opportunity to continue to work with a diverse and dynamic set of stakeholders to solve complex problems. In my experience at Accenture I worked not only with my clients but also with a wide variety of vendor partner organizations. I hope to bring this spirit of effective teamwork to the collaborative environment at Southface, and I look forward to working to bring the best of everyone’s ideas, thought capital and capabilities to the table. By joining Southface I’m coming to an organization that is very well-known and well-respected in Georgia and the Southeast, and that has the ability to really galvanize and mobilize the right folks and the right thinkers around an issue. In a nutshell, I’m excited, as I’ve done previously, to work with great people and to continue to pull people together to get something done.
DDP: What aspect of policy are you most excited about at Southface and why?
LBF: I think that there is a lot of great work happening in the renewables sector, both in Georgia and across the Southeast as well as nationwide. I also believe that Southface has the knowledge, skills and ability to really move the needle and change the way we think about our energy economy and the natural resources that we use. Not just from a clean energy perspective, but from an energy access perspective, and from a distributed generation perspective as well.
DDP: Distributed generation. Elaborate on that for those who may not understand the concept.
LBF: The traditional utility model, where the utility is the only entity that generates and distributes power, is evolving. A great example of this evolution is solar, and the recent advancements in solar technology that allow for you or me or any building owner to consider generating power with rooftop or other on-site solar capabilities. In this regard, the traditional utility model is moving toward a more distributed generation network, where there are multiple generation points on the grid – both utility and non-utility owned and operated. It’s a natural and exciting evolution of the power infrastructure that also has a great intersection with green energy and our ability to move toward a more sustainable energy economy.
DDP: How have you been prioritizing your time to on-board and roll up your sleeves at Southface?
LBF: John Sibley, Kevin Kelly, Shan Arora and Dennis Creech have been wonderful about scheduling meetings and making introductions to the key players in the network that I need to know. I am also participating in every Southface event I can. As you know, Southface is such a wonderful convener of sustainability experts and engaged audiences. From the Summer Solstice, to the Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable to the Visionary Dinner in September – these are all key events to get to know people who are interested and passionate about this important work.