Keynote speaker announced for 2021 Hawaii Energy Conference

The CEO of Swell Energy, Suleman Khan, will be the Keynote speaker for the 8th Annual Hawaii Energy Conference (HEC) on Day 1. Presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB), the virtual two-day conference is on March 22 & 24 and will explore the theme “The Energy Transition in Hawaii: Focus on investments in people and projects”

As CEO of Swell Energy, an energy and grid services company, Suleman directs Swell’s project development, project finance and grid services efforts. In the decade prior to launching Swell, Suleman worked within renewable energy and structured finance, productizing solar and energy storage applications for the residential and commercial markets. Suleman helped establish new energy divisions within various companies including Tesla, NRG and FirstSolar, and assisted in launching a number of renewable energy and consumer finance startups.

Khan will speak on “Creating Transformative & Inclusive Investment Opportunities with Virtual Power Plants.

With the propagation of distributed energy storage, the intrinsic value and investment outlook for renewable Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) is rapidly changing. The ability to aggregate thousands of DERs into a centralized Virtual Power Plant (VPP) is finally allowing for meaningful inclusion of renewable DERs into the resource planning, grid operations, and energy portfolios of utilities in key markets. Additionally, the recent commissioning of several high-capacity VPPs has introduced a new asset class (with multiple Revenue streams) to the capital markets – technical innovation has led to financial innovation and is now redefining how we finance DERs as VPP portfolios. With this comes the opportunity to reshape the energy landscape over the next decade in a manner that shatters the renewable glass ceiling, reduces the need for centralized power plants, preserves open space and habitat, and is inclusive in its benefits across the socioeconomic spectrum.

From an energy-empowerment standpoint VPPs are inherently communal, allowing for DERs to be owned by individuals, and democratize transactive energy in a manner that begins to levelize the ‘power dynamic’ between utilities and customers. The transformative and inclusive nature of this new investment approach is best exemplified within market constructs that allow VPP developers to monetize grid services and participate in wholesale energy markets, resulting in more efficient capital markets execution to ultimately bring down the cost of DER ownership within energy-vulnerable communities. With a formulaic approach to climate policy, regulatory frameworks, utility innovation and capital markets participation, VPPs are capable of creating transformative and inclusive change in how we all generate, consume and pay for our energy in the years to come.

Suleman previously worked on the structured credit products desk at Citigroup, as well as within Citigroup’s investment banking division and Prudential’s alternative investments group. Suleman also served as Senior Advisor to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission under the Obama administration’s safeguard initiatives. Prior to his capital markets work, Suleman worked within the microfinance sector with global and regional organizations including the UNDP and the Zimbabwe Association of Microfinance Institutions. Suleman has an academic background in financial engineering and political science and has served as advisor to various energy access and water reclamation initiatives.

The Hawaii Energy Conference consistently attracts energy industry leaders from Hawai’i, Continental US, Japan and Europe to exchange ideas on how to better serve customers in the Islands’ rapidly changing energy environment. The online event will also include a virtual exhibit hall for companies to showcase their products and services and connect with attendees. Networking has been a key feature of the Hawaii Energy Conference since its inception in 2014 and the virtual platform will be open in advance, encouraging attendees to connect and build important relationships prior to, during and after the conference.

The Hawaii Energy Conference is supported by the County of Maui Office of Economic Development and Sponsors and Exhibitors: Hawaiian Electric; Hawaii Natural Energy Institute; Ulupono Initiative; Elemental Excelerator; Kauai Island Utility Cooperative; Progression Hawaii Offshore Wind; Swell Energy; Burns & McDonnell; and Generac Power Systems.

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