Ashley Cascio has worked for more than 8 years with Climatec, a leading provider of turnkey implementation and funding solutions for public agencies looking to make buildings smarter, safer, and more efficient. We spoke with Ashley about her role as director of energy services as well as trends across the state related to energy and infrastructure.
Please give a brief overview of your experience and your role at Climatec.
I feel very fortunate to have been apart of Climatec since 2011 and can’t imagine working with anyone other than my colleagues in our Energy Services group. We work so well together and it shows in the work we produce for our clients–I love it. Our team impresses me everyday with its ability to simply make things happen in a way that truly awes and builds lifelong partnerships.
As director of energy services, I’m responsible for leading business development and day-to-day operations in the California public sector market. The projects I help oversee are large-scale, design-to-build programs that modernize aging infrastructure with more efficient, smart solutions and funding vehicles to make it all possible.
What are the current trends that you’re seeing in energy efficiency across local government agencies?
We’ve seen some common trends across the needs of public agencies in California. Two in particular stand out.
First, California cities are facing increasingly-complex budget pressures related to flat or declining revenue and growing operating expenditures. The budget has always been a top of mind issue, of course, but today’s market is different in the sense that many cities are facing severe structural deficits. I think a lot of this can be attributed to the housing crisis in California. We see many families and businesses packing up shop and finding more affordable states that offer relief for taxes and home prices. Other families are staying but cramming two, three, four families under one roof. All of this has an impact on public infrastructure and results in less revenue for the cities we serve. In light of this budget stress, the type of work we do at Climatec has a more relevant seat at the table. Our programs are all about reducing budget pressure and finding ways to operate a city smarter and more efficiently.
Second, California cities are thinking about how to be more resilient in the face of wildfires and power safety power shut offs (PSPS). California utilities are posing astronomical rate increases, including SCE who aims to increase rates by 21% in the next three years. The reason? Wildfire preparedness costs, insurance premium increases, and other capital improvements required to make the grid more resilient and safe. All of this has a major impact on a City’s ability to operate, so we see a major trend of cities that are now investing in backup power solutions such as microgrid systems.
What can local governments do better to ensure their facilities are energy efficient?
Local governments want to do better to ensure facilities are energy efficient, but city leaders often have no choice but to cut funding for facilities and deferred maintenance projects. Educating local government officials about the number of alternative funding solutions available to them to help solve this dilemma is such an important element of the work we do at Climatec. I’m passionate about developing these creative funding solutions and removing the barriers that are inherent to complex budget challenges in order to help a City break the mold of the status quo/do nothing/kick-the-can-for-the-next-administration syndrome.
What do you predict we’ll see in the next five to 10 years in terms of local government energy efficiency projects?
Energy efficiency projects will have to incorporate ways to support smart city services, such as public Wi-Fi and advanced transportation, through technologically-relevant controls, automation, and metering solutions. The technology from energy service providers will continue to be smarter and more connected than ever before as municipalities look for new ways to define what being a “smart city” means to their community.
What is challenging about your role?
One of the most challenging aspects of my role is the sheer amount of staff turnover that public agencies experience. Frequent staff turnover debilitates an organization’s ability to make decisions, especially those of a complex nature like a large-scale infrastructure modernization.
Describe your ideal day at Climatec.
In my ideal day, I get to work with all cross-functional leaders across Climatec in concert with cross-functional leaders across our customers’ organizations. Whether we are getting together to kick off a new project or initiative, solve an unexpected construction dilemma or prepare for a council meeting, working together feels intrinsically rewarding to me.
Are there any creative projects that Climatec has recently launched? If so, what are they?
Last year, we launched a new funding program to provide in-house financing solutions and integrated service agreements. The program helps cities with strained public works resources fund various facility improvements over time and without the issuance of debt service. It also incorporates a service component to help maintain and operate the new equipment. That, along with our C3 community outreach offering, is an initiative that our team is particularly excited about nowadays.
What do you hope to accomplish in your role as the Director of Energy Services?
The energy service industry has had peaks and valleys in California over the years. As one of the few women in a leadership role in this profession, I strive to bring a fresh, customer-centric go-to-market strategy that constantly adapts to the changing needs of today’s leaders in city governance.