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Cindy Zhu

Director of Grid Services
Prescriptive Data
Seattle, WA, USA
LinkedIn Profile
Areas of Expertise
Grid & Market Connectors
App Layer: Supervisory Control
Vital Roles: Champion

What kinds of projects are you working on?

In my day job at Prescriptive Data, I'm working on pilots with utilities to prove out grid-interactive, efficient buildings and how AI/ML within EMIS software can turn buildings into flexible grid resources.

As Volunteer Leadership Team Member for the Clean Energy Leadership Institute, I am focused on building out a cross-cutting, national community and professional fellowship program for the clean energy transition.

What are you excited about in the industry?

1 - interesting new tools/tech for end use electrification

2 - overall shift from just <5 years ago that decarbonization and sustainability do matter from the C suite
3 - pandemic has forced everyone to recognize that what the occupants are doing in the building, or whether they're there at all, matters a lot with respect to energy management...what we do with that information will matter > hopefully a more human-centered approach to building design & operations

What do you think needs to change in the industry?

1 - workforce - mass retirements are taking a lot of knowledge out of the buildings industry; need to encourage younger and more diverse people to join, and MORE WOMEN!!!!

2 - appraisals and valuation of smart efficient buildings - investment of high performing buildings will take off when their valuation reflects their capabilities. appraisers and mortgage lenders mark to market, so until the market catches up there needs to be more education/training/resources of this side of the industry to make sure the financial implications of high performing buildings are understood by the influential parties

3 - efficiency first approach - renewables & storage get a lot of attention in the clean/climate tech space but for buildings, an overall reduction of energy consumption needs to be prioritized in the journey to net zero

4 - Breaking down interoperability challenges between equipment, platforms, data layers are critical to achieving the scale and speed required for building decarbonization. Major equipment and system vendors are critical to ensuring this is implemented

What do you wish we all discussed more?

We need to stop chasing the next new shiny object and focus on scaling tried and true methodologies for managing energy in buildings. The technologies and strategies known and available now will help owners/operators achieve their goals.  This is not a technology problem, instead the challenges are: education, resource management, market barriers, workforce barriers, outdated and conflicting financing models.

What’s your hot take?  

🔥 Utilities that want to see grid modernization & vast decarbonization need to put down their calls for open-ended RFPs and be a collaborative partner directly with technology providers. The pace that the smart buildings industry is moving is too fast for utilities to wait around for a perfect solution to appear to them. Tech vendors want to develop tools for utilities but the current business models are not set up for success. 🔥

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