Philip Jonat is an experienced energy engineer working on retrofits of different types of infrastructure, including electric power grids, islanded microgrids, critical trauma hospitals, and public transit bus depots. His focus is on finding strategies to achieve beneficial electrification of transportation systems and buildings while increasing resilience. He is experienced in the design and construction of projects involving distributed power generation, electric vehicles, energy management, energy efficiency systems, renewables, and battery energy storage. Philip has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology and is a professional engineer, a Project Management Professional (PMP), and a Certified Energy Manager (CEM).
Take us through a typical workday. What are a few of your ongoing responsibilities?
As a National Market Leader, it is key for me to stay up on the latest industry news. The energy and electrification industry is changing daily with new market entrants, new innovations, and changing political fortunes. I have created some personal routines that allow me to absorb new information and share with my colleagues. For example, I have two toddlers at home, so a lot of my time is spent cleaning up after them. I have a wide variety of energy focused podcasts that help me to understand these evolving trends. Besides trade press, I also follow a lot of energy experts on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Most importantly, I try to transmit useful information from all these daily sources out to the people within WSP who need the information. I am constantly sharing these articles in real time (sorry anyone who has received an article or podcast at 10PM on a Friday!). This gathering of data has led to contracts, grants, requests for proposals, and agreements with start up companies.
What are some of the biggest challenges your company/organization will be tackling in 2023 and beyond?
The biggest challenge in 2023 is the ongoing global energy transition. Based partially on the research of Dr. Emily Grubert, I am becoming increasingly worried about the stability of global energy systems during the transition. This plays into WSP’s ongoing work in the resilience of critical infrastructure, but I also worry about geopolitical instability.
Meanwhile, in the US, my work within WSP will be toward electrified, equitable mobility as well as supporting other energy systems. The company more broadly will be continuing to focus on and increase the percentage of clean revenue across the business lines. In 2021, WSP’s clean revenue represented approximately 51.5% of its total revenues. The biggest challenge and opportunities in 2023 will be working towards WSP’s goal of reaching net zero by 2040.
How can a company develop its ESG Strategy to optimize organizational resilience?
A company’s ESG strategy is an accountability tool. I am grateful to be part of an organization that releases a Global ESG strategy report each year. This is a crucial part of any organization, especially for one as large as ours to stay on track and benchmark where we’ve been and where we’re going.
To optimize organizational resilience to energy shocks, I think companies should prioritize energy efficiency more than “economically justified”. This strategy pays off if/when energy prices jump, such as during the 2022 Russian aggression against Ukraine. These energy shocks are very disruptive to businesses, so this ESG focus on energy efficiency can become a winning business differentiator.
What trends do you expect to see in the market in the next few years? What challenges will the industry face and what technologies or organizational changes will overcome them?
I am most excited by the possibility of full electrification of the economy. Though electric only provides 20% of primary energy globally, I expect this percentage to climb steadily through 2100. As this transition occurs, utilities, governments, businesses, and individuals are all going to invest more in electric resilience. This includes electric storage technologies, grid hardening, and backup generation. I am very excited by vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technologies playing a keystone role in electric resilience. The amount of batteries in vehicles will swamp the amount of electric storage in grid-scale storage, barring new technology advances.
Tell us about a favorite hobby, passion or book you’ve read recently that has had an impact on you and your work.
An organization that I have supported for many years is Strongtowns. Strongtowns is a non-profit that works to help communities build financial strength and resilience by focusing on “small-scale, local development patterns.” The organization offers resources and support to help communities build more sustainable, equitable, and financially resilient neighborhoods and towns. I have always been inspired by their focus on the morals and philosophy of the engineering profession. By sticking to their core principles, they are able to affect local American politics in a non-partisan way.
Connect with Philip and the rest of his team at WSP
The Environment+Energy Leader Honoree program is an annual list that recognizes the environment and energy “doers” who break the trail in creating new solutions, programs, platforms, best practices and products to help their companies – or other companies – achieve greater success in commercial and industrial environment and energy management. Meet the Honorees… is an ongoing series that will feature one E+E Honoree from 2022 each week. See the complete list of 2022 Honorees here.