Guiding clients to embrace the transition to clean energy

Guiding clients to embrace the transition to clean energy
Dec 7, 2023
Industry leader Damian Sciano combines innovation and insight to help utilities develop actionable strategies to solve their energy challenges

Energy markets and planning advisor Damian Sciano is helping clients challenge assumptions to drive them toward achieving their clean energy goals in new and innovative ways.

With nearly 35 years of diverse experience across the energy landscape—from pioneering clean energy initiatives, to engineering cutting-edge solutions to transmission and distribution, to ensuring the safe, efficient operation of large utility power generation facilities—Damian encourages clients to try new approaches, learn from failures, and continuously adapt to find the best solutions to their individual energy challenges.

Samir Succar, senior director in ICF’s energy practice, recently sat down with Damian to discuss how he's bringing his vast industry expertise to help our utility customers not only make, but embrace, the transition to clean energy.

Samir: You’ve had a long career supporting clean energy initiatives. In what ways are you bringing this expertise to help our utility and other clients meet their own clean energy goals?

Damian: I bring a good mix of national understanding of best practices and lessons learned from my direct experiences with New York State's aspirational policy goals as well as significant benchmarking and networking experience with other utilities throughout the country. I spent 30 years of my career at Con Edison helping deliver safe, reliable, and clean energy to the citizens of New York City and Westchester County, New York, in addition to supporting several other energy projects. And I use this perspective to help plan how new technologies can be integrated without sacrificing reliability and safety.

Damian giving his Columbia Fall 2023 class a tour of a Con Edison 345kV Substation.

Throughout this time, I've learned that it's important to understand both the big picture goals and important details, challenge the way we have "always done things," and work with stakeholders to find win-win solutions. I bring this approach to every project I work on at ICF because I know it will ultimately help our clients develop actionable strategies to meet their clean energy goals.

Samir: How are you helping our clients rethink the way they do things?

Damian: Driving change is difficult. Trying new things rather than continuing with the status quo is always a challenge. But change can enable better products and improved customer experiences. It's important to find the balance between valuing what worked in the past and aggressively pursuing positive change.

I focus on achieving results. Understanding what’s working, what’s not, and laying out the best path forward while building in versatility—which is key because the future of policy, technology, and market forces is still quite dynamic.

I look forward to bringing some hard-won lessons learned to help our clients pursue their own energy aspirations by viewing them through the lens of their past experiences while guiding them toward the next wave of innovation.

"Damian’s experience in utility planning, operations, and distributed resource integration will enable us to better help our clients address the key challenges they face in modernizing their energy systems."

Samir Succar

Samir: Utilities are racing to modernize systems to support objectives like resilience, electrification, and decarbonization while continuing to provide safe, reliable, and affordable service. What do you see the energy landscape looking like in the next 5-10 years? And who will help get us there and how?

Damian: There are a lot of things we know are going to happen because we’re already seeing some clear trends emerge. Customers will continue to purchase rooftop solar and electric vehicles in record amounts. Offshore wind farms will be built along the coasts. Battery technology and costs will steadily improve. Utilities will build increasingly resilient infrastructure both to accommodate these resources and to meet the growing demand created by electrification of transportation and heating. And natural gas will continue to play a major role in reducing carbon emissions and other pollutants by replacing coal plants.

The uncertainty will be how quickly this occurs and whether constructive compromises among stakeholders—customers, renewable and storage developers, utilities, and more—can be made as things play out and adjustments are inevitably required.

While all the players above are key to this, the leaders who can drive these compromises based on actual results and solid forecasts will be critical to getting us there. There are also a few wildcards that could help speed us toward the clean energy future. For example, small-scale nuclear reactors and hydrogen technology can both replace fuel supplies and run combined cycle generators.

Samir: What made you choose ICF over other energy consultancies or organizations? What about ICF’s work and culture attracted you?

Picture of Damian's family from left to right: Damian, daughter Amanda, daughter Catherine, daughter Lauren and his wife Joan

Damian: I've had the pleasure of working with ICF multiple times in my career. I've always been impressed with the people and purpose-driven work the company delivers. This experience, coupled with ICF's reputation as a national, even global, leader in energy consulting made me want to be a part of the team.

Samir: You're very well rounded, dividing time between energy consulting work, teaching, hobbies, and family. What inspires you to be involved in each of these areas and what benefits do they bring to your overall health and happiness?

Damian: At a young age my father shared with me the philosophy of the "Renaissance man"—someone who is interested in a broad range of fields, from the arts to the sciences—and how he aspired to be one. That likely planted the seed for me. I've always had a wide range of interests and have drawn energy from exploring them. Oftentimes juggling all of them at once. The phrase "variety is the spice of life" aptly describes how I feel about being involved in whatever comes my way. And it has suited me well.

Damian surfing on his 50th birthday

And it sure has. In addition to advising clients about clean energy, he’s also teaching the next generation of clean energy experts—serving as an adjunct professor at various universities, nowadays at Columbia University. And he’s helping build his local community—serving on several boards for New York based nonprofits: NY-BEST, West Side YMCA, the Marist Brothers Center of Excellence—a nonprofit summer camp for children, and Long Beach’s Planning Advisory Board where he serves as chair.

Damian also enjoys many hobbies, particularly surfing and skiing, and spending time with his wife and three daughters.

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