Clarion Energy’s Hydro Group educates and informs the global hydroelectric power industry through the HYDROVISION International event and Hydro Review website. This interview with the group’s leadership team provides insight into the return to in-person events and why HYDROVISION is a can’t-miss opportunity for 2021.
Desiree Hanson is executive vice president, energy, and Leah Steinhardt is director show and media for HYDROVISION International and Hydro Review. The two have decades of experience in managing events and websites and are the leadership team for Clarion Energy’s Hydro Group.
In this interview, they discuss the return to live industry events in 2021 and how the offerings at HYDROVISION International, which was not held in 2020, are designed to adapt to our changing world environment. HYDROVISION International will be held Sept. 21 to 23, 2021, in Spokane, Wash., U.S.
Q: People are eager to reconnect in person, so how is Clarion Energy giving them opportunities to engage with their hydro industry peers at HYDROVISION International?
Steinhardt: Worldwide, everyone is feeling the effects of our missed face-to-face interactions, and the hydropower industry is no exception. While we have kept our community connected online through our Hydro+ Series, we are very excited to be able to offer numerous opportunities for attendees to connect live at our upcoming HYDROVISION International event. Through our conference programing, Knowledge Hubs, Waterpower Hydro Basics course, MATCH!, in-the-field technical tours, poster presentations, new networking luncheon and five receptions, we aim to offer a varied mix of networking opportunities.
Q: Meeting again face to face after the past 1.5 years could be of concern to some. What COVID-19 protocols will be followed?
Hanson: We feel the excitement from the hydro community on finally reuniting face to face. This excitement also comes with precautions. While we’ve made significant strides toward positivity out of the pandemic, we have to be mindful of where we are to date. HYDROVISION International will follow the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the state and county mandates around COVID-19 health and safety measures. Currently, the state of Washington does not have capacity restrictions affecting HYDROVISION International. We will continue to stay close to any restriction changes should they arise and communicate them in a timely manner.
Q: Given that the folks who produce the power are the heart of the industry and the primary audience for Clarion Energy’s educational content, how are you ensuring they can attend HYDROVISION and get the best bang for their money and time?
Steinhardt: When we started to plan for this year’s show, we challenged ourselves to think about what we could do differently. While we are consistently driving strong power producer participation at HYDROVISION International, with one in four of our 2019 attendees being power producers, we wanted to develop a program that would ensure we build on this audience attendance to our show. This year — besides our unparalleled educational content — we are offering all power producers unique incentives to attend the show, such as a special 2021 discounted registration as well as exclusive hotel offers to make it easier for people to travel to Spokane.
Q: HYDROVISION International has a very robust educational program, between the conference sessions and the knowledge hubs. What are some highlights of the 2021 event?
Steinhardt: There are more than 60 educational sessions available between our conference programing and Knowledge Hubs. The Knowledge Hubs, which debuted in 2019, are topic-focused presentations that take place in presentation theaters in the exhibit hall, available to all attendees. HYDROVISION International has always led the industry with offering the most robust programming developed for the community, led by the industry experts on our conference planning committee. Education is a vital component to our mission as a company. There is no more effective way to further your professional development hour credits, meet colleagues in the industry, see new technologies, and generate business leads than attending HYDROVISION International.
Q: Between the opening keynote and the utility executive roundtable, there are several high-level executives speaking at HYDROVISION International. Can you give us some highlights there?
Hanson: We couldn’t be more thrilled with our dynamic line up of keynote speaker powerhouses. Our opening keynote address taking place on Tuesday, Sept. 21, packs a punch with Jason Thackston, senior vice president, energy resources at Avista, a HYROVISION International host utility. He will give a welcome address and an overview of hydropower in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. Immediately following Thackston, newly appointed Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Kelly Speakes-Backman, will share the initiatives of EERE and the impacts to support American leadership in the transition to a global clean energy economy. Offering a localized view of the future of hydropower, Kurt Miller, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners, will share how his advocacy organization is working to advance solutions for a cleaner Pacific Northwest. You will not want to miss these three back-to-back speakers.
Additionally, our popular utility executive roundtable will take place on Thursday, Sept. 23, bringing C-level executives together to discuss the challenges utilities are facing today and opportunities that exist to drive their businesses forward. Our expert speakers in this engaging session (bring your questions) are Debra Smith, general manager and chief executive officer of Seattle City Light; Steve Wright, general manager of Chelan County Public Utility District (a HYDROVISION International 2021 host utility); and Evangelista Albertini, chief executive officer of Hydro Tasmania (or his designee).
Q: We often say the exhibit hall at HYDROVISION International is its own educational session. What types of exhibitors are showcasing their products and services this year, and how can attendees best engage with them?
Steinhardt: The exhibit hall at HYDROVISION International is always robust and dynamic, and this year will be no exception. One way to maximize your time is to participate in our MATCH! program, which is completely unique to the hydropower industry. MATCH! allows you to plan your time more efficiently by arranging pre-scheduled meetings with exhibitors who offer the products and services you are most interested in. Through our surveys, we know that exhibitors and attendees who participate in MATCH! feel that the program connected them with the people they wanted to meet at HYDROVISION.
Q: COVID-19 provided a unique opportunity to educate the global hydropower market virtually, first through the Hydro+ series and now with the HYDROVISION International Virtual Ticket. Can you talk more about the virtual component of the industry going forward?
Hanson: When the pandemic hit, we realized quickly there was a need to provide connections for the hydropower community — a place to turn to learn and hear from other voices in the industry in a more frequent manner. The Hydro+ Series was developed to do just that. Offering hydropower education on a monthly basis, Hydro+ provides live and on-demand educational offerings and technical workshops assisting in the advancement of the industry as well as individual professional development. What’s been rewarding is the extensive reach internationally we’ve been able to provide this education to, especially when those hydropower professionals outside the U.S. have not been able to attend our HYDROVISION International event in person.
As we heard more and more from those friends overseas, we decided to offer a virtual ticket to our international audience to attend HYDROVISION International in September. This virtual ticket will allow international participants to partake in some of the educational offerings and conversations happening during the live event. The pandemic has changed the way we’ve previously looked at how we connect people, and virtual offerings will continue as we move forward.
Q: Having the support of the hydro industry is very important. Tell me more about how the industry has supported your educational efforts through 2020 and now back to the live event.
Steinhardt: I would say having the support of the hydro industry is essential to what we do, and it’s been an honor getting to know the diverse members of this community over the past year. Through our Hydro+ Series, we had the opportunity to connect the industry globally. In fact, 55% of our online community is outside of the U.S. We were only able to do this through the support of our sponsoring companies and speakers who worked with us to develop dynamic content. This past year also gave us an opportunity to expand our industry association partnerships. Through these partnerships, we are constantly looking at ways to give back to the industry.
In addition, coming back from a live show hiatus with two host utilities exemplifies the importance that the industry places on HYDROVISION International. We are thrilled to be working with Avista and Chelan PUD, as their participation confirms their support of the show and the Pacific Northwest region. They are mutually beneficial relationships, as it helps expand our network and we are able to highlight the work that they contribute to the hydropower industry.
Q: HYDROVISION International has a strong history of supporting the hydroelectric industry. How are you continuing that tradition this year?
Hanson: We are very proud of the efforts and support HYDROVISION International has continued to provide the industry. We work closely with the Hydropower Foundation in the U.S. to support its initiatives to build connections and the future of hydropower. Founded in 1994, the Hydropower Foundation was founded in 1994 to ensure hydropower’s sustainable contribution to a clean energy future. The 501c3 not-for-profit is committed to advancing hydropower through research and education. We have a strong, valued relationship with the Hydropower Foundation and have built some important programming, most recently with our virtual offerings supporting career growth and opportunities through the foundation. We are excited to have them with us in Spokane, bringing the community together for a “Best of Washington” wine tasting where proceeds go directly back to the Foundation, and HYDROVISION will match 50% of the total ticket sales as a donation to the Hydropower Foundation. We are always looking for ways to give back and help support the industry.
Q: There is a new event rolling out in 2021 specifically for the U.S. hydropower market, and our readers have noticed the bold statements made by the show organizers. What do you see as the main points that differentiate HYDROVISION from this other event?
Hanson: It’s healthy for industries to have competition in the market, and it’s always a good sign when new events begin to surface. We certainly wish them success with their endeavors and will support them however possible. HYDROVISION International has served the hydropower market for over 30 years, bringing close to 3,500 buyers — comprised of power producers and dam owners — together with 350+ exhibitors year after year. Our community expects and can count on us to deliver attendance from over 45 countries, truly an international event, where the bulk of our attendees are decision-makers. HYDROVISION delivers on its promises consistently, being the largest international gathering bringing buyers and sellers together for world-class hydropower education with over 60 sessions, technical tours, product advancements, networking and product sourcing.
We have a dedicated team with experts in the hydro sector who our customers have loved working with the past 20 years, Elizabeth Ingram and “Hydro” Howard Lutzk, who constantly look to provide the highest value to our readers and customers. This team genuinely cares about the industry and is passionate about doing whatever we can to ensure the success and advancement of the hydropower industry and our customers. We are very much looking forward to uniting the industry again in person in September.
Q: Speaking of partnerships, we could call this September the month of hydropower, as it features both the International Hydropower Association’s World Hydropower Congress and HYDROVISION International. Can you tell us how IHA and Clarion Energy are working together in September?
Steinhardt: Our partnership with IHA is an excellent example of how we are stronger as an industry when we work together. Some might have considered both events being in the same month would be conflicting to the industry, but collectively we saw it as an opportunity to unite and join forces to support both events. We are even going to be streaming some of IHA’s congress programming, which is happening while HYDROVISION is running. We always have what is best and most supportive to the industry as top of mind. It’s not about what is just good for HYDROVISION International.
Note: HYDROVISION International is owned and managed by Clarion Energy, an events company based in Shelton, Ct., U.S. Clarion Energy’s parent company, Clarion Events, is headquartered in London.