To build a sustainable planet, industry and government must forge lasting partnerships that incentivize new technological breakthroughs and the adoption of these solutions at scale. John Sheff, Turntide’s new Senior Director of Policy and Government Affairs, is perfectly positioned to realize this goal.
Now a few weeks into the job, Sheff shares his hopes and priorities for this new stage in Turntide’s growth.
Q: Why is it important for a company like Turntide to focus on government affairs and policy?
A: As we enter a new phase in the energy transition, it’s important for companies like Turntide to engage with policymakers at all levels of government. Regulations and policies designed to accelerate this transition are currently under development, and government officials have recognized the value in partnering with companies, like Turntide, as the technological vanguard. Our job is to help them understand the technology, where it fits into the market, and how policy might affect its market adoption.
Q: Which issues will you prioritize?
A: I believe the issue of critical minerals, including rare earths, is one of the most pressing issues — not just for Turntide, but for the U.S. and global economies, as well. The transition to electric vehicles is going to demand a massive investment in the domestic production of critical minerals, like lithium, cobalt, and the rare earth mineral neodymium.
The limited supplies of these minerals from domestic supplies should go to the industries that need them to decarbonize our economy the fastest, like electrifying vehicles. Industries that have suitable alternatives should be encouraged to transition away from these high-demand resources. In my role at Turntide, I will focus on helping policymakers understand this dynamic and develop policies that incentivize the proper economic behavior.
Q: What types of opportunities are there to influence policy?
A: Turntide does not have a Political Action Committee (PAC) stocked with hundreds of thousands of dollars to donate to politicians. Neither do we have a large footprint in any U.S. congressional district to leverage for attention from a particular congressperson. Instead, we need to start our influence campaign by identifying the issues we care about and the organizations most influential in those areas.
When I was directing public affairs at Danfoss, I was in a similar situation. We worked hard to secure a position on the Government Affairs Committee (GAC) at the Air-conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), the HVAC manufacturers’ main industry group. The GAC is the forum for the largest players in the industry — Daikin, Trane, Carrier, JCI — to set legislative and regulatory priorities for the entire industry.
As a group, we wrote and successfully lobbied for the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act, or the AIM Act, which gave the EPA the authority to phasedown refrigerations with a high impact on global warming. The AIM Act, which passed with bipartisan support, is the most successful piece of environment legislation in a decade and a model for bipartisan sustainability policy. I believe Turntide can have a similar impact on our industry if we select the right tables and fight for a seat.
Q: In your role, you’ll work with utility companies to create rebate programs around HVAC systems. LEDs have long been the gold standard for these programs. Where does HVAC come into play?
A: LEDs are a victim of their own success. They save a lot of energy, they’re easy to install, and they last for 10 years. Plus, utilities can provide rebates directly to the retailer or the manufacturer, so the purchaser only sees the discounted price. In fact, they’re so easy to use that there are not all that many LED opportunities out there anymore.
Utility rebate programs have achieved their goals with LEDs for the next decade. Now they need other technologies to fill that void, particularly in the small and mid-sized business segment in which LEDs were often the only cost-effective option.
I believe Turntide’s Smart Motor System shares many of those same characteristics: It’s easy to install, it saves a ton of energy, its widely applicable to small and mid-sized buildings, and it’s a perfect fit for Direct Install programs in which the end user does not deal with a rebate at all.
Q: How do utility companies benefit from these rebate programs?
A: Well, first of all, these programs are statutorily mandated by the state government, so they benefit by complying with state law. However, utilities also benefit from energy efficiency programs by reducing the overall load on the system. It is far more expensive to build additional generation or distribution capacity to accommodate growth than it is to invest in energy efficiency to match existing infrastructure. And, these rebate programs are ratepayer funded, so the utility does not need to pursue rate cases to pay for them.
Q: How can these programs help state and municipal governments meet their sustainability goals?
A: These programs help drive energy efficiency for residential and commercial buildings as well as for state and local governments. There are also special programs for low-income residents and other traditionally hard-to-reach customers. Not only do these programs help achieve energy efficiency goals, they also help keep electricity rates low for everyone by reducing demand and thus the need for more costly infrastructure that is ultimately financed by ratepayers.
Q: What excites you most about Turntide?
A: Turntide is a young and fast-growing company operating in some of the most critical markets for decarbonizing our economy. From buildings to transport to agriculture, Turntide’s success can have an outsized impact on helping drive a sustainable economy and making sustainability a smart business decision. Personally, I am coming from a very old and large organization where it was sometimes hard to see my impact. At Turntide, I feel like I am impacting the direction of the company every day, and that’s an exciting proposition.
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