Healthy Spaces Podcast: Season 3, Episode 6: Building a Net-Zero Future with Dave Regnery
September 25, 2023
Crucial conversations to advance a net-zero future
2 min read
Did you know 15% of global GHG emissions come from heating and cooling buildings? The great news is that technology exists today to significantly decarbonize the built environment. How will we get there? We start with crucial conversations like this one.
In this episode of the Healthy Spaces podcast, Trane Technologies Chair and CEO Dave Regnery and VP of Sustainability Scott Tew join us live from Climate Week New York to talk about the role of climate technology in building a healthier and more sustainable future. We are also joined by Avipsa Mahapatra, the Climate Campaign Lead at the Environmental Investigation Agency, who offers her perspective on what credible corporate action on climate looks like.
“I don’t want someone to think that HVAC has not changed in the last hundred years,” Dave said. “It’s changed in the last five to seven years, pretty dramatically. And we all need to be able to take notice of it. And to start scaling technologies that exist today that will dramatically have an impact on the built environment.”
Listen to the full episode as they talk about accelerating the decarbonization of the built environment, as well as empowering a skilled workforce. And discover why they're optimistic about a net-zero future.
Dave Regnery, Chair and CEO, Trane Technologies
Scott Tew, Vice President, Sustainability and Managing Director, Center for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, Trane Technologies
Avipsa Mahapatra, Climate Campaign Lead, Environmental Investigation Agency
Host: Dominique Silva, Innovation Initiatives Leader, Trane Technologies
[00:00:00] Dave Regnery: I don’t want someone to think that, oh, HVAC has not changed in the last hundred years. No, it’s changed in the last five to seven years, pretty dramatically. And we all need to be able to take notice of it. And to start scaling technologies that exist today that will dramatically have a, have an impact on the built environment.
[00:00:17] Dominique: That's Trane Technologies Chair and CEO Dave Regnery talking to Vice President of Sustainability Scott Tew at Climate Week in New York.
In several different forums, Dave spoke about the urgent need for massive disruption and innovation in the heating and cooling space to meet climate goals.
Welcome to the special bonus episode of the Healthy Spaces podcast, exploring how technology and innovation are transforming the spaces where we live, work and play.
In their conversation, Dave and Scott talk about accelerating the decarbonization of the built environment, as well as empowering a skilled workforce. We'll also discover why they're optimistic about a net-zero future.
But first, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Avipsa Mahapatra, the Climate Campaign Lead at the Environmental Investigation Agency. Avipsa had just concluded an onstage conversation at the 2023 Concordia Annual Summit during Climate Week with our CEO Dave Regnery, titled "Decarbonizing the Built Environment: From Technological Innovation to Transparent Implementation."
[00:01:37] Avipsa: Hi, everybody. I'm Avipsa Mahapatra. I'm the climate campaign lead at Environmental Investigation Agency.
[00:01:45] Avipsa: The EIA investigates crimes against nature and we work both at the global policy stage as well as with companies and countries to ensure that we're looking at a future that is truly sustainable.
[00:01:57] Dominique: We asked her what success looks like when it comes to corporate accountability on climate action.
[00:02:02] Avipsa: So I've worked in the space of decarbonizing, cooling, and heating around the world for more than a decade now, and I must admit that I've not seen a lot of success when it comes to corporate accountability.
The EIA team set out to investigate as to how are companies faring with respect to their previous commitments. We found in our report, Beyond Words, that there are three key principles for the corporate commitments on climate to mean anything. Ambition, measurability and transparency.
[00:02:38] Dominique: Avipsa told us that what we've been seeing in the cooling industry terms of climate responsibility, simply isn't enough.
Avipsa: Despite the outsized effect the global cooling industry has on emissions worldwide, what we’ve seen over the past several decades is merely incremental change in the industry. Frankly, as a climate campaigner, I haven’t seen much disruption or innovation from this sector. That is unfortunate because this sector holds the key to a massive emissions reduction opportunity.
We are in a pivotal decade for climate action, and it is absolutely essential for companies to walk the talk and set ambitious, measurable net-zero targets…
[00:04:13] Avipsa: I kill a lot of dinner parties talking about refrigeration, refrigerants and cooling. But the reason it is important to me as a climate activist is that we are in a climate emergency. We cannot overlook any opportunity to reduce our emissions, and the cooling sector holds about 15 percent depending on how you count and maybe even more of the solution to the puzzle that we are in today of how do we get our planet on a pathway to 1.5 degrees Celsius and remaining under 1.5 degrees Celsius…
[00:04:47] Dominique: So what does "good" actually look like from companies? This is what Avipsa told us.
[00:04:53] Avipsa: What we found is that you could have the best words. You could make the biggest commitments. But what is really critical is to walk the talk. Are you putting real dollars? Are you really investing in sustainable technologies? And once you're investing, are you tracking your progress, the measurability part, and is it just you tracking it, or are you really looking at science-based targets, and then third-party verification, which is critical to ensuring that we are being transparent about corporate accountability measures.
[00:05:27] Dominique: And now, we get to our conversation between Trane Technologies Chair and CEO Dave Regnery, and Vice President of Sustainability Scott Tew.
[00:05:36] Scott Tew: Well, hello, Dave. Thank you for joining the Healthy Spaces podcast. And there's a lot of people that will find this interesting. Also, welcome to Climate Week. I know that you've already been on the stage earlier today, but there's a lot of things happening this week here.
We're not the only ones in New York City. It's a bustling city out there with the U. N. General Assembly meeting. A whole week focused on carbon and climate change and the country and companies who are committed to doing something about it. There's a question that I thought we'd get started with, which is why would a company, an HVAC company like Trane Technologies be at a Climate Week event?
[00:06:21] Dave Regnery: Yeah. Well, first of all, thanks for having me, Scott. I'm glad to be here at Climate Week. I've always, always enjoyed Climate Week. It's kind of like if you think about our purpose as Trane Technologies to challenge what's possible and to innovate for a sustainable world, it ties nicely to the theme of Climate Week, which is “we can and we will.”
You know, I just had the opportunity to be on stage at Concordia here and speaking about, you know, what we're doing as Trane Technologies. And it's a funny story, but I was being interviewed by Avipsa and she was, she was talking to me before I went up on stage and she was like, the HVAC world really hasn't changed in the last hundred years.
And I said, well, why do you say that? And she goes, well, we haven’t seen any innovations. I said, well, first of all, if you think about Trane Technologies and the HVAC industry. It represents about 15 percent of all greenhouse gas for heating and cooling of buildings. And what we've been able to do at Trane Technologies was really disrupt the conventional way of thinking for heating and cooling.
And in the past, you used to have a heating plant, we'll call that a boiler, and a cooling plant, we'll call that a chiller. And they operated as independent systems. And what our clever scientists and engineers have been able to do is, because we like to think of things at the system level, we said, look, let's create a system around this and not have them work independently.
And that's what we did with the thermal management system. So when we get up on stage, Avipsa said, I don’t know what the questions were I was supposed to ask you, but I really want to talk to you about how you’re disrupting the industry. And I said we’re not disrupting the industry. We’re disrupting ourselves.
And that's what innovation often does. And it can disrupt the way that you conventionally thought. And, you know, a thermal management system, if I could just explain a little bit of detail here, it starts with a heat pump.
And then we use simultaneous heating and cooling. And people may not realize it, but when you're cooling a space, what you're really doing is removing heat from it. And it's, what do you do with that heat? In a conventional way of thinking, you would vent that heat out into the atmosphere. In a thermal management system, you use it where it may be required in the building. Many times in a building, you have heating and cooling loads at the same time.
I've been in thousands of mechanical rooms in my career. And I'm always amazed at the amount of times where I'll see a boiler running and a chiller running at the same time. It's just so much waste. Simultaneous heating and cooling, and then we develop a cascading system, so these systems can operate very, very efficiently in all climates, even very cold climates.
And then we have sophisticated controls that we wrap around that. And our thermal management system is three to four times more efficient than conventional heating and cooling. Three to four times. So, if 15 percent of all greenhouse gas is for heating and cooling of buildings, and we now have a system that's three to four times more efficient, we need to scale this technology.
Why is this technology not being scaled faster?
And it really comes down to knowledge, right? People need to understand what's possible, number one. And number two is, they need to understand that there's a great payback for these projects.
Many times these projects have a payback of less than three years. You know, we kind of coined the phrase green to be green, right? But it’s going to be green because it’s going to, you’re going to have a carbon footprint that’s much less, but more importantly, it’s also going to have a financial payback for you as a customer.
[00:09:42] Scott Tew: Do you see this as a disruption? It is new. It's a new approach, right? So, is it a disruption?
[00:09:53] Dave Regnery: I think it's a disruption to the way people think about heating and cooling. Just like, as I was being interviewed on the stage at Concordia, people aren't aware of what's possible, okay? And I would tell you that the product that we're putting out into the marketplace today versus, say, seven years ago. The efficiency is 60, 70 percent greater than it was. So that is disruptive. What we need to do is we need to educate everyone as to what's possible.
[00:10:28] Scott Tew: And the education - that brings up this whole issue of culture. I mean, you talk a lot about the culture of our company. How much of these innovations are part of who we're becoming as a company? How much of that's really connected to our culture?
[00:10:42] Dave Regnery: Look, our purpose at Trane Technologies is to challenge what’s possible and innovate for a sustainable world. I want all 40,000 of our employees to get up every day and think about the impact that we can have as a company on the world.
And, you know, we had this crazy thought, you know, four years ago, we said, one company can change an industry and that industry could help change the world.
And that's exactly what we're doing at Trane Technologies.
One of the reasons why I’m so passionate about coming to Climate Week is I’m going to make my voice as loud as possible and make sure everyone’s aware of what is possible today. I don’t want someone to think that, oh, HVAC has not changed in the last hundred years.
No, it’s changed in the last five to seven years, pretty dramatically. And we all need to be able to take notice of it. And to start scaling technologies that exist today that will dramatically have an impact on the built environment.
[00:11:43] Scott Tew: You spend a lot of your time talking about the future like you were just doing. And here you are at Climate Week speaking publicly. You speak a lot to investors and others, but you're also doing some things inside the company.
I mean, recently we talked about this Technician Apprenticeship Program that I know you're proud of. And that's about the future of the company as well. Investing into some young careers. What are your thoughts on that?
[00:11:54] Dave Regnery: First of all, I always, I always tell people that the main responsibility of a CEO is the culture of the company, right? And I spend a lot of my time making sure that we have a diverse, inclusive, uplifting culture where everyone can bring their best self to work to make us even more innovative than we are today.
You know, we used to call it workforce development. And, we've now changed the name to workforce innovation because you really need to be innovative. On how you think about developing your workforce. You talked about the apprenticeship program or TAP Trane Apprenticeship Program.
And it's validated by the Department of Labor. And it's, it's exciting. My goal is to have 300 apprenticeship offerings this year. So that we could really start to build the service technicians of tomorrow.
This is a great career, and it's exciting. I met with some of the, uh, the recent hires and they're super excited. The way it works is you get paid when you go to school some of the time, you work some of the time. It's just a great program. I'm excited about the opportunities that we're going to have in front of us there.
Another thing that we've done too is, is we transitioned from a tuition reimbursement program to a tuition advancement program, and it may sound like a little difference, but it's a big difference. Many people will not be able to afford the initial payment to advance a skill or to go for a continuing education, and in my opinion, one of the best investments anyone will ever make in them is in themselves for the education, and this provides that opportunity with our tuition advancement program for many.
[00:13:31] Scott Tew: Thank you Dave. It's been great to hear these examples you've given, very tangible things. I mean, it's one thing to talk about ambition, as you know, but I know that we're very focused also on the actions and the impact that come after that.
So thanks for all you're doing.
[00:13:45] Dave Regnery: Appreciate it. Appreciate the time today. Hopefully everyone enjoys this podcast.
[00:13:50] Dominique: Thank you to Dave Regnery and Scott Tew for taking a moment out of their busy schedules at Climate Week to share their reflections with us. It was great to hear their perspective on the role of climate technology in building a healthier and more sustainable future.
Also, thanks to Avipsa for joining the conversation.
And we'd like to thank all of our guests this season for helping us explore the intersection of human and planetary health from air quality to green buildings and healthy food systems to healthcare resilience.
And if you missed an episode, don't worry. You can always go back and listen. Find us on your favorite podcast platforms or TraneTechnologies.com. Thank you for joining us for this special Climate Week episode of Healthy Spaces, the podcast that explores how technology and innovation are transforming the spaces where we live, work, and play.
See you next time.
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