As a young naval officer, David Gard led his ship’s B Division, the team that maintained and operated high-pressure steam boilers supplying electrical power. Running the boiler room—a noisy, hot labyrinth of piping, values, pumps and motors—gave him first-hand knowledge of how a conventional steam generating plant works. David, who holds a degree in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University, now benefits from that experience as a senior consultant with 5 Lakes Energy. It helps him translate the conceptual side of energy policy issues into the everyday practical business of keeping the lights on.
Much of the nation’s electric grid relies on older fuel-burning equipment similar to what David saw in B Division. This is changing as newer technologies are introduced and regional power markets continue to evolve. But the transition is not easy or straightforward. At 5 Lakes Energy, David helps develop modeling tools that clarify the pros and cons of different utility investment decisions. In part, this work has shown that ratepayers can benefit greatly from having smaller, cleaner, more distributed power plants and more accurate energy pricing signals. It is important that these decisions are well informed because they involve billions of dollars spent over multiple decades.
“It can be challenging for a company to change the way it has operated for years,” says David. “But today utility companies are in a great position to serve customers and support communities by giving them a cleaner, smarter power grid.”
David’s portfolio also includes serving as part-time Executive Director of the Michigan Energy Efficiency Contractors Association (MEECA). The members of this unique trade group are businesses that deliver electricity and natural gas savings to public and private buildings of all kinds. David brings the voice of this growing industry to various state policy discussions. In addition, he organizes networking and training events for MEECA members and regularly provides them with industry news and updates.
Much of David’s current professional thinking was shaped as a graduate student at the University of Michigan nearly twenty years ago. While completing masters degrees in business and resource policy, he was introduced to a variety of concepts that underscore the vital role energy plays in our economy. In the process he learned how to evaluate competing energy resources using life cycle assessment, systems analysis, the so-called “triple bottom line,” and other methods.
David further developed these skills while working in the nonprofit sector on environmental policy and community sustainability. Now he feels privileged to put his knowledge and experience to use at 5 Lakes Energy. In addition, he serves as Board President of Michigan Energy Options and sits on the External Advisory Board of the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems.
Apart from work, David looks for ways to reduce his own natural resource footprint. He and his wife Gwen, both Cincinnati natives, keep a modest home in East Lansing within walking distance of work. As avid herbivores, they are grateful for a yard that boasts three mature apple trees and plenty of space for growing vegetables.
“While I love crunching numbers, this job also lets me exercise my creativity,” David says. “And at 5 Lakes Energy, the work aligns with my values. That is really important to me.”