Glenn Wright Of Shell Renewables & Energy Solutions, Americas: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become More Sustainable
An Interview With Martita Mestey
I also wish that someone had told me to travel the world more. I know now how important it is to experience different people in different cultures and to see how other people pursue life. In some instances, it can lead you to appreciate the privilege we hold living in the United States. That appreciation is power.
As part of our series about how companies are becoming more sustainable, we had the pleasure of interviewing Glenn Wright.
Glenn Wright is Senior Vice President, Renewables and Energy Solutions, Americas. He brings 30 years of experience in industrial and commodity markets to his current role. His background includes technology, mergers & acquisitions, trading, risk management and business development.
He started his career in 1992 as a Research Engineer for Royal Dutch Shell, with a move following that to become Strategy Manager for a Shell polymers business focused on fibers and engineering plastics. In 2000, Glenn joined Enron as a power and gas originator for industrial markets, later becoming a Vice President for steel trading. In 2002, Glenn joined Enterprise Business Development, a company focused on early-stage seed funding of entrepreneurial ventures.
Glenn returned to Royal Dutch Shell in 2005 as General Manager of Portfolio Projects (M&A) for Downstream Businesses and later General Manager of Business Development for Lubricants. He joined Shell Energy North America in 2008 as a General Manager of trading and marketing, which later evolved into General Manager of power trading. In 2016 he became Vice President of Shell Energy Americas and President and CEO of Shell Energy North America. In 2020, Glenn began leading the Americas power business, his current role.
Glenn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from The Georgia Institute of Technology, a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin.
Glenn lives in Houston, with his wife of 27 years, Carmen. They have two wonderful daughters, Taylor and Lauryn.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I studied chemical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and later went on to attend the University of Texas at Austin, where I earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering as well as an MBA. My career with Shell began in research at the Westhollow Research Center, which is now the Shell Technology Center Houston. I was part of the combustion and reaction engineering team. Upon completing my MBA, I joined a polymers group in Chemicals as the Strategy Manager. In this role, I made a connection with Enron and later joined them as an originator for power and natural gas. From there, I ultimately moved into a new group in Enron that focused on physical and financial steel trading. I remained in this role through Enron’s bankruptcy, and after the bankruptcy, I helped to liquidate assets for the estate for about a year. Afterwards, I raised funds to start my own business, which I later sold, and rejoined Shell in 2005 in the Downstream Strategy and Portfolio group. After this, I joined the Americas Leadership Team in the Shell Lubricants group. From there, I moved to Shell Energy first as a General Manager for power and gas, then led the power group for Shell Energy North America and later led Shell Energy Trading for the Americas. I joined Renewables & Energy Solutions Americas (RESA) in late 2020 and continue to lead the RESA team today.
What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?
Society is facing a dual challenge with the energy transition — moving to a low-carbon energy future while simultaneously meeting the energy needs of the world today. It’s no easy task, and more companies are realizing that they need support to achieve their goals. Shell Energy is the public-facing brand for Shell businesses that offer a comprehensive suite of tailored products and solutions, including rapidly growing capacity, trading and technical expertise, along with smart energy solutions, serving customers across the commercial and industrial sectors. We help businesses build momentum in their energy journey by providing tangible steps toward a better energy future — making it easier to manage day-to-day energy needs while increasing efficiency, managing costs and advancing their decarbonization goals.
Our goal is to help make the path to net-zero easier. We are supporting our customers’ transition to a lower carbon future by investing in new technologies and projects to continue evolving our suite of integrated solutions that help reduce global carbon emissions. These include decarbonization solutions, energy efficiency and energy management solutions, backup generation capabilities and a comprehensive suite of on-site renewable energy offerings including behind-the-meter energy solutions, EV hardware and software solutions.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Shell aims to become a net-zero emission energy business by 2050, while helping other businesses build momentum in their energy journeys. Internally, Shell is reducing emissions from its operations and from the energy products it sells. Just like those we serve, we are also working through the energy transition. In North America, over 30% of Shell Energy North America’s managed power portfolio comes from renewable power. We are continuing to grow this portion of our portfolio. We aim to deliver more low-carbon energy such as biofuels, hydrogen, charging for electric vehicles and electricity generated by solar and wind power. The company is also capturing and storing hard-to-mitigate emissions and balancing them with offsets.
For our customers, Shell Energy provides tangible steps toward a better energy future — making it easier for customers to manage day-to-day energy needs while increasing efficiency, managing costs and advancing their decarbonization goals. Our work with the City of San Diego showcases how we support our customers to achieve their net zero goals. The city of San Diego adopted a climate plan with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2035. Shell Energy worked with Gridscape Solutions and the city to create microgrids backed by on-site energy storage that reinforced the city’s energy supply. These microgrids, which can be operated without a grid connection, primarily draw energy from on-site renewables such as solar power. This collaboration will reduce building emissions and generate cost savings of about $6 million from reduced electricity costs over 25 years. This will ultimately lower the city’s operational costs, and the extra budget could be used for other sustainability projects in the future.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Sustainability efforts and achieving business goals aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, making more environmentally conscious choices can deliver benefits like increased efficiency and cost savings, especially when it comes to managing your energy. Reduced energy use results in reduced emissions; it’s a win-win for your business and the planet.
An energy management system (EMS) uses a blend of hardware, software and managed services to continually collect and analyze a facility’s overall energy usage and the drivers behind it. The right EMS helps to add a layer of automation, scheduling and real-time response capabilities. An excellent example of this is our work with the Penske Turnersville Auto Mall. We collaborated to craft a multi-facility strategy and identify areas to save costs, like energy-efficient upgrades. Over 11 months, we converted 10 of its locations to cleaner energy solutions, resulting in 20.4% energy reduction and over $161,000 in cost savings. This case study illustrates not only the cost savings resulting from the right EMS, but also a more streamlined operation with automation, scheduling and real-time response capabilities.
What are your “3 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
I wish someone had told me early in life that I had tremendous freedom to explore what I wished to do, who I wished to be and how I wished to live. I did not come from a wealthy background, so when I was young, the notion of getting a “good job” was all important. Being able to support oneself and one’s family was paramount. Finding joy in work was not. At the time, I didn’t appreciate how much freedom of choice or how many opportunities were available to me. Adopting a mindset of exploration in one’s education and early career is invaluable. I have certainly shared this perspective with my daughters as they make decisions about their futures.
I wish someone had told me to pursue my passion. I firmly believe that when you pursue your passion, you will do what you do better because it won’t be a chore. In fact, it becomes a joy, which means you are inclined to invest the effort required to become better, which in turn leads to opportunity. Life is too short to pursue things you don’t wish to do, so pursue your passion, and if your passion intersects with a market need then perhaps a career will blossom. Energy is my passion, and thankfully I eventually landed here through a process of discovery.
Lastly, I also wish that someone had told me to travel the world more. I know now how important it is to experience different people in different cultures and to see how other people pursue life. In some instances, it can lead you to appreciate the privilege we hold living in the United States. That appreciation is power.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
When I went to college as a first-generation college student, I chose to be a chemical engineer by combining science and mathematics — two things I did well. While I was pursuing my undergraduate degree at Georgia Tech, I met a professor named Joe Schork who saw my potential and was the first to encourage me to participate in undergraduate research and later to attend graduate school. So, I did, and I now have a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Of Course, that was many years ago. I don’t practice engineering much these days, but the thought processes, skills, methodologies and tools I learned then have served me well over the years. I suppose the reality is that you leverage the skills you have and apply them wherever you spend your time. I look back on my time at Georgia Tech with Joe Schork as a mentor, and I am immensely grateful that he took an interest in me and encouraged me to do things that I hadn’t imagined were possible. Going to graduate school at UT, Austin was a great experience and had a huge impact on the course of my life. For this, I have Joe to thank.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Ensuring that people, no matter where they live, have energy available to them is extremely important because energy drives quality of life. Inhabitants of the wealthiest nations in the world generally have access to affordable, reliable and secure energy — those in poorer nations do not. I would encourage more efforts to make energy and other basic necessities, like clean water, accessible to those who don’t enjoy them today.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
Two quotes come to mind actually. The first is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that reads, “Your actions speak so loud I can’t hear what you say.” I think we manifest our beliefs and values by what we consistently do, not by what we say, so for me behaviors matter. This leads me to the second quote by Stephen M.R. Covey, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.” This second quote implies to me that I should hold myself to the same standard as I hold others. It also suggests that perhaps I should practice greater empathy and look for deeper meaning behind non-persistent behavior that results in presumably unintended bad outcomes. It is important that I hold space for grace and mercy in my heart.
In Shell Energy, we aim to build an innovative performance culture. These quotes are relevant to me at Shell because they fundamentally speak to how team members work together. Speak straight — say what you mean and follow through on your word. Listen generously — seek deeper understanding by focusing on the meaning behind the words you hear even more than the words themselves.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
- My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/glennwrightshellenergy/
- Shell Energy on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/shell-energy/
- Shell Energy website: https://shellenergy.com/business/
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Glenn Wright Of Shell Renewables & Energy Solutions, Americas: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.