Mario Azar has experienced the power generation industry from all sides.
He has been cognizant of the past’s lessons enough times to know the future beckons in many different ways. And how his company, Black & Veatch’s power business, must adapt from conventional EPC power projects to renewables, microgrids and, most importantly right now, how to navigate the challenges of COVID-19.
Azar, who is president of B&V Power, spoke recently in an interview with Power Engineering and POWERGEN+ content director Rod Walton in a wide-ranging 18-minute Q&A. The conversation touched on everything from B&V’s theme of “repowering the power industry” to the growth of microgrids.
“It’s not a concept, it’s very much prime time,” Azar said.
Black & Veatch, which is more than 100 years old, is moving away from conventional power sources as the industry reduces its dependence on coal and increases its investment in carbon reduction goals. The company’s focus is on renewables, gas-fired generation and on advancements in energy storage and the use of hydrogen as a carbon-free fuel for combustion turbine generation.
As further examples of meeting carbon-neutral goals in power generation, Black & Veatch also is moving toward emerging technologies for carbon capture and utilization such as direct air capture, as well as the next-gen nuclear power technologies like small modular reactors.
“We don’t believe that reducing carbon footprint and maintaining resiliency are mutually exclusive. We think they go together hand in hand,” the B&V power chief said. “We see ourselves as enablers of this evolution of the power industry.”
Azar joined the company to head the power division in 2018 after a career with Siemens and Westinghouse. He knows the baseload power industry supremely well, but embraces new challenges.
The biggest challenge of all, at least for 2020, undoubtedly has been the impact of COVID-19 on all facets of life and business. Black & Veatch brought forward its Ignite X initative to encourage companies finding technologically advanced ways to combat the coronavirus.
Azar pointed out that the pandemic forced his company’s hands in bringing forward previously unanticipated innovations.
“We did not imagine how productive and meaningful that platform could be,” he said. “We learned a lot on how to operate project sites within COVID-19, how to quickly adapt and keep projects going.”
The goal now is to share those learnings with other companies in ways that might help them.