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GEM’s Gems May 2013 – Joel Poppert

April 30, 2013

Joel Poppert

Joel Poppert

This month the Global Energy Management Program is honoring Joel Poppert as one of our GEM’s Gems.

For the past eight months, Poppert has worked with Senator Gail Schwartz (District 5) and a group of clean energy stakeholders to develop the framework for a Renewable Thermal Standard for the State of Colorado. In April, Sen. Gail Schwartz introduced Senate Bill 272 titled the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Jobs Act, a proposal credited to the efforts of Sen. Schwartz and her team.

“Leslie Baer, a GEM alumnus, was one of the key members of this team,” said Poppert, a member of Cohort 7 who is scheduled to graduate in June. “I really had a great time working with her on this.”

After decades of going unnoticed by the Colorado Legislature, thermal renewables such as solar thermal and geothermal heat pumps were finally discussed as viable options in front of the Senate Energy Committee, Poppert said.

“Although our bill didn’t pass this year, we have developed a network of key stakeholders, built relationships with the appropriate legislators, and got commitments from the Investor Owned Utilities to work with us in the off season to further develop our concepts into a bill that will have a better chance of passing in 2014,” he said. “I believe both Leslie and I have acquired a unique set of skills in policy development, lobbying and networking that we will carry into our professional lives for years to come.”

Poppert, 32, is the President of Colorado Geo Energy and Heat Pump Association, Executive Vice President and Co-Founder of Alpine Geothermal Drilling, and Co-Founder and Principal of Sun Tzu Energy, LLC.

Briefly describe your current role and responsibilities.

My primary role with Alpine Geothermal Drilling is business development, marketing and sales, client relations, estimating, accounting, and budget management. However I do many other things as the company demands; when you are an entrepreneur you wear whatever hat is necessary to meet the objective! There have been days in the past where I was pulling levers on the drill rig in the morning and in a suit in the afternoon meeting with legislators!

As the president of the Colorado Geo Energy and Heat Pump Association (CoGEHPA) I lead a board of directors towards our goals to further develop the geothermal heat pump industry. Much of my time over the past 8 months has been focused on policy at the state capital, which has been one of the most interesting experiences of my life! Additionally I have been working with the board to develop the framework for a Rocky Mountain Geothermal Heat Pump Association.

Sun Tzu Energy, LLC is really the result of a culmination of the activities I have been engaged in over the years in the renewable energy industry, my extensive network, and a combination of the tools I have acquired from the GEM program. My business partner, who has more than 25 years of experience as a successful finance professional and myself have built the framework to launch a company that develops and owns geothermal heat exchanger assets and sells the energy back to the building owner at a hedged rate over time. It is a similar model as we see in Solar at the moment, however geothermal has its own set of complexities that need to be worked through. At the moment my partner and I are currently in the R&D stages of the company, but hope to be going mainstream by the summer of 2014!

How has the GEM program benefited you and your company? Have you been promoted since you began the program?

Before I entered the program I had a cloud of information and ideas swirling around in my head. The GEM program has allowed me to constructively formulate those ideas into business plans, which I have full intention of acting on as I move forward with my career. Additionally, the network of people I have developed relationships with both internal and external through the GEM program has provided me a lifetime of resources to leverage in the energy industry.

What are some of your favorite things to do during cohort weekends?

This is easy; I enjoy hanging out and catching up with our cohort. Over the past two years our cohort has developed incredible relationships with one another that I am fairly confident will last a lifetime. Being that I am in renewable energy, I enjoy healthy debates with the conventional energy folks!

What are some of the things that you never forget to bring to cohort weekends?

I tend to forget everything when I am rushing out the door at 6 a.m. in the morning; however, I never forget to bring my computer and my wallet. It is usually necessary for all of us to make desperate attempts during breaks to keep up with urgent issues that arise during class at our respective companies. Additionally without your wallet you are “that guy” who everyone has to buy beers for after class!

Please share a story about GEM that will entertain other students.

Ha ha, my cohort would prefer that I keep many of our stories to myself.  However, let’s just say some of my classmates have some pretty great dancing skills, and Canadians apparently believe in the power of three wolves and one moon!

Why did you choose the GEM program at CU Denver?

Well as my passion for the energy industry grew as an entrepreneur over the years I found myself asking a lot of questions that I couldn’t quite find complete answers for. Additionally I seemed to lack some key business tools necessary for me to take my career to the next level and build the foundation for some start up ideas that were bouncing around in my head. I decided about three years ago that I wanted to go back to school, at the time I was entertaining a sustainability MPA program at Columbia University in New York. However about two years ago a friend of mine that worked for the University of Colorado introduced me to the GEM program. It really was perfect; I needed a graduate level business education, didn’t want to leave Denver, and was 100 percent certain that I wanted to focus my career on energy.

Has GEM changed your perspective? If so, how so?

GEM has really modified my perspective on energy, although my motivations are still in clean energy, I have a great affinity for how complex energy is in general. Before I started the program I really had no interest in conventional energy, but now I understand that if all energy professionals can work together towards a common goal to maximize the efficient use of all energy resources, the global economy will become more sustainable! Also, I am sure that my classmates have a pretty great perspective on geothermal after many hours of me talking about it whether they like it or not!

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