National, regional and local energy managers and key account and energy services professionals at electric cooperatives will gather in January for Touchstone Energy® Cooperative’s 2024 NEXT Conference in Indian Wells, California.

This national forum connecting co-op employees and national business members, now in its 24th year, will take place Jan. 29-31 at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells, near Palm Springs. 

“Reliably Powering Tomorrow” is the theme, and co-ops will hear from businesses on how to stay ahead of potential power disruptions amid a changing energy landscape with technology and other advancements.

“Reliability is a crucial concern for commercial and industrial members and their unique energy usage and challenges,” said Jana Adams, Touchstone Energy executive director. “We will look at how key accounts and electric co-ops can work together on innovative solutions to create a reliable, resilient and sustainable energy future. Combining shared goals with proactive communication makes new energy projects a win/win for co-ops and their members.”

Pre-Conference Activities

Two workshops and a networking lunch for energy managers will kick off the conference on Jan. 29. In “Reliability, Resiliency and Renewables for Key Accounts,” participants will discuss the balancing act of keeping the lights on and meeting the varying sustainability goals of commercial and industrial members. “Co-op Collaboration in Economic Development” will look at the evolving role of co-ops in community development and how communities can find access to funds for vital projects.

General Session Speakers

The first general session’s keynote speaker is Kevin Bethune, a futurist, former nuclear engineer and the strategist behind Nike’s Air Jordan brand. He will talk about changing mindsets in “Reimagining Design: Unlocking Strategic Innovation” on Jan. 29. 

The second general session on Jan. 30 will feature a panel of three experts discussing “Tackling Economic, Supply Chain and Legislative Challenges.” The speakers will be Sam Kem, an economist at the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corp., Buddy Hasten, president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives Inc., and Hill Thomas, NRECA’s vice president of legislative affairs.

Later that day, the third general session will feature perspectives from key account business members. Dawn Southwell, director of commercial and industrial accounts at Pedernales Electric Cooperative, will describe her co-op’s efforts to bring reliable, resilient power to commercial and industrial members in its Texas service area. She will be followed by a panel of energy managers—representing a large school district, the growing city of Cedar Park and a high-tech manufacturer—who will discuss their priorities and strategic goals. 

Breakout Sessions 

Breakout sessions scheduled for Jan. 29 include a deeper discussion on how co-ops are ensuring reliability and resiliency for key accounts and bringing business to rural America. There will also be peer roundtables on evolving technology and community needs. 

Breakout sessions scheduled the next day will focus on electric vehicles, artificial intelligence applications in the energy industry and commercial uses of geothermal, wind and small nuclear energy.

Breakout sessions scheduled for Jan. 31 will feature using battery storage to help meet reliability and renewable goals, harnessing the rise of distributed energy networks, and building satisfaction, engagement and loyalty with key accounts. 

Additional Highlights

The conference’s Innovation & NEXTworking Showcase will provide opportunities for networking and education on cutting-edge energy solutions. And for a fee, participants can choose from three offsite networking activities on Jan. 31: a golf outing in Indian Wells, a jeep tour of the San Andreas Fault or a tour of downtown Palm Springs.

Visit the NEXT conference webpage for more details and registration information.