Mark Feasel is CCO and EVP at FuelCell Energy, a global leader in sustainable clean energy technologies and developers of the only platform capable of generating electricity, hydrogen, and water while capturing its own carbon dioxide. Joining from Schneider Electric earlier this year, Mark discusses his career and commitment to authenticity that resonates with employees and customers alike.
Tell me a bit about what you do at your company, and your career to date. What was the opportunity behind the move to FuelCell Energy earlier this year after such a long stint at Schneider Electric?
I am Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer for FuelCell Energy and lead our global commercial operations. I have spent my entire professional career in energy. My career began in the electrical division of a nuclear submarine, where I was responsible for the operation and maintenance of the electrical systems associated with the operations of a nuclear power plant. After I left the Navy, I joined an electrical engineering company, where I started up a division focused on embedding digital monitoring and control equipment into electrical distribution equipment. Fortuitously, we found ourselves in the early stages of a major industry disruption – the digitalization of energy. My division grew rapidly and was acquired by the company that developed the software and hardware that we were implementing. That company grew quickly and was acquired by Schneider Electric. At Schneider Electric, I held many roles of increasing responsibility, including starting up an electric utility metering activity, leading commercial operations for an energy management activity, leading commercial activities for a business unit, starting up and leading a new Electric Utility business, starting up and leading a microgrid business. I believe that hydrogen and carbon capture will play a major role in the decarbonization of energy and are catalysts in addressing climate change. In FuelCell Energy, I found a company with a compelling vision, inspiring leadership, outstanding culture, and technology that can optimally meet the opportunity in front of us.
What are your roles and responsibilities, in your own words?
I am responsible for engaging our current and prospective customers across the world to help them improve the sustainability, resilience, and cost of the energy that they make or consume. I also build an ecosystem of partners that transfer the technical, regulatory, and financial complexities of designing, building, owning, and operating energy solutions away from consumers – allowing them to achieve meaningful business outcomes without incurring inordinate risk.
What makes your technology/product offering stand out from competitors, and why?
FuelCell Energy has been in continuous operation for over 50 years and publicly listed for over 22 years. Awarded over 300 patents, has deployed hundreds of megawatts of power generation across the world, and manufactures in the US, Canada, and Germany. We have the intellectual property, experience, expertise, credibility, and scale to serve a market that is growing rapidly across the world. We have developed the only platform capable of generating electricity, hydrogen, and water while capturing its own carbon dioxide as well as carbon dioxide from other nearby emitters. Furthermore, we have experience in Solid Oxide fuel cells and electrolysers that span over 20 years and will be able to create hydrogen from water at 100% efficiency when waste heat is available, and >90% without it.
What is your company’s vision, key goals for sustainability, and why?
The purpose of our company is to enable the world to be empowered by clean energy. In helping our customers meet their sustainability goals, we know that we must model these behaviours ourselves. Therefore, we have embarked on a net-zero journey that includes: calculating our organizational carbon footprint baseline, conducting product lifecycle assessments to understand emissions throughout the value chain, and setting short-term (2030) and long-term (2050) goals aligned with science-based targets. We have committed to net-zero scope 1 and scope 2 emissions by 2030, and full net-zero by 2050. Our net-zero commitment is supported by a cross-functional team of strategic and operational leaders across the company, sponsored by our Chief Financial Officer. Oversight of the project is provided by the Environmental, Social, Governance and Nominating Committee of the Board of Directors.
What are customers and employees specifically telling you regarding the importance of sustainability in their future decisions?
Our current and prospective employees want to work for a company that is making a measurable and meaningful difference in the world, and our customers need to know that our core values are aligned with theirs.
What is your leadership style? How important is proactive and empathetic leadership in establishing and driving achievable sustainability goals, in your opinion?
I am a servant leader who is committed to providing an inspiring mission for my team, nurturing an inclusive environment, and empowering my employees to succeed. The sustainability journey of both FuelCell Energy and our customers is the catalyst to this approach. Measuring, reporting, and celebrating our progress provides the authenticity that resonates with our employees and customers.
What are, in your opinion, the key sustainability questions a business needs to be able to answer?
- How does sustainability impact my business results, enrich the lives of my employees, and contribute to better communities in which we operate?
- How will I map business goals to sustainability program deliverables, and how will I measure and report?
- What are the sensitivities and optionality to go deeper and faster?
- How will I communicate my goals and progress to employees, shareholders, customers, etc.?
The term ‘greenwashing’ is of course well known – is it an even bigger issue today with heightened expectations? What can be done to spot bad actors? What are the examples of red flags?
I have been in the energy and sustainability field for a long time, and in my opinion, greenwashing is less of a problem today than it has been in the past. The primary reason for this is the proliferation of data. There are no longer excuses not to measure and record results in real-time vs. simply stipulating them or performing audits on an infrequent basis. Furthermore, more-and-more public companies are reporting sustainability results in their corporate filings. This exposes their methodology and progress to a much higher degree of scrutiny and holds them financially and legally accountable to achieving results. Red flags include companies that are not willing to embrace digitalization of the systems that impact their carbon footprint, report results to their shareholders, or dedicate full-time employees to lead the efforts.
What do you feel are the key issues organisations will have to look for around corporate sustainability for 2022/2023?
COVID afforded corporations an opportunity to re-think their real-estate footprint, consider new ways of working (less travel, flexible work arrangements etc.) and upgrade and refresh facilities that weren’t in full operation. How can we ensure that the environmental benefits persist as the world transitions to a “new normal”?
The energy transition continues to accelerate as technology unlocks new ways to electrify consumption that has historically been fossil fuel based, and decarbonize the fossil fuel generation that will continue to exist – is my company keeping up with those trends and capturing the benefit?
New business models (such as Energy-as-a-Service) have emerged to transfer the technical, financial, and regulatory complexities of embracing decarbonized power generation to others – do my procurement and operational policies allow me to embrace this innovation?
What are your company’s plans for the coming 12 months in terms of general roadmap?
We will continue to invest in R&D activities to advance our patented solid-oxide platform that will create hydrogen from water with >90% efficiency, provide clean energy back to the grid, and facilitate long-term energy storage that helps make the most of other green but intermittent energy sources (wind and solar) and less flexible sources (nuclear)
We will continue our work with ExxonMobil to commercialize carbon capture technology that will decarbonize the hard to decarbonize industrial sector and ultimately low carbon intensity applications such as legacy natural gas fired generation.
Not only that, but we will be actively participating in Hydrogen Hub (H2HUB) projects and activities across the US that were authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed late last year. H2Hubs will create networks of hydrogen producers, consumers, and local connective infrastructure to accelerate the use of hydrogen as a clean energy carrier.
Sustainable Future News recently reported on a FuelCell Energy survey, undertaken by 1000 US citizens, highlighting almost 60% believe government intervention will be required to achieve net-zero.