Tristan Bannon, renewable energy and climate technology executive director at Leidos, has been appointed as vice chair of the WashingtonExec Climate Change Council for 2022-2023.
Bannon will work alongside council chair Stephen Ambrose, chief climate scientist for Science Applications International Corp., to facilitate conversations on how government and industry can work together to tackle and reduce the impacts of climate change.
Below, Bannon shares a bit about his current role at Leidos, why he’s passionate about helping the nation in its fight against climate change, how he’ll help to lead the council and more.
Based on your extensive GovCon experience in business development, client-focused and program-related roles, what drew you to your current role as renewable energy and climate technology executive director?
During my career, I’ve always been drawn to solving complex problems. I truly believe that mitigating, adapting to and ultimately reversing human-induced climate change is one of the most complex challenges facing my generation and generations to come.
In my role at Leidos, I will leverage my GovCon experience to deploy the company’s world-class technologies, technical expertise and delivery abilities on one of the most important issues in the world today.
Climate science brings together a unique interplay between environmental co-existence, natural resource utilization, energy demands, equity and safety and security. Pairing Leidos’ long history of delivering complex solutions in these fields with the current administration’s commitment to this challenge, I knew that by joining Leidos, I could help make a greater impact.
Why is renewable energy and climate change so important to you, and what are your top priorities in your current role?
I spend a lot of my personal time outdoors — paddling, hiking, skiing and rock climbing — and the impacts of climate change are increasingly visible in our day-to-day lives. For example, in the first nine months of 2021, there were 18 separate “billion-dollar” weather and climate disasters in the U.S.
At Leidos, I’m looking forward to deploying some incredible capabilities to help in our fight against climate change. For example, Leidos manages large-scale energy and climate operations at the Hanford Site in Washington and in Antarctica. We also bring a 30-year legacy of providing high-end consulting expertise to environmental, energy and scientific stakeholders.
Leidos also has demonstrated a commitment to developing cutting-edge technology and deploying investment as a tool to deepen our capabilities, as with the recent acquisitions of Dynetics, Gibbs & Cox and 1901 Group.
Our team will work with our customers to meaningfully tackle their piece of the climate change problem, and then define a roadmap for continued progress. Renewable energy is particularly important to an overall climate change strategy, and Leidos has significant experience working with electric utilities on everything from resilient grid design to AI/ML-based energy systems optimizations. We are also generating and deploying renewable power commercially.
What topics are you most eager to discuss with the WashingtonExec Climate Change Council?
There are a couple of areas where the Climate Change Council can bring immediate value to industry and government stakeholders. First, things are moving fast right now. The infrastructure bill was just passed and funding is becoming available to federal departments, states and communities to start tackling climate change. I believe having one place where people can come for authoritative information on the state of play is valuable.
Second, the council will create an opportunity for industry to come together to speak with one voice in communicating recommendations to federal stakeholders about climate change. There is tremendous technical and regulatory expertise resident in industry today. Having the ability to bring that together to present best practices on topics like data standardization and cybersecurity is compelling.
Finally, I look forward to working with the council to bring stakeholders across industry and the government together to share ideas, ask questions and generally increase engagement — something especially important given the increase in remote work due to COVID-19.
What are some of the main challenges the nation is facing in terms of climate change, and how will the council collaborate to work through these challenges?
I am proud to take on this new role at a time when our nation’s leaders and companies are acknowledging the importance of addressing climate change. One of the first challenges I see is creating a common definition of climate change. This council can help to create common language and common definitions to use as our members engage with their stakeholders.
Second, I believe this council can have an active role in sharing objective information and fostering productive conversations on topics like energy independence, critical infrastructure protection, domestic job creation and manufacturing or even atmospheric decarbonization to help bring diverse viewpoints together.
How will your personal and career experience and expertise within the GovCon community help lead the council in discussions on trending climate-related topics?
My experience has taught me that companies will largely participate in helping to solve climate change to the degree that it makes sense from a strategic business perspective. This can take many forms — new contract awards, goodwill achieved from ESG initiatives, or climate-positive operating efficiencies which drive the bottom line.
My job is to help the council effectively communicate these benefits, thus driving engagement in the climate change fight. Without putting too fine a point on it, fighting climate change isn’t just an important mission in my opinion; it’s good business.
Why is this council important to have given at this particular time?
First, it’s an honor to be able to join the council as vice chair and to have the opportunity to work with leaders like Stephen Ambrose who have dedicated their careers to solving climate change. Now is an important time for this council, because technology, innovation and policies are developing quickly to address this complex challenge.
We’re seeing industry innovating fast in renewable energy and climate technology and government is reacting with a greater sense of urgency as it regulates, funds and oversees many of the sectors will play a major role in the solution.
Do you feel there is great value in connecting industry executives with government officials to discuss topics facing climate change? If so, why?
Absolutely — “Success” in climate change will be predicated on whether the systems being developed can achieve stand-alone commercial viability. At that point, economics will drive climate-positive private sector decision-making.
The government can drive that process by developing the policies, regulations and funding to spur desired behavior. Given this pull and take, it’s crucial that the government and industry stakeholders have open lines of communication in order to be mutually successful.
Do you have any unique plans yet for the council?
I have lots of ideas, but the first order of duty is to build out the council leadership team and membership. Once we have established this team, we can collaborate closely to define how we can achieve quick wins while also making a lasting impact. We are in the initial stages of building a robust calendar featuring both webinars and in person events for 2022.
What do you hope to accomplish as vice chair of this council, and what do you hope council members get out of your leadership?
I hope to be able to partner with WashingtonExec and the entire council to establish an energetic culture of collaboration and innovation between industry leaders and the government. At the macro level, I hope that we can give council members the opportunity to be part of a forum enabling common goals around limiting (or reducing) global temperature increases, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and other key initiatives. It’s only through private-public partnership that we will be able to achieve the milestones necessary to achieve these goals.