Decarbonization, Energy, Los Angeles, Transforming Los Angeles, Transportation Electrification

In this Transforming Los Angeles blog series, we’re delving into the people, projects and initiatives that are shaping the future of Los Angeles. Learn more about the intricacies of creating interconnected infrastructure that delivers social value for a more cohesive, inclusive and sustainable urban environment.

Dana Al-Qadi, D.Eng, PE is a vice president at AECOM and a director of our Energy practice in the U.S. Her technical experience includes decarbonization, electrification, resilience and program management. She is a licensed civil engineer and graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) where she completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil and environmental engineering and received her doctoral degree from the George Washington University where her dissertation focused on urban water system resilience.

  1. Tell us a little bit about your career journey and your role at AECOM?

When I first joined AECOM, I worked as an engineer in the Water team. It was my first job in the industry after graduate school and I worked on water treatment plants, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compliance, and vulnerability assessments. Soon after, I started to expand my work to sustainability and resilience projects and transportation decarbonization projects across the United States.  

Today, I lead AECOM’s Energy practice across the western United States and am active in our strategy and growth around transportation decarbonization.  This role is exciting for me because many states in the western US, particularly states like California, are on the cutting edge of key energy initiatives, such as grid modernization, renewables, and decarbonization.

I have enjoyed the diversity of my career journey thus far and am especially grateful to the wonderful mentorship I have received along the way.  It has made such opportunities possible and allowed me to shape my career in a way that is very meaningful for me on both a personal and professional level.

2. Talk to us about a project that has impacted or been a major highlight of your career. How is it solving the challenges and issues our clients and communities are facing today? 

AECOM has a long history of supporting the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which includes London 2012, Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020, and now Los Angeles 2028 (LA28).

I’m proud to be currently working on the energy advisory and planning strategy for LA28, to ensure that the City of Los Angeles can deliver the Games more sustainably with decarbonization and resilience goals at the forefront.

LA28 represents a particularly poignant moment in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Memorial Coliseum will be the first venue in the history of the Games to have been used in three Olympic Games (1932, 1984 and 2028). LA is also relying on existing infrastructure, providing an opportunity to evaluate opportunities for meaningful and long-term sustainability initiatives. In doing so, it also represents a microcosm of similar journeys other cities all over the world will find themselves on as they work to achieve decarbonization goals by leveraging their existing infrastructure.

The Games is also driven by clear goals to positively impact the broader Los Angeles community, with a particular emphasis on supporting disadvantaged communities, the need for inclusive access and meaningful legacy. The work with LA28 has been especially meaningful to me as it represents the ways in which energy advisory and planning are vital components of addressing real challenges faced by communities. I take pride in our team and the role that AECOM has in working with partners all over the city to ensure that the Games is something our Los Angeles community will be proud of.

3. How is LA100 driving Los Angeles to transition to cleaner, greener, more sustainable energy sources?

The LA100 initiative is propelling Los Angeles towards cleaner, greener, and more sustainable energy sources by reflecting the city’s deep commitment to investing in renewable energy. By setting ambitious targets and milestones, LA100 is providing a measurable way to achieve goals related to decarbonization and grid modernization. As one of the first plans of its kind in the U.S, it stands out as a groundbreaking study that provides a blueprint for how to assess the impact such transitions can have on local jobs, the economy and equity.

As we consider the transition to cleaner and more sustainable energy, one of the important focus areas is to ensure that the benefits are widespread and inclusive.  As a study, LA100 is intentional about strategies to improve action and promote participation in programs aimed at advancing the clean energy transition. The commitment to meaningful actions and partnerships is a significant aspect of the LA100 initiative and it’s enabling AECOM to support our LA community, which resonates strongly with our own ESG strategy Sustainable Legacies and improving social outcomes in the communities in which we work.

4. What are some of the innovations you’re seeing in the energy industry that are helping organizations to achieve their net zero carbon goals? 

The energy industry is full of innovation. Gone are the days when infrastructure projects were solely defined by a single discipline. Today, many infrastructure projects recognize the need to be multidisciplinary, with energy often serving as the foundational cornerstone for the success of the entire project. The big driver behind this transition is the need to address decarbonization, requiring fundamental shifts in how we address core infrastructure components such as buildings, mobility, and our grid system. It allows us to reimagine how infrastructure systems interact with one another – for example, commercial equipment that can combine both bidirectional EV charging and solar energy conversion and then be fully integrated into home battery storage to be used as a distributed energy resource (DER) represents how creative the energy sector can be and how technology is evolving to meet the interdisciplinary and holistic needs of the moment regarding infrastructure. At the core of this is a commitment to innovations within our grid system to ensure that as electrification continues to increase, we ensure that our system can meet demand.

We are seeing the energy industry increasingly embracing digital advancements to expedite the energy transition and enhance sustainable solutions. This includes the integration of tools like digital twins, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) networks, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and autonomous vehicles. All of these digital innovations contribute to a faster and more effective realization of net zero goals and are largely driven by the energy industry.

Originally published Jan 23, 2024

Author: Dana Al-Qadi