Big Ten and Friends Utility Conference

At the end of May, Fossil Consulting Services (FCS) President Jason Enge and Senior Specialist Alex Filar attended the Big Ten and Friends Utility Conference. The University of Illinois’s event took place over three days – May 22-25, 2022. Attendees included representatives from campus utilities across the nation and district energy market vendors. The conference provided opportunities for learning, networking, and a bit of fun, for all.

First day of the Conference

The first bit of fun came on Sunday, May 22, with a golf outing at Lincolnshire Fields Country Club. Conference attendees were able to show off their (varying levels of) golf skills while having an opportunity to begin to meet and greet their peers. Then the evening’s welcome reception followed extending this opportunity.


On Monday, May 23, the conference kicked off in earnest with an opening session presented by the University of Illinois’ Robert Roman (Director of Utilities and Energy Services) and Mike Larson (Director of Utilities Production). Following the opening session, attendees were able to attend conference presentations from one of two concurrent tracks. The conference’s online program hosts a full list of these presentations. industry experts in the fields of system automation, water treatment, emissions controls, power distribution, and renewable energy delivered these presentations. Of note for FCS was Abbott Power Plant’s chief operating engineer Russ Reynolds’s presentation. He discussed the importance of employee training and leadership development in the campus utilities sector. Furthermore, his presentation focused on the continuing partnership between Abbott and FCS in developing and delivering that training.

Monday night’s keynote address was delivered by Josh Whitman over dinner at Memorial Stadium. Whitman is the athletic director for the University of Illinois. His address related to the challenges faced by managers from both the athletic and district energy communities. The takeaway is, that regardless of industry, the work being done is a direct reflection of management. Moreover, management is only as good as their people. It’s a lesson that reminds us that investment in personnel is an investment in the bottom line.


Tuesday’s schedule provided a full slate of presentations from industry experts, while Wednesday marked the end of the conference with guided tours of the University of Illinois’ Abbott Power Plant and Solar Farm. The power plant tour focused on the cogeneration plant’s gas turbines, HRSGs, and coal and natural gas boilers. The solar farm tour covered the two solar panel fields which generate a combined 27,000 MWh, annually.

Throughout the conference, vendors, including FCS, had time to meet with attendees.

“The conference was a great way to get the FCS brand in front of the important, though sometimes difficult to reach district energy sector and their vendors.”

We were able to validate the challenges we see in large-scale industry affect plants at the district energy level as well. The industry is growing leaner in terms of both manning, personnel availability, and experience level. In addition, we gleaned important insights and best practices that will convey back up to large-scale power producers,” said FCS President Jason Enge.

The conference’s online program hosts a full list of the vendors in attendance. FCS was honored to sponsor and attend the conference. It looks forward to furthering opportunities to meet with and learn from the campus district energy community.