Total Energy USA Draws Positive Reviews for Debut in Houston

November 29, 2012

The first show in the United States to combine traditional and renewable energy sectors – VP International’s Total Energy USA – debuted Nov. 27-29 at the George R. Brown Convention Center, with an estimated 1,500 attendees.

Instead of representing one particular energy sector, Total Energy USA touched on several of them, such as ­ fossil, nuclear, renewables and cross-cutting sectors like energy-efficiency.

The three-day show that showcased more than 75 speakers, 9 keynotes and 25 educational sessions, addressing a wide spectrum of topics, as well as a 14,000 net square foot showfloor, is the brainchild of Vinnie Polito, managing director of VP International.

“We are not trying to just be a wind show or an oil and gas show,” Polito said. “We want to discuss the places these things intersect. We want this to be a place for provocative and open dialogue.”

The show is a unique collaboration between VP International and the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau, with the bureau owning a minority stake in Total Energy USA.

“We wanted to find shows that we could launch that were in the economic demographics of the community,” said Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the bureau.

He added, “This is the European model, so why don’t we learn from the Europeans?”

Total Energy USA isn’t the only show the bureau has helped launch, it started out giving loans to consumer shows to come in and fill need periods in the city.

“We are working with a couple of more shows that are pending,” he added, though the new deals will involve trade shows.

As far as how the Total Energy USA show came to be, Polito said he visited Reed Exhibitions’ All-Energy show held in Aberdeen, Scotland, which is a similar model to Total Energy USA, and realized the U.S. market was in need of a show that also addressed the entire energy sector.

In a short, 18-month period of time, Polito started work on creating the show from scratch, hiring a team, selling exhibits and sponsorships, putting together an advisory board, bringing on Technology Transition Corp. to program the robust conference program and everything else needed to launch the show.

Two big name sponsors – Shell and NRG – also threw their weight in back of the show, signing on for a 3-year and 2-year sponsorship, respectively.

In addition, more than 20 associations, several sponsors and media partners, including U.S. News & World Report and the Houston Business Journal, came on board to support the show as well, Polito said.

By all accounts, attendees and exhibitors both gave the debut event positive reviews, praising the model of bringing all of the energy sectors together in one place.

“I think this event is great,” said Attendee Catherine Dunwoody, executive director of the California Fuel Cell Partnership. “Bringing together a diverse group of energy sectors is absolutely essential to how we are going to solve our energy issues.”

Exhibitor Melinda Allen, who represented the Economic development Corp. of Lea County, N.M., also said her organization supported the idea of the total energy package and having different sectors working together.

“So far, the show’s been really great,” she added, “We’ve had a lot of good traffic with people interested in what we do. I (also) think the sessions have created a lot of conversations.”

Both Polito and Ortale emphasized that the main purpose of the event is to provide high-quality content to represent the entire energy spectrum.

“Or focus this year wasn’t about selling exhibits, it’s about developing a strong conference, and they will come,” Ortale said.

The conference had several leaders not only in their respective energy fields, but also the mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, spoke about “City Leaders Who are Shaping Energy Generation and Use”, and Jonathan Kraft, president of The Kraft Group and the New England Patriots, spoke on a panel about “Energy Production and Efficiency in Buildings.”

“Success for me is the content is well received and that it builds a foundation for next year,” Polito said.  “I hope that everyone here will go home and tell two friends about it.”

Next year’s show will return Nov. 19-21 to the George R. Brown.

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