EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: Seattle Proudly Advocates for Alternative Fuels

November 20, 2018

An ACT News Executive Interview with Andrea Pratt, Climate & Transportation Policy Advisor, Drive Clean Seattle Program Manager, City of Seattle, Washington

Andrea Pratt is passionate about mitigating climate change. She studied Oceanography at the University of Washington, where climate science figured heavily in the curriculum. She knows the magnitude of what the scientific evidence meant, and knows climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our times. Hence, her mission is to electrify the transportation sector at large. This includes personal vehicles, private/public/commercial fleets, urban goods movement, transit and freight across all vehicle weight classes. Andrea’s main areas of focus are policy development and implementation, strategic planning, pilot project demonstrations, stakeholder engagement and establishing Seattle as a hub for electric mobility. Her efforts are centered on equity and environmental justice in partnership and support of the City’s Equity and Environment Initiative.

Andrea has been working at the City of Seattle since 2011. In 2014, Andrea authored and published the City’s updated Green Fleet Action Plan and managed a successful transition to biodiesel (B20) for over 1,000 fleet vehicles in 2015. She was a lead developer of the Drive Clean Seattle initiative in 2016 which calls for a 50% reduction in fleet emissions by 2025. To that end, Andrea is expanding alternative fuel use including biodiesel and renewable diesel blends, deploying green technology fleet wide and electrifying light duty vehicles. Andrea manages electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure expansion, aiming to install over 400 charging stations at dozens of fleet locations. Beyond infrastructure, technology deployment and alt fuel expansion, she also spearheads green fleet policy and procurement efforts on a regional, state and national level.

ACT News caught up with Andrea to hear about her incredibly rewarding work and many innovative accomplishments working for the City of Seattle.

ACT News: How do you foster innovation at the City of Seattle?

Andrea Pratt: The words innovation and government typically do not go together. I’m happy to say that I get to innovate in my job on a daily basis and it is one of the things I love about working at the city. Seattle is a national leader in innovative municipal policy and transportation electrification is no exception. Working with emerging, disruptive technology like new mobility services (TNCs, Car Share, e-bikes) or urban goods delivery and figuring out how to electrify the various segments of the transportation sector definitely give my job a start-up like feel. There is no handbook for best policy practices on infrastructure deployment, innovative incentives, congestion pricing or equity integration in our work. In order to usher transformative change in transportation, we must bring folks together from the private and public sectors, academia, NGO’s and community to develop effective strategies that will yield equitable outcomes. This is probably the part of my job I love the most.

The words innovation and government typically do not go together. I’m happy to say that I get to innovate in my job on a daily basis.

ACT News: Three words to describe the City of Seattle?

Andrea Pratt: Fun, vibrant and (unapologetically) progressive.

ACT News: What do you find the most challenging at the City of Seattle?

Andrea Pratt: I cut my teeth in the private sector for ten years prior to coming to the city. I always joke that I am a private sector girl living in a public sector world. Navigating bureaucracy in government can definitely be challenging. However, given the amount of resources and scope of services that are offered I can see why it is necessary to have processes in place that protect the public interest. We can certainly strive to improve and streamline those processes. Probably the most challenging aspect I face is breaking down institutional silos and coming together to solve problems or address issues that touch several areas of the city. There is tremendous power in getting the right people together at the table to tackle these challenges collectively. Productive collaboration takes time and patience. As they say, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. It takes more time and effort for this approach but the outcome is often well worth it.

ACT News: How has the City helped in your career development?

Andrea Pratt: I am passionate about mitigating the effects of climate change. It is the challenge of our lifetime. I went to school for Oceanography at the University of Washington and climate science was a big part of the curriculum. Once I understood the magnitude of the problem from a scientific perspective I felt morally obligated to do something about it. Transportation electrification is a critical strategy to address this problem head on. Working in my previous role as green fleet manager, and now managing the Drive Clean Seattle program, allows me to affect change directly. Purchasing vehicles, installing infrastructure, contracting for low carbon fuels, working with partners across the country to push markets and now working on policy has given me a tremendous opportunity for professional development and the space to really hone my craft. I have been blessed to work for and with the best and brightest in the industry supported by the visionary leadership of our elected officials.  I read a long time ago that if you love what you do you will never work another day in your life. Not sure I feel like that every morning when I wake up at 5:30am but the feeling that I’m using my skills and passion for the betterment of society is incredibly rewarding. It’s my dream job and I am so grateful to have this opportunity.

In order to usher transformative change in transportation, we must bring folks together from the private and public sectors, academia, NGO’s and community to develop effective strategies.

ACT News: What advice would you offer young professionals interested in pursuing a similar career path?

Andrea Pratt: Come work for government! The public sector needs innovative thinkers and hard workers to solve complicated problems. The public sector must evolve and adapt to meet the challenges that come with the technological evolution we are in. It’s incredibly rewarding work. You can affect change directly and the benefits, including work life balance, are outstanding.

ACT News: What are your hopes for the clean transportation and energy industry?

Andrea Pratt: My hope is that we are at an inflection point and due to cost and convenience we will start to see a rapid shift to electrification in the transportation sector. As the grid becomes cleaner with renewable integration and distributed energy resources we are seeing a major paradigm shift in a utility business model that has been around for nearly 100 years. Let’s replace peaker plants with stationary storage solutions. Let’s use microgrids to make our infrastructure system more resilient. Let’s use electricity we generate locally to power our buildings, cars, buses and trucks, and redirect those billions spent on fossil fuels back into our local economy to create living wage jobs of the future. Electrification of transportation offers a cleaner, greener and cheaper solution to our current system. As Buckminster Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” My hope is we are doing just that.

ACT News: What did I learn the hard way?

Andrea Pratt: You can’t be successful in a silo. Coalition building and cultivating strong relationships are key to successful outcomes. No one person has all the right answers. Don’t let ego get in the way of a great solution. I have found the best ideas and solutions are crowd sourced. If you have a great idea, that is just a starting point. It can only be made better by gathering the smartest people you can find and brainstorming questions and solutions together. Cast a wide net.

ACT News: Motto or personal mantra?

Andrea Pratt: Hustle, stay on your grind, do great work and don’t forget to make friends and have fun along the way!