Top 40 Under 40 2013: Michael Donaghy, MBA, BEP

Recently, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has increased its focus on energy management with an eye toward energy conservation and new renewable energy, the success of which is almost entirely the result of the direction, passion and focus that Michael Donaghy to the program.

Energy management plays an important role at the MBTA. As the largest consumer of electricity in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, there is a great responsibility to reduce energy costs. Since 2000, energy costs have risen by 134 percent. Diesel, gasoline and electricity are highly volatile commodities and are a challenge to stable budget projections. Programs that focus on reductions in energy have an often immediate positive impact on operating costs.

In light of these issues, Donaghy launched a series of projects designed to not only reduce energy consumption (with a corresponding reduction in greenhouse gases) but that also focus on providing cost savings in relatively short periods of time.

These energy management programs led by Donaghy include energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy information systems. They have allowed the MBTA to make headways toward accomplishing two of its major objectives: to reduce operating costs to the greatest degree possible without interrupting or interfering with operations and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from its operations.

Through Donaghy’s work and under his initiative, the MBTA has launched a series of energy programs that have resulted in 7.8 million kWh of electricity saved each year, with a corresponding savings in the operating budget of nearly $1 million annually. Donaghy successfully worked to have the local utility pay more than 60 percent of the cost of the project as part of their energy efficiency incentives. In addition, he has overseen the development of two solar projects, where 100 percent of the development and capital costs were borne by the developer, while the MBTA agreed to purchase 100 percent of the power generated resulting in more than $1.5 million in electricity costs.

These projects have also resulted in other benefits such as improvements in safety from better lighting, as well as labor savings by using equipment that requires far less labor. For example, Donaghy spearheaded a project to convert signal lights from incandescent to LED’s So far, there were approximately 1,500 bulbs installed at a cost of $138,000 for parts and labor. The return on investment was within four months, and the savings for the MBTA over a three-year period will be approximately $1,171,500. The bulk of the savings is for the reduction in maintenance costs, which translates to more efficient use of manpower.

"I thoroughly enjoy the process of research, analysis and implementation of clean energy technologies and working with groups (internal and external) to identify the innovations that are most applicable to public transportation.

"Having a background in corporate finance and utility management, I am keenly aware of the financial, technical and environmental hurdles my company faces, especially from an engineering and maintenance perspective. I work closely everyday with our field and technical personnel to address these barriers and this work flow has allowed us to achieve a lot in a short amount of time.

"Safety, reliability and the related costs are essential components when it comes to public transportation. I enjoy the challenge of identifying and implementing energy-related improvements that offer significant economic benefits, while maintaining or improving the safety and reliability of our transportation system.

"I would like to see public transit become more sustainable from economic, environmental and social perspectives. As technologies advance and costs decrease, I believe great strides will be made toward sustainable transportation.

"I enjoy coaching my six year-old daughter’s soccer team. It’s rewarding to work with the players to develop their soccer skills while teaching them what it means to be part of a team."