Nominate Fortnightly Top Innovators
Steve Mitnick is President of Lines Up, Inc., Editor-in-Chief of Public Utilities Fortnightly, author of “Lines Down: How We Pay, Use, Value Grid Electricity Amid the Storm,” formerly an expert witness that testified before utility regulatory commissions of six states, the District of Columbia, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and in Canada, and a faculty member at Georgetown University teaching undergraduate microeconomics, macroeconomics and statistics. Don’t nominate him for Fortnightly Top Innovators; he’s one of the judges.
At Public Utilities Fortnightly, we're into innovare. That is, we're into the utility industry innovating. That very important verb evolved from the sixteenth century Latin term innovare.
To make new, to renew. Seems apt for today's utility industry.
Not just because change can be good. But because change can be necessary when we're confronted by large challenges.
What challenges do we face in the present day that makes innovation a necessity? Good question. Let's go through this with some precision.
The public, our customers, are increasingly concerned about climate change. And they expect the energy utilities to combat climate change. Or to get out of the way, allowing others seemingly more committed to doing so.
So when EPRI, Energy Impact Partners, individual utilities, and vendors produce, pilot, and put into practical use new equipment, tools, and methods that promise to reduce emissions, that's big. Real big. As Eldridge Cleaver once said, albeit in another context, "There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem."
When our top innovators produce, pilot, and put into practical use new equipment, tools, and methods to manufacture no-emission energy, that can be deployed at scale economically and with versatility, they deserve our hearty applause. When our top innovators field energy storage equipment, tools, and methods that will extend the penetration of no-emission energy manufacturing, same thing. Go get 'em. And when our top innovators field electrification equipment, tools, and methods that will extend no-emission energy manufacturing to other sectors of the economy, same thing. Since that's the only way the country will get within sight of carbon reduction goals that political leaders set.
Though it's not just the climate change imperative that stirs us to innovate. The public, our customers, wants more from us, so much more. The demand for greater energy supply reliability, and resilience is unprecedented, as we become ever more dependent on uninterrupted energy. Likewise, the demand for greater customer service and choice is unprecedented, as we receive from Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, and their kind. And the age-old demand for affordability means as utilities meet these new demands, they must maintain traditional service more and more efficiently. That requires innovation too.
So, for the third November in a row, Public Utilities Fortnightly will publish a special issue dedicated to our industry's top innovators. Sponsored by EPRI, we'll highlight and celebrate the individuals and teams who made a significant difference for utility customers by developing and putting into operation their innovative equipment, tools, software, methods, procedures, creative ideas, etc.
That is, in this last twelve months, the threshold question is: did an individual or a team meaningfully move the ball toward making operational an innovation that will really improve utility service in the public interest?
We've started. We're now reaching out to every PUF member organization — utilities, commissions, advocates, associations, vendors, and professional firms — and circulating this year's nomination form and encouraging the broadest participation.
This year's nomination form is new and improved, in a few dimensions. It's more specific about the info we need on the innovation and on the innovators. And the form requests, right up-front, pics of the innovation in action. Such as pics of when it's being worked on, back at the lab, or the office, wherever. Or pics of when it's helping front-line workers. Or when it's helping utility customers directly.
The PUF team plans to talk with each of the Fortnightly Top Innovator finalists. Then we'll tell their inspiring stories in the special issue this November. It should be a blast. We'll lay out what motivated these creative geniuses. And what's most rewarding about the innovation. And where do they go from here.
Tell us about the most extraordinary of your colleagues who are literally remaking our industry. Let's see to it — together, you and PUF — that everyone learns about these heroes.
Ask our Alexandra Revel for one of those nomination forms. She's at firstname.lastname@example.org.