Seeing You in September, Virtually


Summer Policy Summit Success

Fortnightly Magazine - September 2020

A lot happened this summer. Or didn't happen. Depending on your pandemic point of view. The PUF Staff was thrilled to attend the NARUC Summer Policy Summit virtually as you will see in this issue. It was so well put together, that we almost didn't miss our in-person conversations with our compatriots who work diligently in the public interest. 

In these pages we bring you some of that online get-together. The panels were many and of such great interest, we had a tough time deciding what to highlight. NARUC President Brandon Presley guided the event seamlessly, and we celebrated his birthday along the way. We know NARUC Staff worked hard behind the scenes to make the Summer Policy Summit look easy, and for that we are grateful.

And it seems everyone was there, with over one thousand registrants. Trade association leaders. Check. Consumer Advocates. Check. Utility heads. Check. Wall Street experts. Check. I could go on of course. You will see many of them in this issue too. 

But especially you will get to visit with NARUC's Commissioners. They did a great job at the Summer Policy Summit moderating panels and being panelists. Let's face it, Commissioners right now are having a lot thrown at them in this time of the coronavirus crisis. But that doesn't mean their normal call of duty has gone away.

There were the panels you expect at a NARUC conference because the day-to-day work of regulating still is necessary. There were panels never expected a brief year ago, with the words COVID and pandemic in their titles. Such is the nature of the regulatory beast in 2020.

There was another fascinating virtual conference that PUF Staff was excited to attend. That's because the Fortnightly Smartest Utility Projects 2020 were awarded at the Global Smart Cities and Connected Communities Summit, hosted by Dentons. You will read here interviews with the 2020 winners, with the Smartest Digitization Project to Ameren, the Smartest Microgrid Project to Southern Company, and the Smartest Transportation Electrification Project to Xcel Energy.

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The projects are amazing, and we bring you in-depth coverage of them with Gui Maia of Ameren, Tracy West of Southern Company, and Kevin Schwain of Xcel Energy. All that and the top leaders from Dentons, Clint Vince and Emma Hand, on the power of collaboration. It is not to be missed.

There is more, of course. PUF pays its quarterly visit with Jeremy Fago from PwC to find out what is going on with utility mergers and acquisitions. Yes, business continues, as do mergers and financing in the time of pandemic. 

Fortunately, we can call on Fago, to understand what is happening at this difficult time and especially to find out where it's all heading. He throws a wide net in his conversation, even looking toward the national election. You will want to hear what he has to say.

The Brattle Group's Ahmad Faruqui takes us north to Canada, for a conversation with Mark Kolesar, recently retired Chair of the Alberta Utilities Commission. For regulatory aficionados, this is one not to be missed, as Kolesar has been around for a while and dives deep into all aspects of decision making. He wrestles with where regulation is headed a bit too, opining on why utilities are in danger of losing their natural monopolies because of technology.

Expect the unexpected in this issue too. PUF takes you on an insightful conversation with Paul Israel, Director and General Editor, of the Thomas A. Edison Papers, from Rutgers University. 

Paul Israel dives deep into that brain of Edison and takes us to the beginning of why we have regulation, to the electrification of the first commercial central power station. Prepare to be fascinated as he takes us on a journey through Edison's time. 

On a related note, PUF's Editor-in-Chief, Steve Mitnick, brings you exciting news concerning a colleague of Thomas Edison's named Lewis Latimer. As he explains, what set Latimer apart from his peers was that he was the sole African American in that elite club of late nineteenth century high-tech. 

The exciting news concerns the release of a book written by PUF's Editor-in-Chief on the life of Latimer, titled, Lewis Latimer: The First Hidden Figure. Available this fall.

Of course, it wouldn't be PUF, if we didn't have articles galore on the intricacies of ratemaking and regulation. The well-known Ken Costello takes an in-depth look at whether Commissioners should be elected by the people or appointed by Governors. After you read what he has to say, you decide. 

Branko Terzic, formerly of FERC and the Wisconsin PSC, is back too. He takes a look at gas bans, and whether they amount to confiscation of property.

Serious topics to be sure. But the PUF Staff had some fun this summer too. You will see it in our coverage of NARUC's Summer Summit Social. It was a blast for everyone who attended, and we highly recommend you come party at the next one if we continue being virtual. If we don't, it's even better held in person. 

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Then there was the NARUC and PUF Summer Summit Spotlight. Intended to be fun and thought-provoking, twenty in all, Commissioners along with utility and association executives each had two minutes to opine. Going over in time brought out the feared gong held by PUF's Editor-in-Chief Steve Mitnick. Smile along with PUF when you read what they all had to say. There is even a poem because Commissioners are full of surprises.

Finally, we bring you PUF Staff masked along with a few energy leaders masked. Intended to show some fashionable mask styles in this time of pandemic, but also to show we care about your health and safety. 

These are difficult times for all of us as we wait out the pandemic and hope for it to end. In the meantime, we are fortunate to have access to technology that allows us to gather together and learn from each other. PUF will continue attending conferences and bringing you the best of regulation in the public interest. 

Please enjoy these pages and know PUF Staff, ever optimistic, is looking forward to seeing all of you again, in person. Stay safe.