Dairyland Power Cooperative’s CEO Barbara Nick: “More consumers will purchase electric vehicles, sensitive computers and equipment. All this requires reliable service. In some cases, nine nines of 99 percent (99.999999%) reliability. You need a strong, reliable, safe, redundant grid to meet current and future consumer needs.
That’s what's different, declining usage and new entrants. How are we going to adapt? I think one of the greatest things we have going for the industry is the banding together to foster beneficial efficient electrification. EPRI has called it Efficient Electrification.
By collaborating, we can create an electric infrastructure that fosters more efficient uses of electricity in ways that, in the long run, reduce the total carbon footprint and provides cleaner air. One example is off-road electric vehicles like forklifts.
Imagine replacing every gasoline or propane forklift with an electric forklift, in factories, warehouses, airports and ports. You clean the air. You make the workplace quieter. You have less hearing damage and fewer emissions. Our power supply is getting greener and greener. Beneficial and efficient electrification is a more sustainable answer for society.
Coming back to the industry banding together. We need to figure out ways that we do that. The challenge, I believe, is we’re really good at what we do as an industry. Whether it’s co-ops, munis or IOUs, we provide safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy.
Go to any utility in the country and their mission is the same. That's what we do. We are all excited about the service we provide. We wake up every day caring about our members. We do believe we're in public service.
I said that to governmental officials. I said, ‘My job is like yours. We are all in public service.’ They were surprised, but then when they thought about it, they agreed: ‘Yes, we are all in public service. That's what we do.’
If we think about our roots, we are very smart engineers and we are very smart accountants. We have to be safe in everything we do. We cannot make a mistake, because if we make a mistake, people can die…
The challenge is finding the people who take us from where we are today to where we need to be in the future. But, sometimes in an organization, just like in a body, the body rejects the very organ it needs.
We need very creative people, we need people who think outside the box and we need people who are entrepreneurial. If you've worked in the industry, like me, you know that creative, entrepreneurial people are not always a cultural fit.
A mentor of mine used the analogy that our industry needs centaurs. Those mythological animals that are half-horse and half-human, like having a foot in two worlds. That’s what we need in our employees today. The young people, the millennials, and even entrepreneurs in mid-career are needed for their expertise. We need those who can adapt to our utility culture and the utility culture needs to welcome them.
We cannot make a mistake about our bread and butter of safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable power. And, we must prepare for a different future. We have to prepare for beneficial efficient electrification and anticipating our members’ needs.” (Read the full interview here.)
Roanoke Electric Cooperative’s CEO Curtis Wynn: “We put challenges in three or four different buckets. One is slow to no growth in terms of new member-owners, new customers. We're seeing declining sales. It’s partly due to weather, but some of this decline is self-inflicted, since we are heavily involved in energy efficiency.
And then there are just the changes happening in the industry, the shift to more of what you would call a utility of the future. I think that's the big challenge.
At the bottom of that challenge is the lack of broadband access, because to become an energy utility of the future, you've got to have robust communications.
Whether you're talking about distributed generation, demand response programs, whatever you're trying to do automate your system, you've got to be able to communicate with your edge-of-grid devices or with devices that are on your system. That's lacking in our region as well. We're developing our strategy to address the lack of broadband communications.” (Read the full interview here.)
Is your organization impacting the debate as a member of the PUF community? Nearly two hundred utilities, commissions, consumer advocates, associations, agencies, professional firms and vendors are members. How about yours?
Steve Mitnick, Editor-in-Chief, Public Utilities Fortnightly
E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org