The sixth annual Electric Light & Power Executive Conference drew 170 electric utility industry influencers-the largest crowd yet-including 10 electric utility CEO speakers or award winners, a British knight and a Walmart executive.
The theme was Disrupting Every Rule: The Evolving Utility. The Feb. 2 event included four panel sessions that focused on utilities’ changing policies, customers, planning and operations, and the views of electric utility CEOs.
“The Electric Light & Power Conference’s panel discussions provided the opportunity to interact with many industry leaders in a single, open and informal forum, which is rare,” said Spencer Brown, vice president of energy and utilities global business development at KPIT, an information technology and engineering company. “The topics were timely and reflected the challenges and opportunities facing today’s utilities. This proved to be a very valuable experience not only for us but also the other utilities present at the event to exchange ideas in a nonsales, but true industry-focused environment.”
Ninety-six percent of conference attendees said the panel sessions met or exceeded their expectations. Media attendance was restricted to Electric Light & Power, and its coverage of the event is purposefully limited to respect frank discussion among industry insiders and speakers.
The following exchanges represent conversations among presenters and moderators but do not reflect audience questions and presenters’ answers.
The opening session, moderated by Energyzt Executive Director Tanya Bodell, focused on policy and strategy evolution. Bodell opened by asking who the big players are.
“It’s a mixture,” said Mike Hyland, senior vice president of engineering services at the American Public Power Association (APPA).
Hyland said a lot of the change is being led by players in Washington, D.C., namely the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“That is a big driver-our changing generation,” Hyland said.
Energy Storage Association Policy Director Katherine Hamilton echoed the EPA and added the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to her list of big players. She said that often the states determine whether a utility or regulator is more innovative.
“We see the innovators as just as big of a player,” Hamilton said.
Rick Tempchin, executive director of retail energy services at the Edison Electric Institute, cited customers as another big player.
“We’ve been talking about time-differentiating rates for maybe 30 years,” he said. “Customers have choices now.”
Tempchin said customers are getting involved in rate cases like never before. That means technology providers, utilities and customers are working in partnership, he said.
Richard Dewey, executive vice president of the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO), said he and others have recognized the new disruptions that new technologies are bringing to the grid, specifically wind. In response, the NYISO changed the rules to allow more wind to integrate onto its system, he said.
The APPA’s Hyland voiced concern about demand destruction, or the elimination of the need for a particular resource.
“We’re actually moving away from productivity,” he said.
The second panel focused on new customer programs, plus the opportunities and challenges of customers’ becoming their own energy providers. Skipping Stone Chairman and CEO Peter Weigand moderated.
Caroline Winn, vice president of customer services and chief customer privacy officer at San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), said SDG&E responds to 85 percent of customer tweets in one hour.
Sir Roy Gardner, chairman of EnServe Group Ltd. and Mainstream Renewable Ltd. and the former group chief executive of Centrica/British Gas, also was a panelist. He said the more customer contacts a utility has, the more opportunity to impress customers and sell them more products.
David Ozment, senior energy director at Walmart, said his company in 2005 set very high energy goals: to produce zero waste, use sustainable products and be supplied by 100 percent renewables.
“What we can’t fill with energy efficiency, we’ll backfill with renewables,” Ozment said.
Panelists in the third session discussed the impact on utility planning and operations, specifically at the California ISO, PSE&G, SDG&E and Duke Energy. SGIP President and CEO Sharon Allan moderated.
Five utility CEOs presented on the last panel of the day. They were: OGE Energy Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Peter B. Delaney; Wisconsin Energy Corp. Chairman and CEO Gale Klappa; Edison International Chairman, President and CEO Ted Craver; Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E) CEO Calvin G. Butler Jr.; and former Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) General Manager and CEO John Di Stasio. McDonnell Group CEO Don McDonnell moderated.
Cocktails, live music and dinner followed at the Electric Light & Power and POWERGRID International Annual Awards Dinner. Electric Light & Power honored its Large Utility CEO of the Year Ted Craver; Small Utility CEO of the Year Joseph A. Isabella, of Vineland Municipal Utilities in New Jersey; and Utility of the Year Dominion, for which Dominion Generation Exec-utive Vice President and CEO David A. Christian accepted the award.
Powergrid International an-nounced four Projects of the Year live during the ceremony.
The Smart Grid Project of the Year went to BG&E for its Deploying Enterprise-scale Software Solutions With Clear Value program. Runner-up was the NYISO’s new control center.
The Customer Engagement Project of the Year went to Commonwealth Edison Co. for its ComEd bill transformation. Runner-up was SMUD’s SmartSacramento Energy Insights Pilots.
The winner of the Demand Response/Energy Efficiency Project of the Year was NV Energy’s mPowered Home Energy Management program. Runner-up was PSE&G’s Multifamily Housing Program and Northgate One Housing Facility.
PSE&G won the Renewable Grid Integration Project of the Year for its Solar 4 All pole-attached solar program. Runner-up was Burbank Water and Power’s Meeting Renewable Resource Goals Through an Integrated Automated Dispatch System program.
2016 Executive Conference, Awards
The next Electric Light & Power Executive Conference will be Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Orlando in Florida. Check www.elpconference.com for updates regarding session topics, speakers and registration.
The magazines are accepting nominations now for the CEOs of the Year and Projects of the Year at www.elp.com. Deadline for submissions is Sept. 15.