The Electric Light & Power Executive Conference was off and running with pointed talk about pleasing utility customers and making money while producing less power.
The industry is changing as dramatically as it ever has in the last 100 years, panelists noted during the day’s first three events in Orlando.
The Electric Light & Power Executive Conference at the Hyatt Regency is a prelude to Tuesday’s start of the massive DistribuTECH conference in the same city.
Suzanne Shelton, President and CEO of the Shelton Group, offered her opinion of what a utility’s focus should be during the first session, “Confronting the Challenges.”
Play offense, she said one day after the Super Bowl. Be transparent with customers, even when the project is expensive. Prove to them that it will be beneficial in the long run.
“Put customers front and center,” Shelton said. “Stop calling them ratepayers. Treat them like you care.”
Session 2, “Vying for the Energy Dollar,” featured leaders from AT&T Digital Life, Comcast‘s Xfinity Home Product and MasTech, tackling security and education efforts which will be crucial as the Internet of Things broadens beyond thermostats and fridges.
“We need to make sure people don’t get lost in the data,” said Dennis Mathew, vice president with Xfinity.
Joseph Forline, vice president at Public Service Electric & Gas, talked about his company had pushed earnings up 18 percent over the previous five years despite a nearly 4 percent drop in customers’ bills. The key was cost control and gaining the most of investment in capital projects.
PSEG also has grown by driven into some new territories, at least for a utility. The company has some 900 appliance technicians systemwide.
“We will either fix it or sell a service contract” for products such as more efficient dishwashers and laundry machines, he noted. “We have 900 technicians making 500 visits a day.”
The Executive Conference will wrap up Monday a presentation by Michael Leibreich, founder and chairman of the advisory board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and a panel of top utility CEOs from PSEG, Kansas City Power & Light and Tucson Electric Power.
Leibreich said everywhere he goes, economies are improving and demand for energy is falling.
“We’re living in an age of plenty. We have cheap gas, cheap renewable energy, cheap coal, cheap existing nuclear. All of this is putting pressure down on wholesale prices,” he said.
The DistribuTECH conference running from Tuesday through Thursday at the Orange County Convention Center will attract close to 12,000 attendees listening to more than 400 speakers and checking out more than 500 exhibitors focused in the electric T&D and smart grid spaces.