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“The Electric Utility Industry’s Golden Age of Innovation: Now”

Leadership Lyceum: A CEO's Virtual Mentor

Release Date: 06/08/2017

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Special Podcast Episode 10

“The Electric Utility Industry’s Golden Age of Innovation: Now”

Innovation Interviews with Eight CEOs

After a bit of a hiatus, we are back.  I can assure we have been busy on your behalf in the interim.  We are delighted to announce that we formed two companies under Leadership Lyceum’s brand: Lyceum Leadership Consulting which provides executive and board of director’s search, board effectiveness review, and an array of services for successor development and board-readiness.  And Lyceum Leadership Productions which brings you this podcast.  We will be expanding the programming of the episodes this summer so please subscribe through iTunes and give us feedback.  Tell us about leadership situations that you are interested in us exploring.  Please visit our website www.LeadershipLyceum.com for all of our archived media and offerings. 

Welcome to this Special Episode of the Leadership Lyceum: A CEO’s Virtual Mentor focused on innovation in an industry that many of us take for granted.  We take an in-depth look at innovation in the electric utility industry.  It’s the Leadership Lyceum’s opening act to Edison Electric Institute’s annual industry convention that starts this weekend, June 11th in Boston.

In this Episode, we take a look back at last year’s convention in Chicago, where we conducted 10 interviews that included 8 CEOs from the electric industry covering all points along the electricity value chain from generation to transmission to distribution to the customer meter and beyond.  We also have the perspective of a President of a venture capital-backed, technology provider to the industry; as well as the critical viewpoints of the regulator -- with the President of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (or NARUC).

 By way of context for our broad listenership, Edison Electric Institute (or EEI), is the association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies. EEI provides public policy leadership, strategic business intelligence, and essential conferences and forums for the industry. 

 As a bit of an appeal to our broad listenership --- why should you care about this industry?  Well its impact and influence is far-reaching and profound.  The member companies of EEI provide electricity for 220 million Americans, operate in all 50 states and the District of Columbia --- and directly and indirectly employ more than one million workers. 

Our esteemed guests are all listed on the back of the album cover and on our website with links to their bios.  As a reminder, we conducted these interviews in June of 2016.  Our guests are as follows:

  1. Nick Akins, CEO of AEP in Columbus, OH; at the time, the outgoing Chairman of EEI. https://www.aep.com/about/leadership/profile.aspx?id=Akins
  1. Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Company in Atlanta; at the time, the incoming Chairman of EEI. http://www.southerncompany.com/about-us/leadership/ceo.html
  1. Warner Baxter, CEO of Ameren Corporation in St Louis. https://www.ameren.com/about/warner-baxter
  1. Pedro Pizarro, CEO of Edison International; at the time, the President of Edison subsidiary Southern California Edison. https://www.edison.com/home/investors/corporate-governance/meet-our-board-of-directors/pedro-j-pizarro.html
  1. Jim Piro, CEO of Portland General Electric in Portland, OR http://investors.portlandgeneral.com/management.cfm
  1. Ralph Izzo, CEO of PSEG, in Newark, NJ; https://www.pseg.com/family/leadership/ceo.jsp
  1. Steve Berberich, CEO of California ISO; the ISO is one of the world’s largest transmission organizations, managing the electric grid and wholesale power markets for 30 million Californians. https://www.caiso.com/about/Pages/OurLeadership/StephenBerberich.aspx
  1. Tony Earley, Executive Chair of the Board of PG&E Corporation in San Francisco; at the time, was Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E http://www.pgecorp.com/aboutus/our_team/TEarley.shtml
  1. Alex Laskey, Co-Founder and President of Opower; Alex sold his company to Oracle while we were at the convention in June 2016 https://www.ted.com/speakers/alex_laskey
  1. Travis Kavulla, Commissioner, Montana Public Service Commission; and at the time, was serving a term as President of National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (or NARUC) http://psc.mt.gov/commissioners/District1/ 

Just prior to our interviews last year, Neil Irwin, senior economics correspondent for The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/by/neil-irwin) gave us inspiration in his walk down the memory lane of innovation in his May 15, 2016 “The Upshot” column titled “Tracking Down the Golden Age of Innovation”.    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/15/upshot/what-was-the-greatest-era-for-american-innovation-a-brief-guided-tour.html?smprod=nytcore-iphone&smid=nytcore-iphone-share Twitter: https://twitter.com/Neil_Irwin

He posited in that article that a better way to understand the significance of technological change may be to come as close as we can to actually walking through those time periods, from the end of the Civil War to present, and understand the way we lived, ate, traveled and clothed and entertained ourselves. 

Through our conversation with these industry leaders, we will attempt to walk you through our current age of innovation in the electric power industry.

 

Segment 1: Opening Statements – The Structure of the Industry.

  • Travis Kavulla, President of NARUC and Commissioner of the Montana PSC.
  • Steve Berberich, CEO of California ISO, managing the transmission grid across the state of California.
  • Tony Earley, CEO of PG&E in San Francisco.
  • Ralph Izzo, CEO of PSEG in Newark.
  • Nick Akins, CEO of AEP in Columbus
  • Steve Berberich, CEO of California ISO 

 

Segment 2: Interoperability, Data, and the Customer

  • Steve Berberich, CEO of California ISO

He expounds on the subject of interoperability of complex components of the electricity value chain.

  • Nick Akins, CEO of AEP in Columbus

Nick transitions into how technology has enabled customer relationships.

Advanced Metering triggered proximity to the customer. 

  • Tony Earley, CEO of PG&E in San Francisco.
  • Alex Laskey, President of Opower
  • Pedro Pizarro, CEO of Edison International

 

Segment 3: Boundary Conditions and how utilities are defining the boundaries of their service. 

  • Warner Baxter, CEO of Ameren in St Louis
  • Pedro Pizarro, CEO of Edison International
  • Steve Berberich, CEO of California ISO
  • Travis Kavulla, President of NARUC and Commissioner of the Montana PSC.
  • Nick Akins, CEO of AEP in Columbus
  • Ralph Izzo, CEO of PSEG in Newark.
  • Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Company in Atlanta
  • Tony Earley, CEO of PG&E in San Francisco.

 

Segment 4: Collaboration with Disruptors and how utilities are partnering with the technologists on innovation and solutions.

  • Warner Baxter, CEO of Ameren in St Louis
  • Jim Piro, CEO of Portland General Electric

 

Segment 5: Regulatory Barriers and Enablers to innovation.

  • Travis Kavulla, President of NARUC and Commissioner of the Montana PSC.
  • Pedro Pizarro, CEO of Edison International
  • Alex Laskey, President of Opower

 

Segment 6: Are We Pushing Hard Enough to Innovate?

  • Travis Kavulla, President of NARUC and Commissioner of the Montana PSC.
  • Nick Akins, CEO of AEP in Columbus
  • Jim Piro, CEO of Portland General Electric
  • Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Company in Atlanta

 

Segment 7: Parting Thoughts and Advice to Stakeholders.  It’s fitting that our three guests with the parting words are those who have transitioned since my interview with them last year.  One through sale of company, one through executive retirement, and the other through expiration of term of service. 

  • Tony Earley, CEO of PG&E in San Francisco - who has now turned the leadership of PG&E over to his successor Geisha Williams.
  • Alex Laskey, President of Opower
  • Travis Kavulla, President of NARUC and Commissioner of the Montana PSC in the anchor position with advice on the posture and approach of stakeholders to foster innovation from the regulatory point of view.

 

Our Parting Thoughts

I can’t think of a more fitting way to close this retrospective than drawing from the opening of Neil Irwin’s NYT article that I mentioned at the outset of this episode.  Are you a skeptical economist who believes that we’re in a depressing era in which innovation has slowed and living standards are barely rising?  Or are you a techno-optimist who believes that that our era, in which digital technology is transforming the underpinnings of human existence, is the golden age of innovation?

 

Thanks for joining us.  We can’t improve without your feedback – write us through our website www.LeadershipLyceum.com and subscribe on iTunes.  See you next time. 

 

Informative and Helpful Links

Edison Electric Institute (EEI): http://www.eei.org/

Ameren Corporation: https://www.ameren.com/

American Electric Power: https://www.aep.com/

California ISO: http://www.caiso.com/

Edison International: http://www.edison.com/

Pacific Gas & Electric: https://www.pge.com/

Portland General Electric: https://www.portlandgeneral.com/

Public Service Enterprise Group: https://www.pseg.com/

Southern Company: http://www.southerncompany.com/

Oracle and Opower: https://www.oracle.com/corporate/acquisitions/opower/index.html

Montana PSC: http://psc.mt.gov/

National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC): https://www.naruc.org/

New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/by/neil-irwin

  

Program Guide: Special Episode 10

“The Electric Utility Industry’s Golden Age of Innovation: Now”

Innovation Interviews with Eight CEOs

 

0:30     Introduction to the Lyceum Leadership Consulting and Lyceum Leadership Productions

1:15     Introduction to “Innovation in the Electric Industry” through 10 interviews including 8 CEOs 

4:05     Segment 1: Opening Statements – The Structure of the Industry

11:43   Break 1

11:57   Segment 2: Interoperability, Data, and the Customer

26:02   Break 2

26:24   Segment 3: Boundary Conditions - how utilities are defining the boundaries of their service. 

36:50   Break 3

37:03   Segment 4: Collaboration with Disruptors

39:32   Break 4

39:49   Segment 5: Regulatory Barriers and Enablers

45:16   Break 5

45:31   Segment 6: Are We Pushing Hard Enough to Innovate?

51:12   Break 6

51:34   Segment 7: Parting Thoughts and Advice to Stakeholders

57:04   Lyceum’s Parting Thoughts

57:37   End of Episode

 

 

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Your host Thomas B. Linquist is the Founder and Managing Partner of Lyceum Leadership Consulting and Lyceum Leadership Productions. Over his 15 years in management and leadership consulting he has served a wide array of industrial clients.  This includes leadership assessment and search for chief executive officers, chief financial officers, chief operating officers and boards of directors.  He holds an MBA from the University of Chicago and over his 25-year career has served in a variety of roles: as an engineer with Shell Oil Company, a banker with ABN AMRO Bank, and as treasurer was the youngest corporate officer in the 150+ year history at Peoples Energy Company in Chicago.  He is an expert on hiring and promotion decisions and leadership development.  Over the course of his search career, he has interviewed thousands of leaders. 

Please subscribe to the Leadership Lyceum in the podcast section at iTunes which will enable future content to come to you automatically. Rate us and spread the word among your fellow executives and board colleagues.

Copyright 2017 by The Leadership Lyceum LLC