The town hall meeting
''MY ELECTRIC BILL HAS BEEN WRONG THE LAST TWO months!''
''We had three outages during the storms that came through last month!''
''I don't trust that electronic thingee you've put on my house! What is this - Big Brother?''
The intelligent utility town hall meeting was off to an auspicious start. The citizens of the intelligent utility had had enough of the promises of ''great service at great rates.''
Some of the hard-working employees shrank lower in their seats as each complaint was lodged. They all wondered, ''How can this be happening?'' After all, over the last three years, they had put in the best systems to manage and coordinate all of the activities of the utility, and in their book, it was now a truly intelligent utility, wasn't it?
Presiding over the town hall meeting was the third group of stakeholders in this equation: the mayor and the town council. The mayor was not happy with this turn of events. ''Heads will roll!'' he thought to himself.
A VISION AND HOW TO GET THERE
Fortunately, few utilities are this disjointed. The point, however, is that with technology so cool and interests so diverse, utilities need not only a vision of what the ''City of the Intelligent Utility'' will look like, but also a cohesive strategy that reflects both the power of going down this path and its limits.
At Sierra Energy Group, we talk with thousands of utility engineers, managers and executives about their current and future efforts. We see professionals who are committed and
passionate about their jobs, and excited about their role in helping to make their utilities more effective for their communities. What we don't see at every utility is the vision that looks over the horizon and draws a map for how to get there.
The old adage that vision is ''a dream with a plan'' rings true in today's utility industry. A key element of an intelligent utility vision is a committed leadership team that:
- Understands and accepts the challenges
- Has thought long and hard about this
- Emerges with a sound, cohesive vision
- Regularly communicates the benefits, challenges, and successes of executing the vision
The recent EnergyBiz Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C., provided attendees with several opportunities to see how committed leadership could truly drive major initiatives. At the Forum's KITE awards ceremony, we heard from the Utility of the Year winner, through Xcel Energy's CEO Richard Kelly, about how the intelligent utility is becoming a reality with Xcel's SmartGridCity initiative. From CEO of the Year Jim Rogers of Duke Energy, we learned about the massive changes that his organization has gone through and the role that technology played in supporting and sometimes driving Duke's strategy.
Ideally, at some point in the not-too-distant future there really will be an intelligent utility town hall meeting, but instead of groups of constituents arguing and pointing fingers, there will be discussions about progress made, lessons learned and next steps to be taken. Getting there will take leaders who understand the challenges and benefits of building an integrated and intelligent utility and who have the determination to make it happen.
This article was written by Mike Smith
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