As we approach the end of the year, I find myself reflecting back on our signature event: the E Source Forum, which brought together more than 700 utility professionals for a week of education, innovation, networking, and fun in Denver.
E Source E NewsAt the 2019 E Source Forum, we tackled some of the biggest issues facing utilities today and in the future.
December 11, 2019

What Does the Future of the Utility Industry Look Like?

As we approach the end of the year, I find myself reflecting back on our signature event: the E Source Forum, which brought together more than 700 utility professionals for a week of education, innovation, networking, and fun in Denver. As the CEO of E Source, it was my honor to host and moderate several keynote sessions. These conversations tackled some of the biggest issues facing utilities today, and we invited a few big names to the stage to share their views and, hopefully, spur our utility audience to action with an eye toward the future.

Utility customers care about climate change, and you should too

In the first keynote session Who Cares About Climate Change? Your Customers Do, and They Want You to Care Too, we welcomed Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication to the stage. Leiserowitz’s presentation focused on Yale’s work on understanding the attitudes and views about climate change, and the movement across all political affiliations toward the realities of climate change. Leiserowitz gave advice on building public and political will for climate action, and he stressed the importance of removing barriers for participation in green- and renewable-energy programs, citing examples such as automatically opting new customers into renewable energy as the default.

In a postsession interview, Leiserowitz explained the diverse views Americans have about climate change. There are numerous audiences within the US and each views climate change from a different perspective; lumping people into groups of believers and nonbelievers oversimplifies the issue.

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What this means for utilities is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to climate change and clean-energy communication or implementation. He challenged utilities to empower their customers to feel like they’re part of the solution and to contribute to the behavior shift that will tackle climate change and bring clean energy to the masses.

Watch the full keynote session, which also features Alice Jackson, CEO of Xcel Energy Colorado, and the postsession interview by visiting the Who Cares About Climate Change? Your Customers Do, and They Want You to Care Too session page.

Watch the recordings

How Google and Microsoft view the utility industry

On the second day of the Forum, during the From Poles and Wires to AI and VR session, I welcomed Hannah Bascom, director of energy partnerships at Google, and Vikram Singh, head of utility partnerships at Microsoft, for a conversation about how these tech giants view the energy industry and how they’re poised to change the utility sector. When asked about the key technological trends that will have the greatest effects on the utility industry, their answers were enlightening.

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Singh spoke about the importance of technologies that enable utilities to achieve two specific goals: become more agile and flexible and become extremely customer-focused. Specific examples of this include technology that allows utilities to better leverage the data they already have about their customers, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) that can help optimize and automate a number of processes.

Bascom agreed about the importance of data but focused more on the importance of that data in context with the grid. “There’s a ton of data flying around out there, and I think making sense of all that data is really challenging,” said Bascom. “If we think about the operational side of utilities, your grids are getting more complex and smarter, but the foundation on which the grid is built and the systems that run it are quite old. So what are the systems to ingest all that data and be able to automatically make sense of all that to improve the resiliency of your grid at the end of the day?” On the customer side, she also spoke about the potential of ambient computing as a way of leveraging AI to automatically recognize trends and situations in people’s homes and allow utilities to respond.

During the rest of the session, we tackled additional topics such as the disintermediation of the smart home, the reputation of the utility industry, how utilities should work with tech companies, and the safety of the cloud. We also conducted individual interviews with Bascom and Singh after the session, which are available on the From Poles and Wires to AI and VR session page.

Watch the recordings

Join us next year

The E Source staff might tell you that I sound like a broken record because I’m certain that every year we continue to outdo ourselves, and we again hosted the best E Source Forum in 2019. For every Forum, we do our best to go above and beyond to ensure that our attendees are equipped to carry the utility industry into the future.

If you’re an E Source member who wasn’t able to attend or if you attended and want to see which sessions you missed, you can download the presentations now. We also did a few new things this year: We conducted interviews with some of our speakers to dive deeper into the topics they covered, and we recorded select sessions that will soon be available as podcasts.

I hope you’ll join us next year for the 2020 E Source Forum, September 22 to 25, in Denver, where we’re sure to line up an equally impressive roster of speakers, topics, sessions, and workshops.

About the author

WAYNE GREENBERG

CEO

Wayne Greenberg is a senior executive with over 35 years in business management, including two stints at E Source. In the 1990s, he piloted E Source to a position on the Inc. 500 List of fastest growing companies prior to the sale of the company in 1999. Since that time, Wayne has been CEO of several companies, all in the energy technology and information sector. He returned to E Source in 2014, following seven years as a board member after the company became independent again in 2006.

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Contributing Authors

CEO

Wayne Greenberg is a senior executive with over 35 years of experience in business management. He has been CEO of E Source since 2014 and was...