HOUSTON - Isabelle Kocher has deployed an army, 100,000 soldiers strong, on the front lines of the world's electric revolution.
"It's a tectonic change," Kocher, chief executive officer of Engie, in France, told many of the 3,000 energy leaders here at CERAWeek.
"We need people on clients' site every day,' she said.
That is to help customers deploy a new era of distributed generation resources, she said. "It is an industrial revolution."
She said the company - formerly GDF Suez, whose antecedents built the Suez Canal in 1869 - has innovation in its DNA and is calling on that strength as it revolutionizes its electricity, energy service and natural gas business in 70 nations.
In addition, as one of the few energy companies with such an extensive global reach, it is uniquely positioned to monitor and nurture innovation, she said.
Pedro Pizarro, Edison International chief executive officer, said that in Southern California the pace of transformation of the electric business is accelerating. Up to 5,000 customers a month are installing rooftop solar in the utility's service territory, he said.
Utilities which historically relied on a dozen or so large generating units will now have to integrate "hundreds of thousands" of power sources, Pizarro said.
"It changes the relationship of customers to energy," he said.
To accommodate all the change, Edison International's Southern California Edison utility, which serves 5 million customers, is investing $4 billion a year on electric grid upgrades, Pizarro said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The transformation of the utility business caused by the surge in renewables is the focus of the Renewables Rush executive energy conference in San Francisco on April 5.