EDITOR’S NOTE: Karen Lefkowitz, Pepco Holdings vice president of business transformation, will keynote the Energy Times Executive Briefing in Washington on March 19. Below are some highlights of the themes she will address. Her unique corporate title is a harbinger of the future, industry observers say.
Energy Times: What will be the main changes in the utility business model in the next decade?
Lefkowitz: Adapting to the new entrants in the marketplace. Meeting the rising expectations of the customers.
Energy Times: How hard will it be for utilities and energy companies to pivot and change their culture to deal with change?
Lefkowitz: Like all well established companies, institutional change doesn’t come easy. And we all know that most people are resistant to change. That would all argue that change will be difficult. But I am optimistic that as an industry we will learn to adapt more quickly – while we are facing significant industry change, we are also hiring on a newer generation of workers that were literally raised adapting to rapid change. And the best companies always rise up to meet their challenges.
Energy Times: How important will energy efficiency be going forward?
Lefkowitz: Energy efficiency will continue to be important – but in addition to asking customers to change their behavior, we will be seeing more high efficiency appliances in the home and advanced technology to manage all the devices and appliances more efficiently.
Energy Times: What is the best way to motivate energy users to become more efficient in their energy use?
Lefkowitz: Like all things that touch our customers, we should not assume that there is one ‘best’ way to motivate anyone. Different groups of customers will respond to different incentives – our challenge is to understand what the different groups are and what their motivators are. We have to talk to and engage customers on their terms, not ours.
Energy Times: What energy policies are needed most to change the electric sector?
Lefkowitz: Utilities used to provide energy - period. And there were few other stakeholders outside of the traditional transmission, distribution and generation providers. Now utilities are expected to provide energy, energy efficiency, and information about that energy consumption in a way that is very secure but accessible when the customer wants it accessible. Customers are demanding more information, more accuracy and more options. Most of our regulations were developed years ago when there were fewer stakeholders and different customer expectations. Our customers expect us to behave the way all the other companies they do business with behave. If utilities are to effectively meet customers’ expectations, regulations and policies have to enable that to happen.