Utilities must brace for a coming onslaught of competition, better anticipate their customers’ evolving wants and needs and learn how to speak directly and clearly to their customers, according to a panel of leading energy utility executives.
Christopher Crane, Exelon president and CEO, said, “We have a big opportunity with technology changing. What we have to do much better as we are on this journey is communicate.”
Patricia Vincent-Collawn, PNM Resources chairman, president and CEO, told the annual meeting of the Edison Electric Institute, “We need to be bold and we need to communicate boldly.”
Vincent-Collawn was installed as the new chairman of EEI, which represents investor-owned electric utilities serving 220 million Americans.
Vincent-Collawn said that as a result of customer pressures, her Western utility will no longer use coal-fired generation by 2031. It has long been reliant on fossil fuel generation. The many workers at its plants near the Navajo Nation will need to be retrained, and that can best be accomplished by gradually transitioning to more renewables energy, she said.
Gregory Abel, Berkshire Hathaway Energy chairman president, and CEO, said, the industry is unaccustomed to competition. “The whole value chain of our model is going to be challenged,” he said.
Staying close to customers has to be a priority, said Thomas Fanning, Southern Company chairman, president and CEO. “We can participate or let others disintermediate us with customers,” Fanning said.
Lynn Good, Duke Energy chairman, president and CEO, said utilities will turn to data analytics to better understand customers. “We are going to be more sophisticated,” she said.
On the environmental front, Duke has achieved a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions since 2005. “Our track record will continue to lead,” Good said.