We’re at a critical juncture in our industry. Change is happening everywhere at an unprecedented pace, creating new opportunities and challenges. At National Grid, we have embraced the revolution taking place in our industry, and we are creating the transition to our next-generation workforce and a vibrant, thriving utility of the future.
The Future Energy Landscape
We believe the future belongs to the energy customer who will be in the driver’s seat with more information, choice and control over virtually all aspects of the energy supply chain.
Renewable and distributed energy resources are rapidly becoming mainstream; advanced technologies, automation and innovations are being deployed on the grid; asset monitoring, health, maintenance and replacement are increasingly becoming data-driven. In many energy markets, policy-driven transmission has become competitive, forcing utilities to be more agile and efficient so they can compete with new, more entrepreneurial transmission developers.
All of this translates to improved safety, efficiency and better information for our employees; enhanced reliability and cost savings for customers; and a more flexible, robust, nimble grid that is better suited to respond to the new demands that distributed and renewable resources will place upon it as they become increasingly mainstream energy sources.
Reinventing Our Business Model
As these sweeping changes continue in our industry, we must lead the charge toward the new energy landscape. If we don’t, others will, and they will be the ones who shape our future.
The utility business model increasingly is evolving toward the integration of load and generation at the distribution level. New technologies, especially in the areas of communications and coordinated controls, can enable significant changes in how the grid operates, as well as in customers’ experiences and empowerment. We plan to use these new enabling technologies to make our operation of the grid more efficient and reliable, while enabling a cleaner, more environmentally friendly electric system. Under this plan, customers will have more information and greater control over their energy usage and cost.
The future smart grid will need to facilitate integration of distributed energy resources, minimize outages, provide improved outage communication and response, and operate the electric grid more efficiently using real-time information and controls, all in a cost-effective manner and to the benefit of our customers.
We are also working with policymakers and a broad range of stakeholders to reform the existing regulatory paradigm to one that will help enable this future vision and encourage utilities to deliver innovative, clean, affordable energy solutions for customers.
Not Your Father’s Energy Company
Like our business model, our workforce needs to keep pace with all the changes our industry is facing. We need to provide our employees with the right tools and training so they can adapt and succeed as our industry continues to evolve. We also need to set the right tone and create a culture where employees are empowered to take risks and challenge the status quo in order to find new solutions to existing problems. Importantly, they need to be given permission and understand that it’s okay to fail sometimes.
Employees need to be encouraged to learn, contribute and stretch by "asking for the ball," in other words, taking on a leadership role on a challenging project or initiative. Their successes should be rewarded with new, more complex opportunities to help keep them motivated and engaged.
Our Graduate Development Program is an intense, eight-week training program for recently hired college graduates, designed to assist and support their development as leaders, provide career guidance, and increase their business talents and skills. Participants gain exposure to a broad range of disciplines and sectors across the company, opportunities to work on a variety of projects and a means to expand their network of colleagues.
And for the longer term, we need to get to the young people — the younger the better — to get them excited about STEM studies and a career in our industry. We do this in part through significant support of STEM partnerships and programs,
including City Year, museum STEM partnerships, the Green Education Foundation, Girls Inc. and various lineworker college
Last but not least, we must rebrand our industry to reflect the tremendous opportunities outlined above. Let’s not just talk about pipes and wires; instead, let’s talk about creating the nation’s clean energy future using disruptive technologies, enabling clean and distributed resources, and mining data to make highly informed decisions. Let’s explain how our industry will enable future innovations and new economies with a flexible, modern grid and customer-driven energy choices.
Some might say we are facing a crisis with all the change that is occurring in our industry. I see it as an incredible opportunity. The existing power grid was considered a marvel of the 20th century. We can recreate our industry and our infrastructure to be a marvel of this century. Let’s get to work. ♦
Rudy Wynter is president of FERC-regulated businesses and New Energy Solutions at National Grid.