Chris Hickman: ‘Utilities are Not Evil’

May 4, 2011
Chris Hickman cares about the grid and about relationships, particularly utilities’ relationships with consumers and regulators.

Chris Hickman cares about the grid and about relationships, particularly utilities’ relationships with consumers and regulators. He wants to help optimize how our grid operates and help utilities execute solutions that work for them financially. As utilities move to the smart grid, particularly demand response technologies, Hickman can help companies develop smart business models that consumers and regulators can accept.

“A lot of people are trying to bring business models to this industry that significantly damage utilities or consumers, while creating tremendous regulatory consternation,” Hickman said. “The Internet is allowing pundits and charlatans the opportunity to provide terrible misinformation. Utilities are not evil. Regulators are not stupid. Customers are not being skewered by utilities and regulators.”

Hickman is CEO of Innovari Energy and is organizing a track at ConnectivityWeek, May 23-26 in Santa Clara, California. DR’s Critical Value at Every Level of the Grid will be part of the conference’s four-day DR-Expo.

The DR-Expo at ConnectivityWeek will explore the business models, value propositions and technologies for demand response across an array of consumer end-use segments, including residences, commercial buildings, industrial facilities, and city infrastructure. DR’s Critical Value at Every Level of the Grid will focus on the development of smart business models around the United States that have enabled industrial, commercial, and residential demand-side resources to be intelligently integrated for interstate and regulated states, as well as states with retail competition. Three panels within this track will cover “The Case for Bulk DR,” “The Case for Commercial & Industrial DR,” and “The Case for Residential DR.”

“There does not seem to be any movement in energy policy relating to carbon, and that fact creates such a great uncertainty that utilities, investors, and other stakeholders simply cannot make the decision to pursue new bulk generation,” Hickman said. “Because of this, we will run short of capacity in this industry in the next five years in many jurisdictions, and even if we starting building facilities now, we wouldn’t get them online in time to solve this problem. The opportunity to help is going to exist within the jurisdiction of the utilities to create an effective partnership and business model with their consumers to optimize their utility systems for the benefits of everyone. This will be a primary focus in the industry for the next five years.”

With over two decades of utility industry experience, Hickman has dedicated his career to finding ways to improve the electric energy enterprise from source fuel to consumer services by leveraging new technologies and ideas. After helping many companies in direct or consulting roles, Hickman founded Innovari, Inc. to specifically focus on bringing innovation and energy together to create a sound business model for the utility industry to successfully incorporate demand-side technology into the grid.

“I’ve had the privilege to work with industry-leading companies, thought leaders, regulators and policy makers within the energy industry over the past several years, and it has allowed me gain tremendous insight into the history, current state, and potential future for management of demand-side resources,” he said.

Hickman has presented at dozens of conferences covering the entire energy spectrum -- from source fuel to consumption – and regularly contributes to events like ConnectivityWeek, GridWeek and Grid-Interop. He tells listeners to do their own homework and form their own opinion. “Figure out how to create a business model that actually helps all of the stakeholders involved in the transaction so you ‘leave it better than you found it.’”

Hickman’s enthusiasm for power and “the grid” started in his sophomore year of college when he took his first power class from Professor Kersting, and he was “hooked for life,” he said.

Contact Chris Hickman at [email protected].

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