Substation Pic

‘Look, Kids! Another Substation!’: SCE Dad Maps Family Vacations Around Substations

Aug. 9, 2023
Christensen will share his road trip findings and more Sept. 13 during his T&D World Live session, “Real-world Substation Management Challenges and Opportunities for the Near Future.”

A dad, mom and their two daughters, 8 and 12, pile into their car to live the best part of parenthood, childhood, maybe a lifetime: the great American road trip, originating in Southern California. It’s a nostalgic way to close out another summer.

Destinations include antique shops, roadside kitsch and other places Mark Christensen finds irresistible. These days, the girls are on to him. They know he lumps electric utility substations into the “fun” category. They also know he stops at all of them.

“Like many of my fellow substation aficionados, I have a habit of stopping by and visiting the out-of-state substations we pass by to look for what equipment they’re using and to try and spot anything new and interesting,” Christensen said.

This kind of thing only happens because business is a pleasure. Christensen, a substation construction and maintenance manager at Southern California Edison (SCE), enjoys seeing changes as they occur, he said.

“Our high-voltage substation landscape is evolving quickly with a great rate of change being felt in many areas of our business,” Christensen said. “It is crucial we keep a sharp focus on this growing change and its associated challenges so we can share ideas and opportunities to deliver best performance and successfully usher in our future advanced state.”   

Twenty years ago, Christensen started as an entry-level SCE substation construction helper. He said he worked his way up to a journeyman, then into substation project planning, substation construction crew supervision and substation maintenance supervision.

Today, he manages a 10-person team of substation experts who support frontline substation electricians. His team also provides cross-functional field support for internal stakeholders, such as asset engineering, environmental and compliance groups, Christensen said.

“By being close to so many different parts of our substation business, I see a lot of diverse changes happening within our substation space,” he said. “Whether it is new incoming technologies, regulatory changes or needed advancements to our programs and processes, internal change always comes with new challenges and new opportunities for us to do things differently and do things better.”

Christensen will share his road trip findings and more Sept. 13 during his T&D World Live session, “Real-world Substation Management Challenges and Opportunities for the Near Future.” 

Topics will include capital assets, programs and policies, and human capital — which Christensen said is most important.

“I really would like attendees and my utility peers to feel excited and empowered to reach out afterward and share their own experiences and new ideas to address our common industry challenges,” he said. “In this digital age we are living in, networking and sharing with other utilities has never been this enabled for utilities to collectively advance our industry together.”

By now, Christensen’s girls can answer substation questions, too. If you’re lucky enough to catch them at a Route 66 diner, ask them to point you to the nearest substation.

The T&D World Live Conference will be Sept. 12-14 in Sacramento, California. Registration, conference and event details are available on the conference website.

Kristen Wright is a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience covering global utilities, petroleum and policy. She is chief strategist at Kristen Wright Strategic Communications. Reach her at [email protected] and wrightkristenm on LinkedIn.

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