This three-day event brings the West’s natural gas and electric utility executive community together to encourage discussion and foster new opportunities. Learn from subject matter experts regarding imminent opportunities and the challenges pressing utilities to adapt and flex in uncharted territories for best-in-class utility management. Topics covered in recent years include customer relations, global economic insights, new business models for utilities in a carbon constrained world, opportunities and challenges of big data, energy supply and demand forecasting, and visions for the utility of the future. This meeting coincides with the semi-annual WEI Board Meeting and the Business Acumen for Emerging Leaders team presentations.
Member: $1,049 USD
Registration price increases $150 after August 9, 2019. Registration includes meeting materials, 1 reception, 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 4 breaks, all presentations and panel discussions, 1 dinner and admission to the Service Company reception and dinner event. Guest tickets are available for $150 and allow a personal guest (a spouse or partner who does not work in the energy industry) to accompany a registered attendee at the event. Guest registration includes all meals and receptions, and all program materials.
8:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Optional Networking Golf
Omni La Costa Resort & Spa invites you to join the legacy of this historic home of 37 PGA events. The Champions Course features beautifully manicured fairways and tees, surpassed only by its exceptional greens, which are some of the best in the West. Keep your equipment dry while in the trenches with a modern drainage system installed for sustainability, improving irrigation and water flow throughout both the Champions and Legends golf courses. Enjoy the serene setting while meandering through peaceful wetlands over landscaped bridges and rolling hills. The Champions Course is quite simply in a league of its own. Fee includes green fee, cart fee, range balls and the par package with a sleeve of balls, divot tool and logo ball marker. No meals included. No refunds after August 9th, 2019.
11:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Women in Leadership
Current Women in Leadership Participants Only
12:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Optional Networking Electric Bike Tour
Cruise through the sunshine in beautiful Carlsbad on our newest guided electric bike tour! The Carlsbad Coastline tour helps you see first-hand what makes Southern CA special. Join us on a bike ride alongside the historic Highway 101 where the highway hugs the Pacific Ocean. During this experience, you’re sure to feel a connection to the simpler, quieter lifestyles of the past.
Throughout this 2-hour bike tour, your guide will share fun San Diego and California facts while taking you along the breathtaking bike routes of Highway 101.
Rest half way at Beacon’s beach high above the ocean’s edge where you will greet the waves crashing on the rocky beach below and gaze out at the beauty and power that brings the vast pacific to life. You will have plenty of time to take it all in, capture the memory with pictures and if you’re lucky, some dolphins or whales will stop by to say hello. It’s also a great spot to watch the locals catch a wave.
3:30 PM - 4:15 PM
WEI Board Executive Committee Meeting
Open only to committee members.
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Check In + Nametag Pickup
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
WEI Board of Directors Meeting
Open only to board members.
5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Board of Directors Dinner
Invitation only. Open to board members and invited guests.
7:00 AM - 8:00 AM
Check In + Nametag Pickup
7:00 AM - 8:00 AM
Breakfast + Opening Remarks
Speaker(s): Dennis Vermillion, President, Avista Corp.
Breakfast will be served at 7:00 am, with opening remarks beginning at 7:45 am.
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM
Embedding Innovation into Everyone's DNA
Speaker(s): Duncan Wardle, Former VP of Innovation & Creativity at The Walt Disney Company, Founder,, id8 & innov8 LLC,
Sharing from his time spent embedding a culture of innovation at Disney, Duncan Wardle now empowers teams from all companies to embrace their inner entrepreneur, teaching tangible tools and techniques that give everyone access to their own creative ideas, and thus developing your company’s culture so that it’s primed and ready for innovation.
9:00 AM - 9:15 AM
9:15 AM - 10:45 AM
Panel: Transforming the Utility Business Model
Moderator(s): Jan Vrins, Global Energy Practice Leader, Navigant Consulting, Inc.
10:45 AM - 11:15 AM
11:15 AM - 12:00 PM
Maintaining Integrity in a Transforming Landscape
Speaker(s): Brian Steverson, John L. Aram Chair in Business Ethics, School of Business Administration, Gonzaga University
Many companies in the energy business find themselves in a difficult state of transformation these days. On the one hand, they seek to meet strong stakeholder expectations to transform their industry to the production of “clean” energy. On the other, they face the reality of the costs involved in doing so and the current lack of technology to entirely satisfy those expectations. How does one proceed to navigate a landscape filled with overly ambitious expectations while maintaining personal and organizational integrity? We will talk about what personal and organizational integrity involves, and some strategies for how to avoid sacrificing that integrity in the short term, and into the future, in pursuit of near term stakeholder satisfaction.
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
The 2020 Economic Outlook - In The Balance of Rabidly Opposing Political Forces
Speaker(s): Sherry Cooper, Chief Economist, Dominion Lending Centres
The world is changing so fast that historically reliable indicators no longer predict the economic future. As opposing forces move to the extremes of the political spectrum in Western democracies, the economic outlook is much more difficult to anticipate. With US Election in 2020, Brexit, Canadian Election in 2019 and rapidly growing political uncertainty across major trading nations, we are increasingly challenged to anticipate the path forward. How do we create a robust view of the opportunities and risks ahead?
2:00 PM - 2:30 PM
2:30 PM - 3:45 PM
Panel: The Extreme Threat of Wildfires to Western Utilities
Moderator(s): Heather Grahame, General Counsel and Vice President – Regulatory & Federal Government Affairs, NorthWestern Energy
3:45 PM - 4:00 PM
4:00 PM - 5:15 PM
CEO + President’s of Utilities Facilitated Roundtable
Service Company Committee Meeting
Customer Connections Board Committee
Corporate Services Board Committee
Electric Operations Board Committee
Gas Operations Board Committee
5:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Service Company Reception and Dinner
8:00 AM - 9:00 AM
Breakfast and 2020 Western Energy Institute Theme
Speaker(s): Booga Gilbertson, Senior Vice President, Operations, Puget Sound Energy
9:00 AM - 9:30 AM
9:30 AM - 10:15 AM
Uncovering New Revenue in an Age-Old Industry
Speaker(s): Rebecca White, Manager, District Operations, Natural Gas Distribution, ATCO Pipelines, Darryl DeSilva, Senior Design Manager, Distribution Design, BC Hydro, Shane Homiston, District Manager III, MDU Utilities Group, Kyle Comstock, Manager, Transmission & Distribution Operations, NV Energy, Erika Schimmel-Guiles, 3P Implementation Manager, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, Anne M Jackson, Operational Application Supervisor, Tacoma Public Utilities
For years, utilities have operated under an approved rate of return and earned money at a steady, reliable pace. A changing energy landscape has invoked new challenges for utility providers both from new regulation and the ability for the customers to choose where and how they get energy; bringing in a competitive environment to a formerly monopolized industry. Join us for an informative discussion on how utilities can generate new revenue, to be able to stay competitive and relative in a new energy world.
9:30 AM - 10:15 AM
The Great Transition: Preserving Stability Through Change
Speaker(s): Jerry L Jackson II, Supervisory Electrical Engineer - Transmission Operations Planning, Bonneville Power Administration, Dale Ernst, Manager, System Operations, FortisBC, Gina Powell, Customer Service Operations Manager, Idaho Power Company, Joshua Tilbury, Manager, Gas Supply, New Mexico Gas Company, Doug Jones, Business Unit Director, Power Engineers, Inc., Sarah Sciandri, Senior Public Information Specialist, Sacramento Municipal Utility District
As the utility industry is faced with unprecedented change due to the rapid growth of new technologies, climate change, evolving customer/employee expectations and aging infrastructure, a great transition is in order. This presentation will explore the emerging technologies of augmented and virtual realities to help electric and gas utilities preserve and optimize existing resources and capitalize on institutional knowledge that’s been built over many decades. We’ll provide high-level definitions of the different types of technology and share real-world successes, opportunities and challenges with using Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality technology to preserve stability in the utility industry.
10:15 AM - 10:30 AM
10:30 AM - 11:15 AM
Innovation in the Regulatory Sandbox: Can we Afford to Play Nice?
Speaker(s): Danielle Gillanders, Senior Project Manager, FortisBC, Douglas Dockter, Sr. Manager, Stations Engineering & Construction, Idaho Power Company, Joseph Baranski, Senior Manager, Grid Integrated Services, Portland General Electric, Tegan Knifton, Supervisor, Commercial Delivery, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Christy Burke, Land Acquisitions Manager, Salt River Project
The speed of change is impacting our business, and utilities need to adapt in order to find solutions as quickly as issues arise. It’s time for each utility to decide: Move forward with innovation or become strictly an infrastructure operator. We can agree that innovation is imperative to an organization’s success, but how should utilities innovate in a regulated environment? Is it possible to find quick and nimble, but also equitable and financially responsible solutions? Can utilities today successfully balance risk and reward? Join us to find out. We will define what innovation means in a regulated environment, discuss the challenges and barriers to innovation, identify risks, and provide examples of innovation happening in the utility space and beyond.
10:30 AM - 11:15 AM
The Future is Now: Building Workforce Strategy Today to Meet Tomorrow
Speaker(s): Danielle Evans, Manager, Audit Services, Arizona Public Service Company, Joyce Cui, Manager, Regulatory Affairs, ENMAX Corporation, Gregory Watkins, Manager, Policy & Procedure, Intermountain Gas Company, David Hanson, Construction Services Manager, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Mikel Milton, IT Delivery Services Manager, Puget Sound Energy, Lisa Murray, Project Manager, Wood Canada Limited
To be ready for the future, we need to align business and workforce strategies. The start is to determine “what is core” to the utility business of the future. This will help inform where to invest in the talent pipeline and the strategies to attract, retain and grow internal talent. That which is “not core”, there is an opportunity to leverage alternative strategies utilizing external partners and automation.
11:15 AM - 11:30 AM
11:30 AM - 12:15 PM
Using Technology to Prepare Employees for the Future
Speaker(s): Mary Prince, Director Benefits, HRIS & Payroll, Avista Corp., Sarah Laylo, Chief Security and Continuity Officer, Bonneville Power Administration, Julian Jones, Director, Program Management, BRIDGE Energy Group, Melanie Markell, Manager, Customer Care, ENMAX Corporation, Jason Rondou, Manager, Strategic Development & Programs, Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, Daniel Kizer, Engineering Manager, NW Natural
For over a decade, utilities have been feverishly preparing for the loss of experienced utility employees. The average worker in the utility industry has over 10 years tenure, and according to a US Department of Energy assessment conducted in January 2017, 25% of US employees in electric and natural gas utilities will be ready to retire within 5 years. With this exodus comes a new generation of employees who expect to leave their companies in 2-5 years. How can we avoid knowledge gaps in key work groups that are created in the wake of losing tenured talent? What are the barriers to using technology to train new employees? How can we leverage technology to ensure knowledge transfer keeps up with the pace of change and turnover our industry will see in the next decade and beyond? Our team will explore how leveraging technology can support a successful transition of knowledge during these pivotal years ahead.
11:30 AM - 12:15 PM
Know Your Business, Know Your Customer Communication Needs
Speaker(s): Suzanne Landon, Manager, Geospatial, ATCO Electric, Christopher McCall, Manager of Project Delivery, Burns & McDonnell, Mario Cantu, Community Engagement Coordinator, Chelan County PUD, Scott Chandler, Manager, Finance & Business Services, Dominion Energy Utah, Darcy Byrne-Kelly, Manager, Operations, NorthWestern Energy, Kristy Porter, Manager, Employee & Labor Relations, Tucson Electric Power
Utilities serve a diverse customer demographic with changing needs and expectations. Rapidly changing avenues and options for communication platforms as well as methods of receiving goods and services have broadly changed how end user customers expect to interact with businesses. Other business sectors have adapted and even led the charge in modifying their business models to meet these changing customer demands, which in turn alters what they expect from utilities. Most utilities have begun the journey to understand and focus on the customer experience, but continued enhancements become difficult to prioritize and implement.
Exploring different communication channels tailored to the needs of specific customer demographics can engage customers in the new digital frontier while improving efficiencies with customer interactions, leading to improved growth and revenue for the company, and time and potentially cost savings for the customer. Personalization is essential and is only possible with customer journey–focused market segmentation, omni-channel communication technology, and integration of key programs and services. Our focus will be to prioritize appropriate communication strategies for these customer types: residential consumer, residential consumer with rooftop solar and/or storage, consumer with new energy needs, customers with specific gas requirements, and commercial customers. Improving the customer experience using technology can appeal to the different types of customers we serve and help to contemporize the utility sector while bringing added benefits to the utility and its stakeholders.
12:15 PM - 1:15 PM
1:15 PM - 2:00 PM
Climate Adaptation: Utilities Managing the Impacts of Climate Change
Speaker(s): Mike McWhorter, Area Sales Manager – Northern CA, OR,WA,ID,AK,HI, Altec, Inc., Terry D Workman, Manager, Region Operations, Dominion Energy Utah, Jon Zawada, Sr. Manager, Technical Operations, FortisAlberta Inc., Melissa Skelton, Regulatory Affairs Strategic Advisor, Seattle City Light, Keisha McNeil, Sr. Manager, Southern California Edison
Utilities are recognizing the impacts climate change has on utility operations and the workforce, and are pursuing projects and initiatives to address both present and future concerns. A survey of WEI member utilities provides information about what members already have in place or are contemplating to tackle the challenges associated with climate change. Several utility climate science programs are highlighted to illustrate the impact of climate change and identify potential actions to increase utility climate resilience.
1:15 PM - 2:00 PM
Achieving Strategic Objectives by Fostering Organizational Alignment
Speaker(s): Jeff Webb, Manager of Gas Engineering and Measurement, Avista Utilities, Billy Chan, Senior Manager, Regulatory Affairs, EPCOR Distribution and Transmission Inc., Nicole Bavard, Operations and Engineering Manager, San Diego Gas & Electric Company, Laura McCrae, Sr. Data & Analytics Consultant (Functional Lead), Snohomish County PUD, Chris Anderson, Director of Gas Operations, Paiute Pipeline Company
Utility leaders invest a lot of time and thought into crafting strategic priorities, goals, missions, and values but without organizational alignment even the best strategic plan is never fully achieved. How do utilities ensure that every employee shares a common understanding of company priorities and values and then aligns their actions and decisions to support them? How do we move away from business as usual to fostering innovation and change? How can well-designed corporate performance management metrics celebrate success while also highlighting opportunities for improvement? How do we effectively bridge differences in management and union perspectives?
2:00 PM - 2:15 PM
2:15 PM - 3:00 PM
Speaker(s): Ryan Hoover, Transportation Maintenance Team Leader, Arizona Public Service Company, Steve Rozinka, Manager, Substation Construction & Engineering, NorthWestern Energy, Joshua Kensok, Director of Financial Planning & Analysis, Puget Sound Energy, Hengameh Najafi, Director, Central Support, Southwest Gas Corporation, Crissa Alexander, Engineering Field Representative, Tillamook PUD
How ready is your company for dealing with emergencies? Does your company have an emergency response plan? How effective is the plan and will it work when a true emergency arises?
The definition of emergency response is “action taken to respond to an unexpected and dangerous occurrence in an attempt to mitigate its impact on people or the environment.” Emerging threats of rapidly increasing climate driven natural disasters are forcing utilities and other essential services/infrastructure to evaluate their preparedness practices, including their capacity and scale to deal with emergencies exceeding historical norms. The abundance of data is a powerful tool which can be used to determine how ready your company is for an emergency, identify possible gaps and predict future emergencies.
This presentation will focus on the best practices that utilities currently have in place in addition to strategic plans and technologies that should be considered to improve emergency response. The presentation will also address how to test emergency plans to ensure that when a true emergency occurs the employees are prepared and will respond in a safe and timely manner.
2:15 PM - 3:00 PM
How to Rise to Customer Expectations - A 3 Year Roadmap
Speaker(s): Susan Wylie, Director Supply Chain, Hydro One Inc., Brandon Carlson, Director, Product Marketing, Itron, Inc., Hema Sundaram, Director, Data Strategy & Management, Portland General Electric, Avideh Razavi, Underground Storage Data Manager, Southern California Gas Company, Sheryl Brown, Training & Apprenticeship Manager, Tacoma Power
It is no secret that the utility industry is facing rapidly changing market demands and many challenges are ahead. To be a leader in the industry, utilities must focus on technology-driven services, leverage the value of their core, and reshape their marketing practices. There are new entrants in the energy space, customer demographics are shifting, technology is evolving, climate change is concerning, and policies continue to affect decision making. These changes are causing customer expectations to shift and become more demanding. Customers expect options akin to the variety they receive from other service industries and are looking for alternatives to reduce energy consumption. As utilities, we must adapt to all of these changes while continuing to provide cost effective, reliable service. Come and hear about a 3-year roadmap to position utilities to meet future customer needs while providing an improved customer experience.
3:00 PM - 3:15 PM
3:15 PM - 4:00 PM
Design Thinking and the Potential for Innovation in the Utility Industry
Speaker(s): Christina Veltkamp, Manager, Customer Service and Collections, ENSTAR Natural Gas Company, Peter Faltaous, Director, Distribution Asset Management, Hydro One Inc., Sarah Bond, Budget and Financial Planning Manager, Snohomish County PUD, John Kundly, Gas Construction Portfolio Manager, Southern California Gas Company, Walter R Yosin III, Environmental Superintendent, Tucson Electric Power
Design Thinking is a dynamic framework conceived to inspire innovation and creative problem solving in organizations. This project will explore the amazing potential of this approach against the backdrop of the historically cautious utility industry and help the audience learn how they can facilitate a culture which empowers employees to think differently about some of the real challenges facing their utilities such as increasing customer demands and employee engagement & retention. Discussion will include the application of the framework to a real-life utility problem, as well as case studies and success stories.
3:15 PM - 4:00 PM
Lost in Transition - Managing Utility Branding in an Uncertain Future
Speaker(s): Sachie Morii, Manager, Transmission Load Interconnections, BC Hydro, Tyler Nice, Systems Engineering Supervisor, Eugene Water & Electric Board, Brian Fettig, Engineering Services Supervisor, Montana-Dakota Utilities, Stephanie Winn, Manager, Talent Acquisition, Human Resources, Salt River Project, Maryanne M McMillan, Principal Manager, Generation Major Projects & Engineering, Southern California Edison
In the past, a utility’s brand was focused on reliability and keeping the lights on. In a changing landscape of customer experiences, aggressive policy targets, and environmental and financial pressures, utilities are being asked to be more than just a reliable energy supplier. Branding is more than just a logo, tagline and mission statement. Now is the time for utilities to go beyond simple branding models and consider how to ensure they are positioned for change both internally and externally. Connecting the utility's core mission with the values of customers to create a holistic brand is important to position organizations to be ready to successfully address emerging trends, remain flexible, be responsive, and lead the evolution of the energy industry. In order to shift the branding models and expectations from current practice, utilities need only look to other industries; it could be as easy as coffee and donuts…
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
5:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Reception, Dinner and Graduation Ceremony for Business Acumen
All Annual Meeting attendees encouraged to attend.
Please contact the hotel directly at (800) 843-6664 to reserve your room. Identify yourself as being with Western Energy Institute to receive a special rate of $259 USD/night. This rate is guaranteed until August 9, 2019 or until the WEI room block is full.
Having worked for the Walt Disney Company for some 25 years, Duncan Wardle now serves as an independent innovation and design thinking consultant, helping companies around the globe embed a culture of innovation and creativity across their organizations, delivering a series of keynotes, training workshops and leading innovation projects. His unique Design Thinking process helps people capture unlikely connections, leading to both fresh thinking and revolutionary ideas.
Most recently Duncan was Head of Innovation and Creativity for the Walt Disney Company, where he helped support franchises such as Lucas Films, Pixar, Marvel, Disney Imagineering, Disney Parks and ESPN. Working as innovation catalyst and cultural change agent, he helped each line of business increase their capacity to innovate at scale.
He is a Ted X speaker and contributor to Fast Company Magazine. He lectures at Yale, the University of North Carolina, Duke University and the University of Florida. In 2008 he received the American Citizen of Choice Award at the White House. In 2014 he was awarded an Hons. Doctorate from Edinburgh University in Scotland. He also holds the Duke of Edinburgh Award presented by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.