Learning from the unstoppable

The road to success is windy and often includes multiple junctions and unforeseen speed humps. Learning from others provides perspective and insight on how different approaches can be taken to achieve a desired result. Be inspired by snapshots from leaders and projects that are at the forefront of innovation in the American energy industry and are featured in The Global Power & Energy Elites 2021 publication.

Paula Gold-Williams – President & Chief Executive Officer, CPS Energy

Paula Gold-Williams
President & Chief Executive Officer,
CPS Energy

What are your greatest strenghts?

One of my most significant strengths is the appreciation I have for others. I see myself as a coach, and my team is on the field. I understand the power and synergy of the combined group. There is no cookie-cutter model for developing individuals and building a team. We must communicate the importance of focusing on the group’s success and continuously integrate individual superstar qualities with others to form a superhero team.

Customers are our beacon. The contribution that I provide is to focus on serving customers and then embracing the team.

Which of your leadership skills was the most difficult to develop?

CPS Energy is an engineering, operations, and analytics firm. I am not an engineer. Neither do I come from an operational background. My expertise is accounting, auditing, and finance.

My goal is to always add value and develop the organisation. Therefore, I have had to learn how to triangulate how engineers think. I have developed confidence and acquired the knowledge to lead an organisation with a different technical frame of reference.

What industry challenge keeps you awake at night?

The industry challenge that keeps me awake at night is the industry’s evolution. Even though the industry went decades without changing, it’s now changing. We want to have distributed energy solutions, including increased rooftop solar and more batteries. We believe in a smart city that enhances everyone’s quality of life. We see all types of helpful things that are happening, such as 5G and spectrum services.

While we need to drive change, we must also overcome all the challenges along the way to make it all work. One challenge in our community is that people argue about the velocity of change. Again, at CPS Energy, we believe in climate change. We believe that you must balance everything to do it all well. We have many people who are income challenged and we must prioritise affordability and reliability to help them and everyone else. At the same time, we must drive transformation and use technology in the right way to improve the environment. The energy revolution is happening faster than we think. It’s like Moore’s law. It feels slow and steady, but it’s going pretty fast.

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Deploying microgrids for humanitarian needs – SimpliPhi Power

Image: SimpliPhi Power

Just south of the US-Mexican border in Texas lies the city of Matamoros, Mexico. Home to over 500,000 Mexican citizens, Matamoros additionally hosts a migrant camp of 3,000 refugees. Most of the refugees are from Central America and Cuba and travelled all the way to Matamoros to seek asylum in America.

Living in close quarters with virtually no access to basic hygiene products or medical care, this community was at severe risk of a deadly COVID-19 outbreak spreading through the camp and claiming the lives of many.

SimpliPhi Power, a US manufacturer of safe, cobalt-free lithium-ion energy storage systems, partnered with the non-profit organisation Footprint project to supply and deliver a renewable energy microgrid field hospital for the Matamoros migrant camp to power the camp’s first mobile medical ICU to treat COVID-19 patients.

In order to provide a properly functioning medical clinic, the team needed renewable energy with enough energy storage to power lights, ventilators and other essential medical equipment 24/7. SimpliPhi’s 3.8kWh PHI batteries were part of a containerised mobile, solar and energy storage trailer that served as a primary power source for the popup ICU. The ICU provided 20 beds with both diagnostic and treatment-ready medical equipment, including ventilators and an HVAC system to deliver temperature control for the two-tent clinic.

Additionally, the microgrid provided critical power with clean air, instead of the toxic fumes from the exhaust generated by diesel or gas generators, which served to further exacerbate the respiratory condition of patients already struggling to fight off COVID-19 infections.

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Bryan Spear – Managing Director – Asia, Trilliant

Bryan Spear
Managing Director – Asia,

What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how has it
proven invaluable?

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work in General Electric during the Jack Welch era. He was a legend and he spoke
of the importance of energising others. He believed that getting employees excited about their work is the key to being a great business leader. Adding that the leader’s job is to create the environment for them to thrive, and then step back and let them do so.

I’ve always taken this to heart. You hire smart and driven people (hopefully you’re hiring people that are smarter than yourself) and then you create the environment for the team to exercise their strengths and utilise their skills to be successful. This has been one of the core principles that I have found extremely valuable.

What are your and your team’s greatest blind spots and how are you improving these?

We are entering several new markets – there is much we don’t know about them. As a US-based company, we are starting from scratch in some areas.
Therefore, we must be okay admitting what we don’t know and seek counsel from experts that can help us navigate the complex issues that could arise. With this information we regularly re-evaluate and adapt our strategy based on what we learn. Although this is exciting, it surfaces the gaps that you have as a team, which can create a lot of risk if not managed accordingly.

What role do you see you and your team playing in the economic recovery of the 2020 global pandemic?

I think many will agree that in the post-COVID world there’s going to be a desire for less human physical interaction. This is going to further accelerate the adoption of technology and the Internet of Things (IoT): more technology-enabled services versus human touchpoints. By definition of what my organisation does – communications platforms, advanced artificial intelligence, advanced analytics – we’re going to play a pivotal role in this transition.

We are already seeing utilities and municipalities trending in this direction. The COVID pandemic stresses the critical need for service providers to be able to connect with consumers remotely, to monitor their equipment and to provide better solutions to their consumers.

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Enabling a smarter network – AEP Ohio

Image: AEP Ohio

American Electric Power company AEP Ohio has embraced the smart energy revolution as it nears the successful completion of a second phase of its smart meter rollout.

The AEP Ohio Phase 2 Smart Grid project began in the summer of 2017, following the successful rollout of 132,000 smart meters in select areas of central Ohio in Phase 1.

The second leg of the project, implemented after receiving approval from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), included the installation of about 900,000 smart meters. Distribution Automation Circuit Reconfi guration (DACR) on 250 circuits, and Volt/Var Optimisation (VVO) on 160 circuits.

Among the many benefits these technologies provide, improvements are being realised in customer satisfaction, safety measures, environmental impacts and services for companies and small businesses.

AEP Ohio was able to further interact and engage with customers throughout the AMI meter installation process. The estimated timeline for the rollout of the 900,000 meters was four years. The installation of the meters started in August 2017 and as of October 2020, the AMI installations are considered operationally complete.

The installation of AMI meters provides customers with timely access to their electricity usage, eliminates estimated bills, and assists with faster restoration efforts.

Customers are also able to access their energy usage online, as well as energy reports that work in tandem with their AMI meter. These services allow the customer to become more educated on their energy usage and make more informed decisions on how to save both money and energy, month by month. Based on the feedback received from customers, most are generally pleased with the tools provided.

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Now in its seventh year, the annual Global Power & Energy Elites publication and digital platform feature those leaders and projects setting the benchmarks in their regions and/or globally, giving readers insights into their planning and execution, as well as the challenges and opportunities.

For all interviews and projects, visit the website

Global Power & Energy Elites