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Posted on September 11, 2013

PG&E Leaders Talk to National Policymakers about Grid Modernization at Women in Energy Event in Washington

By Katie Key

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New tools and technologies will spur innovation and provide customers with broader choices, four PG&E officers told a group of leading women policymakers and innovators in energy on Tuesday (Sept. 10).

“Our company and our state have been leaders in energy efficiency, renewable energy, advancing distributed generation, and so on,” said Geisha Williams, PG&E’s executive vice president of electric operations. “But the most important thing when we’re talking about creating a model for others to follow is to make sure we don’t just get it first – we get it right.”

Clockwise from top left, PG&E officers Geisha Williams, Melissa Lavinson, Helen Burt and Karen Austin participated in this week's Women in Energy event in Washington, D.C.

Williams was joined by three other PG&E officers — Karen Austin, chief information officer, Helen Burt, chief customer officer, and Melissa Lavinson, vice president of federal affairs — at the first Women in Energy event hosted by Washington, D.C.-based think tank Third Way. Their presentation focused on innovation and technology in energy.

Apps to help customers

For example, PG&E’s grid modernization efforts have helped enable the creation and development of apps that allow customers to see how much energy they are using compared to their neighbors and how they may be able to save money. Those apps require energy usage data that PG&E now provides customers through the Green Button.

“We were approached by the Administration with the Green Button concept in 2011, and it is a really simple one in theory,” said Austin. “The thought was that if customer energy usage data was standardized across utilities, software developers would be better able to access this information and use it to develop better and more effective apps and other online energy management tools.”

More than 30 utilities now offer the Green Button to their customers. That type of enabling technology, coupled with efforts to modernize and update the nation’s energy infrastructure, will ultimately result in a smarter electric grid that benefits customers.

Around the country, architects, engineers, designers and technicians are among those who play a significant role in successfully implementing and utilizing these new technologies. In describing PG&E’s role in developing this expertise, Burt talked about how PG&E runs hands-on training and educational programs and facilities.

Toward zero net energy construction

“California requires that all new residential and commercial buildings be zero net energy (ZNE) by 2020 and 2030, respectively. As a step toward this goal, we sponsored an architectural design competition to demonstrate the potential for ZNE residential construction, and we constructed a model ZNE home at our Stockton training center, offering a hands-on experience to professionals working in the field.”

This holistic approach to grid modernization that spans energy delivery, technology and customer experience constitutes the basis of a broader effort being led by Third Way to develop the PowerBook, launched in July, which is intended to be an interactive tool for those making policy.

Third Way’s Women in Energy event included representatives from Capitol Hill, the Administration, advocacy groups and media.

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