By David Kligman
Jackie Pfannenstiel, who in 1987 became PG&E’s first female corporate officer and paved the way for other women to become leaders in the energy industry, has died.
Pfannenstiel, 69, died of breast cancer last month at her Piedmont home, said her husband, Dan Richard, a former PG&E senior officer.
“Jackie truly was a trailblazer,” said PG&E Corporation CEO and President Geisha Williams. “She played an enormously important role in shaping California energy policy and inspired other women to pursue leadership positions in our industry.”
Pfannenstiel began her career as an economist in Connecticut and moved to California in 1978 to become a senior economist with the California Public Utilities Commission. In 1980, she joined PG&E’s rates department and was named vice president of corporate planning seven years later. She was the first female officer at the utility and later at PG&E Corporation.
Pfannenstiel was one of the key architects of the California policy known as decoupling in which energy companies encourage energy conservation by separating profits from the amount of electricity and natural gas sold.
“At a time when the industry leadership was questioning continuing energy efficiency, she was an unflagging voice for it,” Ralph Cavanagh, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s energy program co-director and a member of PG&E’s Sustainability Advisory Council, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “The state’s leadership in energy efficiency — that was because of her.”
Dede Hapner, a PG&E vice president, said she wouldn’t have had the opportunities in her career had it not been for Jackie, a mentor for her.
“She was a strong leader who led by example and went out of her way to let individuals and teams grow and succeed,” Hapner said.
Pfannenstiel’s influence continued well after her 20-year PG&E career ended.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named her to the California Energy Commission in 2004, and two years later she became its first female chair.
In 2010, she left retirement when President Obama appointed her assistant secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and the Environment. She was the first woman to hold such a post with the Navy. It was there that she helped plan a squadron of ships and aircraft that runs in part on biofuel.
Three years ago, she co-founded the startup Advanced Microgrid Solutions, which focuses on batteries to help utilities improve energy efficiency.
“Jackie’s career is a testament to hard work and a willingness to carve a new trail,” Robert Weisenmiller, chair of the California Energy Commission, said in a staff email recounting Jackie’s contributions.
Pfannenstiel, who is survived by her husband and sons Mathews and Steven, was long aware of her milestone role with PG&E. In the late 1980s, she spoke to young women attending a San Francisco conference on career opportunities in math and science.
“You can be anything and do anything you really want to,” Pfannenstiel told the women.
Something she learned firsthand.
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.