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The Conversation with CEO of Seattle City Light and Chief Innovation Officer of SEPA Continues: Talking Workforce Transformation and Equity on the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast (Part 2 of the 2 Part Episode)

  • Nov 15, 2021
Energy Central

After hearing about the great progress being spotlighted by the Smart Electric Power Alliance's Utility Transformation Challenge, the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast, with host Jason Price and producer Matt Chester, were joined by SEPA’s Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Sharon Allan, as well as a leader whose organization made an appearance on SEPA’s leaderboard of utilities in Debra Smith, CEO and General Manager of Seattle City Light. This duo provides a dynamic one-two punch on assessing the landscape of the utility industry today and where it’s going in the future.

The conversation was so dynamic, this episode ended up being an exciting two-parter—if you didn’t listen to Part 1 where our guests focused on the Utility Transformation Challenge and the march towards decarbonization, we recommend you start there. Then come back here and listen to Part 2 where this pair of industry leaders dives into forward-looking assessments of equity in the energy industry, as well as the pending workforce transformation facing utilities everywhere:

Debra: Right now, our folks in innovation and electrification are working extremely closely with both our traditional engineering shops, because what we want is we want people to learn from each other. We don't want to leave employees behind anymore than we want to leave customers behind. So we want there to be an opportunity for folks to crosswalk and expand their knowledge and the tools in their chest. And then we've got the same thing happening with energy efficiency. Energy and innovation or electrification and innovation shop. They develop these new products and services that are in response to what our customers want, and then they pass them over. And then we have another shop that does a lot of the implementation.

Sharon: As I listened to Debra speak, I wanted to start saying hallelujah. Yeah. A couple of points that I just want to reiterate, because I thought they were very profound, is as she was speaking, she said, "We need both groups." Sometimes when people talk about cultural and generation change, people insinuate younger or early career people are more technology and free thinking, and the people who are more seasoned, been around, are old school and can't change. And that bifurcated thinking is absolutely destructive. And so when you look at the overall cultural change, you've got to have new ideation working with people who have been performing traditional and critical function, because there is a fair amount of knowledge that is institutionalized in the brains of some of our employees within utilities. And as we begin to invest and automate in things, we've got to make sure that we've gotten the institutional knowledge that exists within the brains of our employees considered, so that we continue with change to keep our grid reliable and safe and economic.

This entry into the podcast, like all of the series episodes, can be found on all major podcast outlets, including iTunes and Spotify, or it can be listened to directly on the Energy Central platform. Give it a listen and share your reaction in the comments.

Episode #45: 'Setting an Example for Utilities Everywhere via SEPA’s Utility Transformation Challenge' with Sharon Allan of SEPA, Debra Smith of Seattle City Light, Part 2 [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast]


About Energy Central Podcast Series:

The ‘Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast’ features conversations with thought leaders in the utility sector. At least twice monthly, we connect with an Energy Central Power Industry Network community member to discuss compelling topics that impact professionals who work in the power industry. Some podcasts may be a continuation of thought-provoking posts or discussions started in the community or with an industry leader that is interested in sharing their expertise and doing a deeper dive into hot topics or issues relevant to the industry.

The ‘Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast’ is the premiere podcast series from Energy Central, a Power Industry Network of Communities built specifically for professionals in the electric power industry and a place where professionals can share, learn, and connect in a collaborative environment. Supported by leading industry organizations, our mission is to help global power industry professionals work better. Since 1995, we’ve been a trusted news and information source for professionals working in the power industry, and today our managed communities are a place for lively discussions, debates, and analysis to take place. If you’re not yet a member, visit to register for free and join over 200,000 of your peers working in the power industry.

The Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast is hosted by Jason PriceCommunity Ambassador of Energy Central. Jason is a Business Development Executive at West Monroe, working in the East Coast Energy and Utilities Group. Jason is joined in the podcast booth by the producer of the podcast, Matt Chester, who is also the Community Manager of Energy Central and energy analyst/independent consultant in energy policy, markets, and technology.  

If you want to be a guest on a future episode of the Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Podcast, let us know! We'll be pulling guests from our community members who submit engaging content that gets our community talking, and perhaps that next guest will be you! Likewise, if you see an article submitted by a fellow Energy Central community member that you'd like to hear about in more detail, feel free to send us a note to nominate them. To contact us, email Podcast interviews are free for Expert Members and professionals who work for a utility. We have package offers available for solution providers and vendors.


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