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Announcing the 2021 Energy Central Innovation Champions

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Audra Drazga's picture
Vice President of The Power Industry Network Energy Central

I am the VP of the Energy Central Power Industry Network.  In this role, I help to connect professionals in the power industry through the development and management of topic-specific community...

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  • Apr 28, 2021 12:15 pm GMT
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This item is part of the Special Issue - 2021-04 - Leaders In Innovation, click here for more

In early February, Energy Central dispatched our second annual call for nominations for power professionals leading the way in Innovation. We asked our community to nominate leaders who they thought were charging the path for rapid evolution across the sector today-- explicitly looking for those who carry the necessary attitudes to adapt to change while embracing and encouraging new ideas. 

The response was overwhelming, making it challenging for the Energy Central Community Team and our Review Committee of industry thought leaders-- selected from among our Energy Central Network of Experts-- to narrow the list of nominees to the final six Champions of Innovation. This Review Committee was made up of John BensonDick Brooks, Vanessa Edmonds, Rao Konidena, Katherine Johnson, and Stu McCafferty

Energy Central wishes to especially thank these six experts for sharing their valuable time in reviewing and providing feedback on the submissions from the leading peers in this industry. We couldn't have done this process without you!

After our Review Committee read through and rated each of our eligible nominees, Energy Central was able to narrow down the list to 6 Champions and 5 Honorable Mentions who have earned the title of 2021 Energy Central Leaders in Innovation in the Electric Power Industry.

The Champions have each participated in an exclusive interview that was put together in a highlight reel of ‘Leader in Innovation in the Electric Power Industry’ profile articles. Those articles can be found linked following their name and bio below.

In no particular order, our Champions are as follows:

  • Vicki Kuo, Vice President of Energy Efficiency and Distributed Resource Planning at Con Edison; nominated for her key role played in Con Edison's leadership towards the clean energy transition, including energy efficiency and demand management programs, electric vehicle infrastructure rollout, and a decarbonization-focused electric distribution architecture.
  • Curtis Wynn, President & CEO of Roanoke Cooperative and Subsidiaries; nominated for innovative programs in the low-income and rural utility space that found unique ways to share customers money, preserve local resources, and piloting new technology programs that are focused on benefitting his customer base above all else. 
  • Xiaochuan Luo, Manager at ISO New England; nominated for the innovation he's shepherded along in the cloud computing area of the power industry, including the sector's first cloud based computational environment for transmission planning and operations simulations. 
  • Erika Bierschbach, VP of Energy Market Operations & Resource Planning at Austin Energy; nominated for the leadership shown in launching the Reduce Emissions Affordability for Climate Health (REACH) program that created innovative new opportunities to drop emissions across the utility's customer base. 
  • Branndon Kelley, Senior Vice President of Technology & Chief Information Officer at American Municipal Power; nominated for his key role in AMP's internal IT transformation and embrace of forward-looking cybersecurity management programs. 
  • Ben Ettlinger, Analyst of Emerging Technologies at NYPA; nominated for his vast and varied innovation in data analytics and the discovery of emerging technologies that help keep NYPA's IT and R&D sights forward on the future. 

We encourage you to read more about these leaders in the community and the ingenious ways in which they have infused Innovation into the utility industry. By reading about their experiences, hearing the lessons they had to learn the hard way, and even asking questions about their projects, we can all benefit even more from the example they've set: so don't be shy and make these Special Issue Interviews a participation sport-- jump into the comments to share your congratulations, comment on what your utility is doing that's similar, and ask your burning questions that we'll be sure to have the Innovation Champions come back and answer for you!

While narrowing down to the six Champions of Innovation was indeed tough, we also had so many other worthy nominees that we wanted to call out a few more for the great work they're doing, recognizing them as Honorable Mentions: 

  • Rudy Shankar, Director of Energy Systems Engineering at Lehigh University; for his innovations in the world of energy measuring, instrumentation, training practices, and more. 
  • Peggy Flannery, Principal with Generate Capital; for her work bringing Community Solar and other distributed projects to New York. 
  • Jaclyn Whiteman, Sr. Project Manager at Duke Energy; for her work deploying battery, solar, and microgrid projects in support of carbon reduction goals. 
  • William Ellis, Vice President of Government and External Affairs at Pepco, An Exelon Company; for his work across the utility that includes EV programs, home energy efficiency programs, and more. 
  • Josh Gould, Director of Innovation at Duquesne Light; for his work standing up an Innovation Program at the utility and instilling innovative culture. 

Congratulations to all who have been recognized. Energy Central is extremely eager to see your transformative ideas continue to shape the future of the sector. And thank you to everyone who was involved in this process—from the winners and other nominees to those who did the nominating to the review Committee to each and every member of the Energy Central Community who continues to foster the necessary mindset towards new thinking and sharing lessons learned across the industry with your peers!

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PJ Davis's picture
PJ Davis on Apr 27, 2021

Well done nominees!

Stuart McCafferty's picture
Stuart McCafferty on Apr 27, 2021

Congratulations to all the Champions and Honorable Mentions!  Exciting stuff happening in the energy industry.

Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Apr 27, 2021

Congratulations to all of the innovation champions and runner ups. Totally deserving!

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Apr 29, 2021

Amazing people. Congratulations.

Rachael Lewis's picture
Rachael Lewis on May 4, 2021

Congratulations to everyone chosen as a leader in Innovation for 2021 by our panel of industry experts!

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