Energy Central Announces: The 2022 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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  • May 23, 2022

This item is part of the Leaders In Innovation - May 2022 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

Earlier this year, we turned to our Energy Central Community Members asking them to nominate professionals in our industry who are leading the way in Innovation. As usual, we had the pleasure of reviewing so many inspiring, jaw-dropping, and creative project submissions. 

It was no easy task to whittle down the submissions to Four Champions and Two Honorable Mentions as our 2022 Innovation Champions in the Electric Power Industry.

Each of the four selected Champions participated in an exclusive interview, sharing their story, with an Energy Central Team member. In no particular order, our Champions are as follows:

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  • Greg Kushnir, Founder & CEO of Emrod is working to bring "innovation to established, process-driven industries like electricity and finance," including the efforts of Emrod to commercialize wireless power transfer in the follow up to Nikola Tesla's dream, but with the 21st-century context.  Link to interview
  • Larry Bekkedahl, Senior Vice President at Portland General Electric, who, according to his nomination, "is setting a high bar for innovation among our nation's utilities," specifically in the efforts he's driving to triple PGE's clean energy resources by 2030 and meet Sustainable Development Goals.  Link to interview
  • Tom Wasik, Vice President of Asset Management at Alectra Utilities, was identified as "playing a major role in turning Alectra's ESG goals and net zero targets into concrete, actionable plans," with successful projects including the Non-Wires Alternative Pilot, the Cityview Microgrid Enhancements, Storm Hardening improvements, and more.  Link to interview
  • Iliana Rentz, Senior Manager of Vegetation Management at Florida Power & Light is, according to her nomination, "driving transformational change not only at the utility but across the industry," specifically with leadership for new remote sensing technology, surveying methods, AI tools, and more to bring GIS and digital twins to FPL's vegetation management program.  Link to Interview

We encourage you to read more about these leaders in the community and the ingenious ways they have infused Innovation into the utility industry. And as always, we invite you to jump into the comments to share your congratulations, comment on what your utility is doing that's similar, and or ask your burning questions that we'll be sure to have the Innovation Champions come back and answer!

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

  • Lon Huber, Vice President of Rate Design and Strategic Solutions at Duke Energy, for his work overseeing the future of rate design at Duke Energy, including projects for EV charging, energy efficiency savings for low-to-moderate-income customers, and more. 
  • Jereme Kent, CEO of One Energy Enterprises, Inc., for his company's work, to deliver the decarbonized distributed grid of tomorrow, including leading efforts in utility-scale wind turbine construction, large industrial power systems, and more. 

Finally, we want to do a shout out to a couple of our Energy Central Experts who participated as part of the review committee in selecting the finalists: Thanks to Paul Gwaltney and Leo St. Hilaire for donating your time and insights in this process-- we could not have done it without you!

Audra C Drazga
VP of The Power Industry Network

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 toward new thinking and sharing lessons learned across the industry with your peers!


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