Welcome Cindy Miller: New Expert in the Utility Management Community - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Expert Interview]Posted to Energy Central in the Utility Management Group
- Jan 28, 2021 1:16 pm GMT
The utility industry is an exceedingly complex one, and that’s not something that would or should come as a surprise to anyone. With the grid being so vast and vital, operators taking a hold of the necessary parts across the country, and an ever-evolving landscape of regulations, policies, markets, and even stakeholders, it’s enough to make your mind spin.
But latching onto the insights and advice that come from experts within the utility industry can be key, and that’s where Energy Central’s Network of Experts shines. As we add new experts to the network, we always love to introduce them to you so you can see the true value of your peers in the Energy Central Community and recognize how, where, and when you can take advantage of these invaluable thought leaders. Recently, we had the pleasure of adding Cindy Miller to that network. Cindy is an independent consultant bringing her decades of experience in utilities, telecoms, and associated regulatory bodies to the table. To kick off her stay at Energy Central, we invited her to participate in the Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’
Matt Chester: What’s your background as it pertains to the utility industry, how did you get involved in the sector, and what are your main areas of focus today?
Cindy Miller: I was an attorney at the Florida Public Service Commission for 30 years, primarily working on complex energy rulemakings. For example, I worked on a Renewable Portfolio Standard rulemaking and ones on net metering and cogeneration. I also drafted comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the Florida Commission’s consideration and intervened in some Federal cases. Lastly, for a couple of years, I headed a division of 16 people called External Affairs. We prepared analyses of Congressional and Florida legislative bills and actions on energy. I spoke at more than 200 Florida Public Service Commission Internal Affairs meetings.
I also handled telecommunications rulemakings, analyzed decisions of the Federal Communications Commissions, and prepared presentations on the Telecommunications Act.
I became involved in the utility industry when I was selected as a Florida Senate intern. When they hired me, they said I would become their electric utility rate structure expert. I was skeptical, but I became totally engrossed in electric issues. From then on, I focused primarily on energy issues.
My main areas of focus now are on energy issues at both the Florida and Congressional level. I recently drafted an article about the use of microgrids in disaster-prone states like Florida. I also served as President of the Southern Chapter, Energy Bar Association, and we put on programs.
The South Carolina Public Service Commission hired me to prepare a report and presentation on the issues presented by the South Carolina Energy Freedom Act. The research focused on how states in the region were approaching issues on net metering, interconnection, integrated resource planning and competitive procurement of renewables.
MC: What would you say were the most important aspects of how the utility industry works that you took away from your time with the PSC and how does that inform how you approach the industry today?
CM: When I worked at the Florida Public Service Commission, the utilities were the dominant player in the energy industry. In the last five years, after forming my consulting firm, I have watched a huge transformation of the industry. The rise of distributed energy and many players has created a new paradigm. I can appreciate the concerns in the industry better now that I am outside the regulatory field.
MC: Are there strategies that leaders in telecom are using that the power sector would be wise to learn from?
CM: Dr. Mark Jamison, who heads the University of Florida Public Utility Research Center, has written extensively on this topic. However, he once said that whatever the people in telecom thought would occur during the transition would always turn out to be wrong. He has emphasized the need for innovation with IT playing a central role. “This requires embracing entrepreneurship within and engaging with entrepreneurs without, taking risks, and creating freedom for employees to experiment and fail.”
MC: When you look towards the next 5-10 years in the industry, what has you the most excited? What about the most concerned?
CM: The new empowerment of customers is exciting to me. Years ago, customers seemed much more passive. Now, they want to understand their bills and what they can do. It is also exciting to see the companies embrace the solar technology.
A concern is the ability of the current paradigm to continue. In one way or another, it seems important for the next 5-10 years that there be stability until all the technology can truly alter that approach. Disruptors are on the horizon that could move away from the current utility paradigm. Ultimately, those disruptors should be a good thing for customers, but the transition looks difficult.
MC: What is it about Energy Central that compelled you to get involved and integrated with the community? And what should community members look forward to you bringing to the table as our newest expert?
CM: I was impressed with the wide community of people on Energy Central. It seems to offer a broader platform for gaining new information and for people to offer insights. I have been primarily focused on Florida energy matters in the last 30 years and look forward to having more of a macro picture. I appreciate a range of viewpoints as well. Also, I like the friendliness of the platform.
Thanks so much to Cindy Miller for joining me in this interview and for her joining as a Utility Management expert in the Energy Central community. When you see Cindy engaging with content around Energy Central, be sure to say hi, ask a question, and make her feel welcome!
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