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Top Voices in the Energy Central Community for 2021 – EnergyBiz® Network

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Matt Chester's picture
Energy Analyst Chester Energy and Policy

Official Energy Central Community Manager of Generation and Energy Management Networks. Matt is an energy analyst in Orlando FL (by way of Washington DC) working as an independent energy...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Dec 13, 2021
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Energy Central strives to be the go-to platform for utility industry professionals to share what they are working on, to learn from their peers in the power sector, and to collaborate 24/7, 365 with the leading voices in the world of energy. We put a lot of effort behind different avenues in which engagement and learning actively takes place: from our Special Issue Series to our regular Q&A sections featuring answers from community experts to our Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast and so much more.

But the obvious truth is this: none of that would matter without the intelligent, active, and excited community that's built this platform into what it is! This wouldn't happen without you, whether you're a daily contributor or an occasional reader. 

To celebrate the importance of our community members in making Energy Central the powerhouse that it is, the Energy Central Community Team wanted to once again recognize the members on Energy Central who went above and beyond—frequently sharing news and content, reliably starting conversations across the site, and providing genuinely high-value contributions.

Each day this week, we’ll be publishing an article highlighting the Top Voice of 2021 for each of our 6 Networks. As part of this recognition, some of those recognized were kind enough to answer some quick questions to highlight what they found valuable in the sector in 2021, their predictions for the year ahead, and even just peeling back the curtain to get to know them more personally. I hope you enjoy!

So, with that, thank you and congratulations to the following Top Voices in the EnergyBiz Network in 2021!

See other entries in this series: 

 

Russ Hissom - Owner, Utility Accounting Education Specialists

Link to Russ’s Profile

Recommended submission from Russ: Electric vehicle charging subscription rates? Is there an app for that?

 

What has been the most compelling utility-focused story, in your opinion, this year?

I think the industry-changing story is the continued move to renewables and progress of battery technology. I think the change may not come as fast as some think, but the linchpin to success is battery technology.

What do you get personally and professionally out of your time spent sharing on Energy Central?

I enjoy learning about areas where my knowledge base is thin. I also enjoy posting, my goal is to pass along knowledge I’ve gained in my work experience, and I do enjoy being called out once in a while to make the materials posted deeper, instead of scratching the surface.

 

What area in energy and utilities do you hope gets more focus in 2022?

The electric business is facing a workforce crisis, as the workforce ages. 25% of industry members are age 55-64. Before they go off to enjoy their well deserved retirements, we need to train the next generation of industry members. This is in the face of many other industries being in the same boat. The goal is to make the industry attractive and provide the necessary training and incentives for electric industry members to want to stay in the business.

 

Mark Wilkinson - SVP Products, Ibex Digital

Link to Mark’s Profile

Recommended submission from Mark: Trends and Observations from CS Week 2021

What do you get personally and professionally out of your time spent sharing on Energy Central?

For me, Energy Central has been a great way for me to keep track of the key themes  and issues affecting our clients and their customers, which helps me prepare our solutions and our teams to engage and align more effectively with our utility and energy clients.  Personally, I appreciate the chance to build networks and connections with people across the industry with whom I may not otherwise have connected, especially during COVID when so much business travel has been restricted.  It’s fun to engage on the message boards and in response to articles to keep our wits sharp and our facts straight on the topics that matter most to our clients and their customers.  

 

What area in energy and utilities do you hope gets more focus in 2022?

Any kind of technological disruption creates opportunities for bad actors to promote deceptive practices.  Consumers need trusted resources with clear and informative content and credible recommendations to avoid being taken advantage of with scams.  COVID and bill delinquencies created obvious opportunities for criminals to scam customers in fraudulent payment relief scams, and utilities did a great job educating customers to reduce their risk of being victimized.  But, we’ve not yet seen utilities embrace EV and Solar disruption as a way to help educate and inform customers to make the best decisions for them. We all hear stories about unsuspecting customers getting a knock on the door from a salesperson proclaiming the financial benefits of rooftop panels, only to pay thousands of dollars and then learn that they don’t make enough solar power to sell back to the grid, or live in a jurisdiction where sending power to the grid isn’t available.  I’d like to see more coverage and playbooks for utilities to help their customers avoid these scams and make informed decisions about solar and EV charging options that make sense for them.  Only electric utilities really have the option to be a credible and independent voice about facts and recommendations to help customers in need, but they often may not have the right plans and playbooks to deliver those insights.   We think it’s a great opportunity for utilities to amplify the value of their trusted advisor capacity and connect better with customers interested in those options at a time of great disruption and difficulty finding the truth.

Is there a post, piece of content, or discussion Energy Central that you're most proud of? 

I probably posted more responses or questions about other members articles this year than produced my own content, but I did appreciate the series about best practices for utilities to adapt and overcome the pandemic related challenges.  Our vantage point gives ibex a unique perspective on COVID related disruption from how companies engage customers to shifting to a work@home or hybrid business operation, or dealing with crisis scenarios with customers.  I appreciated being able to bring a perspective to that dialogue and see how the community was so open to sharing ideas with one another.  It’s a rare industry that shares so cooperatively across the aisle and make us proud to be working with the community.

 

Brian Lindamood - Vice President, Marketing & Content Strategy - Questline, Inc.

Link to Brian’s Profile

Recommended submission from Brian: How to Make Energy Education Fun for Customers

What area in energy and utilities do you hope gets more focus in 2022?

Digital customer engagement will be more important than ever in 2022. More than half the U.S. population is now Millennial generation or younger. The trend is for these customers to be more digitally connected, not less, with all companies they deal with. For energy utilities that means providing a seamless and frictionless digital experience across all digital platforms, from service starts and bill payments to outage alerts to efficiency programs and energy education.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to new members of the Energy Central Community?

Get involved in the discussion! There are a lot of great posts on Energy Central. But you can learn even more, and connect with others in the industry, by commenting on posts and taking part in discussion threads.

Is there a post, piece of content, or discussion on Energy Central that you’re most proud of?

I was proud of my post TOU Rates: How to Ensure Customer Satisfaction & Retention. There's been a lot said about how to introduce time-of-use rates to customers, but there's been much less discussion about how to retain customers once they make the switch. For TOU to succeed it will be critical for customers to understand the rates, take full advantage of them and feel satisfied with the benefits. I was happy to provide that perspective with my post.

 

Dana Borowka - CEO/Founder, Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC

Link to Dana’s Profile

Recommended submission from Dana: Where are you going to get your next generation of employees and how are you going to pass along tribal knowledge?

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to new members of the Energy Central Community? 

These thoughts are for both new and existing members. I think the main focus for 2022 should be on retention. You'll need a specific strategy to keep what you've got. The other is how you are going to recruit top talent and keep them for the long run. In addition, all organizations hsould be using some form of an in-depth workstyle and personality assessment for both hiring and for team b uilding. By putting your focus in these areas, you'll be prepared for the future!

 

 


Congratulations once again to our Top Voices in the EnergyBiz Network, and thanks to all Energy Central Community Members for enabling the community and platform to thrive this year! And keep an eye out for the next Top Voices Articles to come as this week unfolds

Discussions

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Mark Wilkinson's picture
Mark Wilkinson on Dec 20, 2021

Dana makes a great point about retention as we head into 2022.  We all read the news reports about "The Great Resignation," which may be normal during a period of economic expansion, but surely comes at a lousy time when utilities have an aging workforce and will be shifting back to on-premise work as the pandemic recedes.  Utilities seem to be leaning in with retention measures like hybrid work structures and other benefits that the workforce of the future seems to value.  Attracting and retaining top talent requires these and other measures, especially as utilities face continuing challenges with customer engagement, digital transformation, renewable proliferation (and confusion), and transportation electrification, to name just a few.  As companies compete for top talent and that fight gets more fierce, utilities need to hold onto their top people and add depth to those teams to preserve customer experience and delivery quality.  Tough challenges that need more attention and innovative solutions.

Dana Borowka's picture
Dana Borowka on Dec 22, 2021

Mark has brought up some outstanding points that I don’t think the industry has truly looked at over the many years that I’ve mentioned how important it is to put a plan together to address these issues.  A number of years ago I gave a work shop on this topic and the group came up with some amazing ideas but I don’t think they got implemented.  The old guard put up road blocks!  It would be very helpful to hear from energy organizations around the world as to how this issue is being addressed!  

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