Welcome H. Christine Richards: New Expert in the Utility Management Community - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Expert Interview]
- Jun 1, 2021 12:50 pm GMT
The utility industry is navigating into unchartered waters in many ways right now and in the coming years: digital technologies, the era of the prosumer, clean energy mandates, and so much more. In light of these grand evolutions across the landscape, leaders who have their fingers on the pulse of the industry are more important than ever.
To ensure you’re informed about the latest developments and can get your questions answered by the leading voices across the power sector, Energy Central continues to add exciting voices to our Network of Experts, including the ever-important area of utility business considerations via the Utility Management Group.
Today, I’m happy to welcome to that Network of Experts H. Christine Richards, Managing Consultant at Guidehouse. As she gets ready to dive in and provide top-level insights to you, I was fortunate enough to get Ms. Richards to agree to an interview as a part of the Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’
Matt Chester: The goal of these interviews is to allow our members a real chance to get to know you and your expertise so they know what topics you’ll be ready to chime in on. So to start broadly, can you share a bit about the work you do today and the path that led you there?
H. Christine Richards: Over the years of my research and events work, I’ve talked with utility executives to understand what the future of energy looks like. I kept hearing bold visions, particularly when it comes to decarbonization, but not seeing things move as fast as our world needs them to move.
Many utilities have announced significant greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050. What I’m finding is that the actions today aren’t enough to get them there—particularly that last 20%. Utilities can see a path to 80%, replacing coal power with natural gas, for example, but facing a dizzying number of options to achieve the remaining reductions—from fleet electrification to hydrogen. So that’s where I am now—working at Guidehouse to simplify and accelerate decarbonization, and ultimately make it happen.
MC: You’ve done great work in each of the 3 D’s—decarbonization, digitalization, and decentralization. What lessons have you learned about these interconnected goals that you think should inform other people looking to help transform the utility sector?
HCR: Yes, I spent many years on digitalizing energy, which, through things like advanced metering, enabled energy’s decentralization. Then decarbonization began to overlay these efforts. It wasn’t just about tracking kilowatt-hours of decentralized energy efforts anymore, but the emissions implications as well. As we see decarbonization become further embedded in utilities, it is going to be critical for utilities to effectively track their decarbonization efforts, understand the emissions impacts of their programs, and ultimately measure and verify the progress they’re making. Which brings us back to digitalization. The work is just beginning, but the key lesson so far is that the digitalization of decarbonization efforts will be critical to understanding and managing their impacts.
MC: Much of your work today focuses on energy cloud transformation. What exactly is it and why is it an important area of focus at the moment?
HCR: As Guidehouse’s Energy Cloud 4.0: Capturing Business Value through Disruptive Energy Platform best defines it, the Energy Cloud is all about moving toward a multidirectional network of networks and away from a linear hub-and-spoke model. This system will support two-way energy flows in which customer choice (optionality), clean energy, innovation, and agility command a premium. This is important because it shakes up the roles that everyone plays in generating, delivering, and consuming energy. The biggest question I see is: What role do utilities want to play in this cloud? There are new business models and opportunities up for grabs, but utilities and their regulators will have to work together to define what those opportunities are for utilities.
MC: As someone researching the utility industry from an outside perspective, meaning you’re on the consultancy side, what’s one aspect of the way utilities are run that you think can most benefit from adjustment? What advice would you give those sitting in the utility C-Suite?
HCR: On the decarbonization front, it is important for utilities to remember that their customers and suppliers are on the same journey. While electric utilities can reduce much of their GHG emissions through changing their generation sources, their customers and suppliers are critical partners in the decarbonization journey. What role does your utility want to play? How much do you want to help your customers achieve their own decarbonization goals and targets? Utilities often focus on the Scope 2 emissions of their customers but are not thinking about the larger role they can play in helping customers managing other parts for their decarbonization journey.
MC: What’s the main takeaway you hope you can impart to the Energy Central community as our newest expert? What value do you hope to bring to the community and what’s you’re parting message?
HCR: I’d ask members “What is your role in the energy transition?” This is important to consider and define, and I spoke much about the role of utilities, but this is important for all players in the space. Given all that, I’m just looking forward to some good conversations.
Thanks to H. Christine Richards for joining me for this interview and for providing a wealth of insights an expertise to the Energy Central Community. You can trust that she will be available for you to reach out and connect, ask questions, and more as an Energy Central member, so be sure to make her feel welcome when you see him across the platform.
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