Arizona Public Service (APS) CIO Ted Geisler—a self-proclaimed “utility guy”—loves the difference he makes every day working at a utility, but rather than coloring his vision, that adoration only seems to make his planning for the future more pragmatic.
In our short chat with him a few weeks ago, we talked about his devotion to his utility and his chosen industry (read more on that here), as well as how he and APS are tackling the big, big task of future-proofing.
While APS (and other utilities around the globe) are centering on customers while planning, Geisler recommends they all keep an eye on evolving issues as well—a dual approach that has customer satisfaction as a foundational mission but allows for some flexibility in how to make that mission happen.
One spot Geisler sees really evolving in new ways is the market, which he believes will include “both an expansion of the Western wholesale market as well as a gradual shift from static rate schedules to more dynamic retail pricing.”
That evolution, though, is still customer-centric, as it would allow better, smarter customer interactions and more detailed compensation, too.
“But all of that will require new technology, new automation and an entirely new interface between the customer and the grid,” he added.
APS is approaching that new technology and new automation required with three basic questions in mind: What will customers need? What technology will be required to make those needs a reality, and how do we ensure that technology will serve us well under a number of future possibilities?
To answer those questions, APS started by taking a very measured approach, making sure to invest in resiliency and proven platforms and technology that won’t get them “too far out over our skis,” as Geisler put it.
They’ve also invested in human capabilities and capital to supplement that tech approach, gaining knowledge with new pilots and approaches they can work on in the community that can create expertise to be used across-the-board later. With a pilot microgrid on a local airbase, they answered all three questions at once and got that bonus of developing internal knowledge for future tech. (Geisler called this four-layered win “the greatest outcome.”)
To help with that measured approached to balancing tech and human capital, Geisler pointed out the power of collaboration, which is where vendors like us here at Oracle Utilities come into the bigger future picture.
“Partnerships are becoming increasingly critical in our ability to deliver service to our customers. We’re often guilty—all of us—of not understanding the importance of embracing these relationships and being on the front end of the development and build, of collectively working on value,” he commented.
He added, “It’s our job to be the stewards of a secure and enabled power grid, and we’ve only scratched the surface on how to do that and do that well. It’s going to require a substantial advancement in our partnerships to help further define just what that looks like and how we get to that more advanced, more efficient place.”
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