The Energy Thought Summit, held this year in Austin, was an amazing opportunity to connect with technology experts and thought leaders in the utilities space, as well as get a strong pulse on where the industry is headed.

The theme of this years’ summit – Designing for Energy – focused the conversation on ways the industry can leverage design and innovative technology solutions to solve many of its complex challenges.

Related: The Impact of Design Thinking on Enterprise Digital Transformation

As a design-led firm focused on digital solutions for the energy industry, the theme of this years’ summit fell precisely in our wheelhouse, so we were really excited to take in all of the sessions and events — as well as the hip vibe of downtown Austin.

Below are a few of the key takeaways we heard from industry leaders and technology experts at ETS17 — and some of our own reflections on the summit.

ETS17 Insights from Thought Leaders and Technology Experts


[su_quote]We’ve stopped talking about ourselves as a utility company, and we now talk about ourselves as an energy transformation company.[/su_quote]

- Mary Powell
President and CEO, Green Mountain Power

[su_quote]The business is changing from a commodity-driven focus to a data-driven focus.[/su_quote]

- Edwin Poot
Founder, Energyworx

[su_quote]We’re an energy company, but at the same time, we’re becoming a technology company too.[/su_quote]

- Matthew Spilman
Market Operations, Direct Energy

[su_quote]The energy grid we have today is clearly not the energy grid we’ll have tomorrow.*[/su_quote]

- Brent Hodges
Internet of things Planning and Product Strategy, Dell

*The speaker further explained his statement by noting a shift from a one-way flow of centrally generated energy to a two-way flow of energy and information

[su_quote]In the future [utility] workforce, … it’s decision based, based upon the data that’s created from … digital devices, and then it’s packaging that data through analytics and decision making, and folks make the decision and know what to do based upon the data — that’s a very different model.[/su_quote]

- Charles King
Vice President & CIO, KCPL

[su_quote]Technology is more attuned to strategy today … it can’t be an after-thought, it has to be a forethought.[/su_quote]

- Gary Hayes
Senior Vice President and CIO, CenterPoint Energy

[su_quote]We will see the wall come down in utilities’ connection to its end customers.[/su_quote]

- Rodger Smith

ETS17 Chis Crane Exelon CEO Exelon CEO Chris Crane at ETS17

[su_quote]Technology is changing in our sector faster than ever before, digitizing, starting with smart meters, and the controls we have on the grid are changing more than before, customer desire to control their own energy management … have required us to continue to change.[/su_quote]

- Chris Crane
President and CEO, Exelon Corporation

[su_quote]The number one thing for us to adapt to the future … is to have the right people.[/su_quote]

- Chris Crane

[su_quote]Customers are the ultimate regulators. It’s important to us to listen what customers tell us.[/su_quote]

- Felecia Etheridge
Chief Customer Engagement Officer, CPS Energy

[su_quote]We want to be a listening company and apply learnings from customers across all of our regions.[/su_quote]

- Terry Sobolewski
Chief Customer Officer, National Grid

ETS17 Recap from ChaiOne


During the conference, our team attended several of the sessions — gaining valuable insights into the industry’s perspective on big data, technology trends, innovation, design and customer experience.

What we found is the industry has some serious challenges ahead, but a great openness to design-led innovation to solve those challenges.

These are our thoughts:

[su_quote]Utilities are taking more of a listening approach to customers as opposed to talking at customers. So, there’s a shift from Chief Marketing Officer to Chief Customer Officer. This is inherently what’s driving the need to innovate is this concept of customer satisfaction and consumer engagement.[/su_quote]

- Stephen Johsnon
Client Partner, ChaiOne

[su_quote]ETS17 was a great event! Decision makers continually stressed the importance of digital innovation across the industry and discussed their successes as well as challenges behind their implementation strategies within their respective companies. Key challenges being how to innovate while overcoming bottlenecks such as antiquated industry practices.[/su_quote]

- Baha Jalalabadi
Business Development, ChaiOne

[su_quote]Industry leaders are very focused on creating a culture of innovation within their organizations — and this was a theme many of the speakers echoed in their presentations. While it’s clear utilities are focused on fostering and attracting young talent, it’s also clear that guidance from the design community would be helpful in refining such initiatives.[/su_quote]

- Kirk Eggleston
Marketing, ChaiOne

Interested in finding out more about innovative solutions for the utilities industry? Read our complimentary eBook, Beyond the Thermostat: Utilities’ Missed Opportunities in the Smart Home Market.