Future Energy Conference: Five trends that are 'stressing out' the PUC's Susan Ackerman

Oregon PUC's Susan Ackerman encouraged younger workers to hang around in their jobs longer in order to take

Susan Ackerman told Future Energy Conference attendees to expect big changes through technology advances and a coming wave of retirees.

Susan Ackerman, the chair of the Oregon Public Utility Commission, told Future Energy Conference attendees this morning she has five things on her mind.

They’re “stressors” that, as Ackerman said during her Tuesday morning keynote address, will shape the way users view utilities and businesses.

Here’s what Ackerman told Conference attendees at the meeting in North Portland:

1. Rapidly advancing technology is “evolving our infrastructure at all levels into an intelligent, communicating and almost infinitely more complex system than the one we have now.”

Ackerman noted that it’s been 40 years since the first cellular phone was made. In the ensuing four decades, the fax machine came and went, smaller microchips appeared and mobile computing became ubiquitous.

Now, technology has come to electricity.

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“From production and delivery to system management and consumer interfaces, the industries are being revolutionized by communications, the microchip and advanced computational tools,” Ackerman said. “Will we see the same level of change in electricity as we did in telecommunications? I think we will. It won’t be the same. The industries still have some fundamental differences. And, there are regional differences in electricity that will affect the pace of change differently. But the phenomenon of technology and its impact on the electricity sector and energy consumers is here.”

Utilities must take advantage of the systems’ added intelligence.

“This will likely require a new process orientation, new culture, a new understanding of customers, and even perhaps a new type of employee,” she said.

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