Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Accordingly, a 'genius' is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.
- Thomas Edison
The Power of Opportunity: EEI's Annual Convention


By Jon T. Brock, President, Desert Sky Group, LLC

Reprinted with permission from the Smart Grid RoadShow

August 23, 2011


Every year the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) holds a convention to explore issues facing the electric industry from a shareholder-owned electric company perspective.   Founded in 1933, EEI members serve 95 percent of the ultimate customers in the shareholder-owned segment of the industry, and represent approximately 70 percent of the U.S. electric power industry.  This year’s event was hosted at the Broadmoor in beautiful Colorado Springs, CO and the theme was “The Power of Opportunity.”

Thomas Edison, the founder of the electric industry and the namesake of the organization is quoted to have said that “opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  EEI has connected Edison’s original remarks to this year’s event claiming that “dressed in overalls,” the electric industry is seizing the power of opportunity by investing more than $80 billion annually to build the electric energy system of the future.  EEI also reminds it members that the production, distribution and use of electricity are undergoing a major transformation through innovation and increased use of smart technologies.

A keynote from a non-industry executive opened the event.  Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge shared his thoughts on managing corporate risk in light of recent global developments.  Ridge shared the importance of breaking down silos.  Comparing to his experience at the Department of Homeland Security, he discussed the differences between a “need to know” culture versus a “need to share” culture.  The “need to know” culture existed in various organizations that included the likes of the Department of Defense, FBI, CIA, and the NSA.  The “need to share” culture existed in the newly formed Homeland Security Department which was trying to bring information from the various organizations that had previously operated under the “need to know” mantra.  Ridge stressed the importance of breaking down silos, incorporating transparency and honesty into the culture of a company, and speaking with one voice.  He closed with his own thoughts that the two most strategic industries in the economic recovery period that we live in today are the financial services and the electric industries from a risk point of view.     

Without covering every session in detail, the main theme that was echoed by many panelists was the need for a comprehensive energy policy.  The breakout sessions themselves included topics on solar, wind, electric transportation, regulatory issues, smart grid, nuclear generation, environmental issues, and customer needs and wants.  Many stressed the lack of a comprehensive energy policy as a major issue that needed to be addressed.  Most agreed on the need to price carbon, although differed on how to price carbon.  Most agreed that a new energy policy needed to include multiple industries.  The industries specifically targeted were utilities, oil/gas, and transportation.  Indeed, Chevy was in attendance touting its new Volt and many discussed how the introduction of EVs and PHEVs would impact their transmission/distribution grids.

The direction voiced by many at the EEI Annual Convention was one of comprehensive energy policy.  If we are going to tackle the environment and energy security, then oil/gas, utility, and the transportation sectors will be heavily involved.  Not only must we knock down the silos that exist within our industry, be it generation, transmission, distribution, customer service, but we also need to find ways to work with the oil/gas and transportation industries.  A comprehensive national energy policy would go a long way in making that happen.


Jon Brock is President of utility and energy advisor Desert Sky Group, LLC.  Jon is also a member of the SGRS Program Advisory Committee. He can be reached at

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)