Thursday, 29 September 2011

Chris Knudsen to leave PG&E

The utility industry is losing one of our best thought leaders in grid modernization - at least for the time being.  Chris came to the utility industry and PG&E with a background in communications, business and venture capital - not your standard utility guy pedigree.  With that background came a unique skill set and view of infrastructure that truly helped the industry foster new ideas on how we need to apply advanced communications, sensing and control technologies to modernize and extract more value from electric power infrastructure.  Chris has been a leader in developing utility technology development laboratories within the utility to ensure that he and his team were in a position to understand all of the technology they are considering for grid modernization and consumer empowerment.  Most other industries do this as a matter of doing business but utilities have been notoriously behind the curve in this regard.  Utilities have often relied upon vendors to tell them what they need rather than utilities developing the necessary requirements and technology understanding to more directly specify what they need.  Several utilities under the leadership of key thought leaders like Chris have managed to turn this trend around in recent years.  Southern California Edison (SCE) was probably the first and Chris the most recent.

As I write this is occurs to me that it is striking that several of our most influential thought leaders have left or about to leave their respective utilities - Paul De Martini (SCE), Wayne Longcore (Consumers Energy), Brent Hodges (Reliant Energy), Scott Blackburn (FPL) and now Chris Knudsen.  I sure hope this is not a trend indicating that that dynamic, bright, and well spoken individuals are not able to accomplish their business and professional objectives in a utility environment - that would be most unfortunate.  We need leaders such as Chris and the others I mentioned to help us transform our industry in all aspects necessary to ensure that we modernize our aging infrastructure.  We need that transformation to occur before it begins to fail more often and in time to support new energy sources before energy prices skyrocket due to neglect and expensive last minute fixes.

I have had the pleasure to work with Chris Knudsen for a couple of years now in several roles - I turned over the reins of the chairmanship of OpenSG group under the UCAIug to Chris and have worked with him closely as secretary to move that organization forward under his leadership.  I have also had the pleasure to work for Chris as a contractor to provide PG&E engineering services developing an enterprise architecture framework and approach to support smart grid application evolution.  I am pleased to learn that Chris will be continuing in his OpenSG chairman role and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.  I hope we see him in another role in our industry where his intellect, experience, and leadership can be best utilized.

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