In my first column as IDEA chair, I mentioned that I would cover four major areas that I thought would help us prepare for the future. The first was focusing on the customer; the second was transferring knowledge; and the third was modernizing existing assets. In this final article, I would like to talk about the future of the energy business. We all need energy to live and work today, whether it's to cook food, heat and cool our living and working spaces, or supply light and power for industry. How we provide and use this energy will be the key to our future as energy providers.
All utilities, regardless of size or system type, are being asked to do more with less. Customers are conserving energy. Regardless of whether this is due to the recession, talk of climate change or wanting to be identified with the green movement, it all boils down to saving dollars. They feel that it is the right thing to do, and there's no going back to the old ways concerning energy waste.
This means that we, as energy providers, must change or lose out in the long run. We must take a closer look at our assets, management practices and data collection, and explore new efficiencies and technologies that will lower costs and provide better information to our customers, stakeholders and ourselves. At the same time, we must evaluate our systems to ensure that we meet or exceed new environmental regulations, which will make the cost of doing business ever greater.
There are several key steps that we can take to achieve cost-effective solutions, starting with a full examination of all facets of our systems. Sound accounting principles and a scientific engineering framework with established baselines will show system deficiencies and suggest corrective actions to improve performance and reduce costs. This will require more than just management's due diligence. We will need to involve everyone in seeking solutions. We will need to empower employees to look for ways to improve efficiency and performance. We will change a culture from what we have always done to one of continuous improvement and pride, and at the same time increase customer satisfaction. We must be able to acknowledge that we don't always have an immediate answer to every problem.
The only way to continue serving our customers - in a manner that they want - is to communicate about major issues that could affect them. This needs to be done up front so that they can provide input and help suggest solutions. It's going back to an old-fashioned community where we all do our share to keep our house in order, while still providing others with information so they can help not only themselves, but us as well. With today's sophisticated information technologies, customers are expecting their energy provider to help them control their energy and reduce their cost. The only thing different today is that they have the option to leave the system and go on their own. Only we can ensure that this is not their ultimate choice.
While it's difficult to imagine that it has been a year since Citizens Thermal proudly hosted the 2010 annual conference, I am looking forward to the 2011 conference being held in Toronto in conjunction with the Canadian District Energy Association. I am confident that our conference host, Enwave Energy Corporation, will provide a fantastic international event. I am also confident that Dennis Fotinos and his crew have gone out of their way to make sure we all enjoy our time in Canada.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge and thank our president, Rob Thornton, and fellow board members for a wonderful job this past year in making IDEA one of the best energy associations in the world. They have done an outstanding job in keeping us informed of the issues affecting all areas of our business.
It will soon be my pleasure to turn the reins over to my friend and colleague Vincent Badali of Con Edison. Vinny has been in the district energy business for many years, and he works at the largest system in the United States. His talent, knowledge, honesty and ability to be forthright in communicating issues will serve this organization well. I have thoroughly enjoyed the past year as chairman and hope to continue to be of service to IDEA in the years ahead.
David Toombs#ChairsCorner #Q2 #2011
IDEA Chair, 2010-2011
Thermal General Manager
Citizens Energy Group