If the rapid pace of change in the utility industry has become almost a clichéd topic, it is because trying to assess and manage it is a constant challenge across large, small, investor-owned and public power providers alike. So don’t expect attendees at the 37th annual Utility Energy Forum to run out of things to say about this year’s theme, “Change is the Only Constant – Customers, Policy and Technology.”
Over three days, utility managers and marketers, customer service professionals, program developers, facility managers and industry allies will tackle that theme from many perspectives. The agenda covers the broad categories of policy, strategic planning, technology, customer programs and workforce development.
The opening keynote by Seth Kiner, managing director at Charlotte Street Advisors, delves into the many shifts underway in the industry and what they mean for utilities, policy makers and electricity customers. Kiner will also explore how energy providers are evolving to meet the needs of consumers, regulators and stakeholders.
Sessions will explore topics such as electric vehicles, building retro-commissioning, window coverings and partnering with specific market segments. As always, WAPA customers play a prominent role in hosting panels and presenting. Roseville Electric will discuss its revamped residential new construction program, formerly known as Best Home. Burbank Water and Power will explain how teaming up with a gas utility encouraged conservation of water, electricity and gas, all at the same time. Sacramento Municipal Utility District will talk about the Coalition for Home Electronics Energy Reduction, a collaborative effort to cut U.S. home entertainment energy consumption by 10 terawatt-hours annually by 2020.
Speaking of utilities, you won’t want to miss the Pre-Forum Workshop, for power providers and government representatives only. Registrants took a survey and voted on the questions they most wanted to address in this year’s roundtable discussion. The top questions are:
- What is the value of energy storage for customers, utilities and the grid?
- What beyond-the-meter services is your utility considering?
- What hurdles are your utility encountering with integrating and managing more energy efficiency in your resource mix?
Make new friends, partners
In addition to the sessions, the forum offers many opportunities for attendees to compare notes, brainstorm, ask each other questions and come up with new answers together.
The Utility Stand-up Challenge is a fast-moving poster session during which attendees can visit up to six storyboards detailing utility-sponsored energy programs or research. Storyboard presenters have up to five minutes (seven with Q&A) to share their program’s goals, successes and lessons learned. A bell rings, attendees choose another storyboard and the clock starts again.
Networking breaks, receptions and meals provide more chances to mingle and chat. The ever-popular “Any Port in a Storm” wine tasting event will be back on Thursday night.
Different venue, same high quality
In keeping with the theme of change this year, the UEF is moving to a new home at the Hilton Sonoma in Santa Rosa, California. The hotel is located in the heart of the California wine country, near historic locations.
The nearest airport is the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, just three miles from the hotel. The largest airports are San Francisco International Airport and the Metropolitan Oakland International Airport, both 65 miles away. The Sonoma County Airport Express provides scheduled shuttle service between San Francisco or Oakland airports to the Sonoma County Airport for $34 each way. You can use a taxi, Uber or Lyft to get to the hotel from the Sonoma County Airport.
One of the great things about the Utility Energy Forum that hasn’t changed is its all-inclusive registration fee. You get all your meals and two nights in a standard room for one price. There is an add-on fee for additional nights if you decide to stick around for the weekend and enjoy wine country.
There are also opportunities to get your name in front of your colleagues through sponsorship, event hosting and exhibiting. Several packages come with multiple conference registrations, so they are a good value if your organization plans on sending more than one representative.
Another thing that has stayed the same about the Utility Energy Forum is that representatives from WAPA’s Energy Services will be attending. We look forward every year to meeting our customers in person, and we hope to see you there.