As I was waiting for the keynote speeches to begin for the ELECTRIC POWER
Conference yesterday, I noticed something that could be either terrifying or thrilling to a young person attending a huge conference for a complex industry in a major American city. I am 95% confident that the average age of attendees at this conference is approximately 48, with a standard deviation of 10 years. The initial rush of nerves from the realization that I was here to tell a bunch of guys who had more experience at the companies than I have breathing air turned into thrill as I remembered that these people invited me out here.
The industry is in the middle of a transition. The future of the electricity business is not likely to be stable and centralized; the organizations are not likely to be hierarchal and siloed; and people who will retire over the next decade hold most of the knowledge. The electricity industry is looking for innovative solutions from young people willing to work, learn and lead, and to realize a transition. Much like what occurred in telecom a decade ago, the electricity industry is on the brink of change. For an aspirational idealist, this is exhilarating. We EnerNerds have the opportunity to shape one of the key tenants that allows for modern society to function.
The industry has acknowledged that they are struggling to find answers to the questions of what the future will look like and who will be the people to realize that future so they are looking for new intellectual capital to stimulate their businesses. However, electricity is incredibly complex; managing the perfect harmony between electrons produced and consumed for every second of the day while controlling costs is no simple feat. The electricity industry cannot be learned in a year and won’t be disrupted easily. The future won’t be solved with one innovation but by the culmination of thousands that come from a deep understanding of what the problems are. We EnerNerds need to acknowledge that there is a knowledge gap and can stand in to fill it.
I went to a presentation yesterday lead by two HR managers, one from Arizona Public Service (America’s oldest utility) and one from Reclamation (heard of the Hoover Dam? Along with most of America’s hydro, it is owned and operated by them). The two of them were virtually pleading to get young people on board. They each told stories of young leaders, who after only 3 or 4 years, were given top projects in the company reporting to the CEO and presenting to the board of directors. There are exciting opportunities for EnerNerds who understand that it is a two-way street and that we need them as much as they need us.
The electric industry understands it has a diversity problem and is actively looking for an urgent solution. I believe that it is the most important industry in the world and it is about to undergo a drastic change. We can have tremendous positive social and economic impacts on the world by stepping forward in an intimidating industry. EnerNerds have the opportunity to shape the world; we just have to accept the challenge.