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January 21, 2010

Strengthening the Island's Power Base

An editorial column published in the Alameda Sun in the January 21, 2010 edition.

by Girish Balachandran

Last January, soon after deciding to sell the telecom business, the Public Utilities Board set a new course for the City’s municipal utility.  It approved a new name, a purpose statement, and ten strategies and five value metrics that would underlie a refocus on the core electric business.  Customer satisfaction and community value were the primary metrics by which Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) was to measure its progress.

 At that time, it was clear 2009 would be the first year of a major transition.  Now, a year into AMP’s resurgence, I invite you to attend the Board’s 2010 Annual Planning Workshop to be held Monday, January 25, at 4:00 p.m. at the AMP Service Center, 2000 Grand Street, when the Board will review our progress from last year, engage in a dialogue to evaluate future risks and opportunities, and provide strategic direction to AMP.

So, what can we anticipate for the future?

The electric utility industry is going through another phase of rapid evolutionary change at the global, national, and local levels.  This change is being driven by climate regulation, rapid energy technology improvements, and increased customer expectations.  Advances in renewable power, Smart Grid, electric vehicle adoption, and a hyper-connected customer base will impact us.  At the same time, we have a skilled workforce shortage and a depressed economy.  This leads to a landscape that has many risks and opportunities.  These changes will influence - sooner or later - in deep-seated ways, our internal and external operating environment.   It has the potential to impact all aspects of providing electricity.

As we look out at this landscape, we are confident that we know what needs to be done and how to do it.  But things change. Do current business strategies and operational procedures meet current and future needs and demands? Are they continuing to add value to our customers and the community?  Will they tomorrow? Are we, both as an organization and as individuals, growing and preparing for inevitable change?

Seneca, the Roman philosopher from mid-1st century AD said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”  The Workshop will continue an ongoing conversation with the Board related to these future strategic issues.  With dialogue comes alignment.  And through alignment comes the ability to respond to our risks and opportunities in the most effective manner possible.  The Workshop provides a means for linking Board policies with strategic initiatives.  It allows for thoughtful reactions to a changing utility environment.  It provides an opportunity for the prioritization of limited resources and a balanced application of assets and capabilities.  And it ensures effective communication and sound development of goals and work plans. The Workshop will address the expectations of our stakeholders – our 34,000 customers, our City organization, and our employees.

I look forward to seeing you on the 25th and engaging with all of you on how to best provide service excellence in the New Year.