SEPA Power Players Award Winners

Providing industry and general public recognition to utilities, their industry partners, individuals and other stakeholders that are on the front lines of energy industry transformation in the United States.

The awards focus on projects, initiatives and thought leadership that promote collaborative, innovative and replicable models for change by:

  • Expanding knowledge about and access to distributed energy resources
  • Transforming public perceptions and understanding of the electric industry
  • Advancing progress toward an integrated, clean energy future


2018 Power Players Winners

Power Player of the Year

For an individual who, while working at an electric utility or utility organization, has demonstrated above-and-beyond leadership and innovation to significantly advance an integrative perspective of distributed energy resources for utilities, the electric power industry, and for the benefit of the customer.

Alice Jackson | Xcel Energy - Colorado

Alice Jackson was the Xcel point person for their 2016 and 2017 “global settlements” work that brought together 26 stakeholders to create a plan for Xcel and their customers to surpass the state’s 30 percent renewable energy standard by 2020.

Under Alice’s leadership, Xcel has proposed a three-year roadmap to continue providing the clean energy options that customers want and value, in an economical way, while ensuring an electric grid that is safe and reliable for all.

In an August 15, 2016 filing with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, Xcel Energy and 22 of 26 intervenors agreed, in total or in part, on a global settlement on three Xcel Energy filings. Those included the company’s Phase II Electric Rate Case, Solar*Connect, and the 2017 Renewable Energy Plan. On November 9, 2016, the CPUC approved this settlement. The decision allows customers more control over their energy choices, brings more renewable and carbon-free energy to Colorado through the use of new technologies, and provides affordable and reliable energy to further power the state’s economy.

Additional talks from that “global settlement” group agreed to a May 2017 Xcel Energy filing with state regulators that one supporter said will help the state’s biggest utility improve the electric grid and save customers energy and money. The settlement agreement focuses on Xcel’s proposal for an “advanced grid intelligence and security” upgrade, including upgrades to the utility’s network of meters and customers’ homes and businesses.

This stakeholder engagement and community building process continues to pay dividends for a clean and modern grid in Colorado.


Utility of the Year

Recognizing Investor-Owned, Public Power and Electric Cooperative utilities that demonstrate leadership through unique or thought-provoking innovation in an effort to significantly advance knowledge of or access to distributed energy resources and expand their value as a resource to help meet the needs of electricity consumers.

Hawaiian Electric Company

The Hawaiian Electric Companies are leading the nation as the companies collectively push toward a 100 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard by 2045. Reaching a consolidated RPS of 27 percent in 2017, Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaiʻi Electric Light are well on the way toward the 30 percent goal for 2020.

To reach these key milestones, the companies’ island grids need to be renewable-ready, and the grid modernization strategy, “Modernizing Hawaiʻi’s Grid For Our Customers,” outlines the companies’ near-term plans to update our grids to integrate more distributed energy resources. The plan was approved by the Hawaiʻi Public Utilities Commission on Feb. 7, 2018.

In developing the grid modernization plan throughout 2017, the companies held discussions with more than 300 people across the state and the U.S., including engineers, energy experts, utility staff, vendors and technologists. The companies also consulted 80-plus residential and commercial customers of Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaiʻi Electric Light, and held town-hall-style public meetings on Maui, Hawaiʻi and Oʻahu to review the plan with customers and receive their comments.

Customer and stakeholder input helped shape the plan, which provides the roadmap to increased adoption of distributed energy resources.

Public Power Utility
Austin Energy

Austin Energy has worked to meet ambitious clean energy goals, add storage, support distributed generation and electric vehicles, and advance customer service offerings. Their 2017 update to the Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan included goals of 65% renewable energy, 950 MW of solar (including 200 MW local solar), and 900 MW energy efficiency and demand response by 2027, 10 MW of non-thermal storage by 2025, and 330 electric vehicles into the city fleet by 2020.

Through the Austin SHINES (Sustainable and Holistic Integration of Energy Storage and Solar PV) Project, Austin Energy is deploying energy storage paired with solar PV at residential, commercial and utility scales.

Austin SHINES is integrating solar, energy storage, smart inverters, electric vehicles, forecasting tools, market signals and advanced communications through a utility integrated software optimization platform. Collectively, these technologies will facilitate the integration of a renewable energy future, and make the grid more resilient.

The project includes solar + storage integrations at the grid-scale, commercial, and residential levels, and is studying value of holistic controls through DERMS with control algorithms that focus on market, reliability, and customer value propositions. Economic modeling methodology and models are being used to determine the differential value of DER. The projects is also comparing ownership and control methodologies – including utility-controlled, autonomous and third-party – to test and prepare for various

future use cases.

Electric Cooperative Utility
Poudre Valley REA

The Solar for All Program (for members with low and moderate incomes) is designed to be revenue positive for participants. There are no out-of-pocket costs and a guarantee that bill not increase due to participation. Eligibility is based on income guidelines by county and household size. The program is estimated to save participants 30% on the energy portion of their bill (does not include fixed costs).

Poudre Valley REA partnered with GRID Alternatives and the Colorado Energy Office to build a 1.95 MWp array outside of Fort Collins that finished construction in September, 2017.

PVREA’s project was unique for involving a specific low and moderate income component. As part of this, the array was completed as a partnership between 3 different organizations. Each of the 3 project partners played a distinct role in the project:

  • Colorado Energy Office: Partial funding organization and project oversight;
  • GRID Alternatives: LMI program design, EPC, workforce training program, and O&M;
  • PVREA: Financing, land acquisition and siting, interconnection, billing, subscription management, and outreach.


Innovative Partner of the Year

This category recognizes a non-utility partner for a unique method, project, leadership, or innovation that has aided in the expansion of or access to distributed energy resources while working with one or more utilities.

Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company

MMWEC’s Emerging Technologies Initiative represents an innovative partnership with its member municipal utilities to integrate distributed energy resources (DERs) and related technologies into municipal distribution systems efficiently and economically. Through this initiative, MMWEC works with individual member utilities to implement specific DER projects and programs, providing customized services to analyze, plan, finance, install and operate various DER initiatives. These initiatives include several energy storage projects that either combine with microgrid infrastructure to provide resilience benefits and/or provide solar storage capacity that enables additional solar development. As part of this process, MMWEC applied for and received several grants on behalf of its members, including state grants for three energy storage systems and the purchase and installation of LED streetlights in 15 member systems, as well as a federal grant to help finance hybrid battery/diesel bucket trucks to reduce GHG emissions at four utilities.

MMWEC partnered with one of its member utilities, the Sterling Municipal Light Department, to develop and implement new peak load projection and remote dispatch services that have enabled the utility to achieve significant savings with its energy storage/microgrid project. Importantly, the partnership with Sterling clearly demonstrated the value of these new services, which are being integrated with DER projects in other member utilities.

MMWEC also is using its unique tax-exempt financing authority to finance its members’ DER projects through a Pooled Loan Program that aggregates individual financing requirements to reduce overall project costs.


Visionary of the Year

This category is for dynamic and prominent groups or individuals that are imagining and inspiring how the electric industry envisions the future of clean energy, which may not have brought results to fruition yet.

Walter W. Haase | General Manager, Navajo Tribal Utility Authority

In 2008, Walter W. Haase arrived on the Navajo Nation as the General Manager of the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA), the largest multi-utility system owned and operated by an American Indian tribe. From the time he arrived on the Navajo Nation, his primary objective was to improve the quality of life for people living in a part of the United States where electricity still had not reached an estimated 18,000 homes. When he first arrived, his vast experience in the utility industry, coupled with his professional electrical engineering background reignited the NTUA to become fiscally sound and progressive enough to begin exploring new utility possibilities. Possibilities that required vision.

Two years ago, the focus turned to the imminent closure of a coal-fired power plant. This announcement meant the Navajo Nation needed to prepare for considerable job loss and a significant economic impact. This dire picture included the revenues for the NTUA. Demonstrating clear vision, Walter Haase emphasized enhancing the clean energy initiatives of the Navajo Nation and introducing a green economy. In 2017, under his leadership, the NTUA unveiled the first large-utility scale solar farm on the Navajo Nation. The 27.3 MW Kayenta Solar Project also brought much needed construction jobs to the region, where the unemployment rate is close to 50 percent. During the height of the construction there were 273 employees, 85 percent were Navajo descendants.

Development of renewable energy projects on Native lands is particularly difficult because of the land trust status, which requires following strict tribal and federal regulations/guidelines. Therefore, any utility development on the Navajo Nation requires patience and persistence. It’s too easy to give up and focus on other areas; however, having a leader like Walter Haase, the possibility turned reality. The initial challenge was gaining community support and ensuring access to transmission. NTUA approached numerous small communities; however, were met with disbelief because community residents didn’t believe such a development was possible. To them it was the same old story – the promise of jobs and economic development. Two communities turned NTUA down, leaving the last viable alternative – Kayenta, Arizona. By Navajo law, any project requires the consent of local land permittees. NTUA visited and explained the project to elder Navajo woman who was a permittee. She understood the concept, thereby, understood Haase’s vision. Even though her homestead had no electricity, she supported the project and what it would mean for Navajo Nation. She signed the consent and told her children and grandchildren that the project “was a start for the future.”


Change Agent of the Year

A change agent is a catalyst for transformation. Those who fit this category have examined the results of their catalytic actions and their impact on the direction of the clean energy future.


Nest achieved unprecedented consumer engagement in its Rush Hour Rewards program during the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017 by recruiting 750,000 Nest devices to save 700 MW of energy. Nest offers Rush Hour Rewards to customers in partnership with utilities across the country. During the eclipse, many grid operators feared that solar energy production would be reduced by as much as 9,000 MW.

Nest launched a wide-reaching marketing campaign to recruit customers to reduce their cooling energy use during the eclipse by opting into a special Rush Hour Rewards event with just one click on their Nest Learning Thermostat. The number of customers who participated is unparalleled in any other demand response program to date. The success of this campaign demonstrates that consumer-friendly, multi-channel marketing campaigns coupled with a simplified one-click opt-in experience can drive consumer engagement significantly to manage energy load.

From a marketing perspective, Nest faced the challenge that vexes many demand response programs: How do they recruit enough people to our event to make a meaningful impact on energy demand? Nest designed an intuitive, one click push notification and carefully timed when it would be sent to a week before the Eclipse, so people had enough time to enroll.