Energy Leaders Tackled Critical Issues at Penton's Empowering Customers & Cities Event in Chicago

Inaugural Event Brought Together Over 200 Decision Makers from Utilities, Academia, Governments and Customers to Collaborate Around the Energy Revolution

Nov 17, 2015, 10:00 ET from Penton

NEW YORK, Nov. 17, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Penton's Empowering Customers & Cities event (, a three-day conference developed to chart a course for the future of energy usage and delivery, took place November 4-6, 2015 in Chicago. The event brought together over 200 decision makers from utilities, academia, governments, solution providers and customers gathered to hear presentations and collaborate around the energy revolution resulting from new technologies, new regulations and environmental concerns. Twelve utilities attended the event, representing six states and four countries. In addition, visitors from 21 states and six countries, including China and the Netherlands attended the event.

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Marty Rosenberg, Editorial Director, The Energy Times and Co-Chair, Empowering Customers & Cities said, "We were thrilled to host our inaugural Summit in Chicago - the heart of an electric power renaissance. We received an overwhelming amount of support from our partners, our speakers as well as our sponsors. Attendees walked away with a plethora of information and ideas from all different perspectives from the energy ecosystem to bring to their colleagues. We are honored to serve this industry. This event provided us with a solid foundation for The Energy Times events in 2016 and beyond."

During the keynote presentation, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel discussed how mayors and other political leaders can set the stage for the energy revolution and enable transformation of its production, delivery and use. Emanuel shared how Chicago is becoming more livable and sustainable with new private development, additional parkland, and smart grid enactment.

The event featured world-renowned visionaries covering all facets of the industry.  Key highlights included:

  • Anne Pramaggiore, CEO and president of ComEd, discussed the focus on ComEd customers and the evolving role of the grid in the energy "revolution."
  • Terence R. Donnelly, executive vice president and COO, ComEd, discussed how the company will continue to build, maintain, and operate the grid to provide reliability, security and resiliency at reasonable cost while investing in foundational automation technologies to move from a smart grid to a "smart cities" concept – where efficiencies derived from the grid can accommodate new, cleaner technologies ranging from smart streetlights to distributed generation.
  • Pallas Agterberg, director of strategy at Alliander, brought a European perspective and discussed Amsterdam's move to smart grid.
  • Paul Poon, managing director of CLP Power Hong Kong, brought the Asian perspective about adapting to new technology and business change.
  • David K. Owens, EVP, business operations & regulatory affairs at Edison Electric Institute, shared the utility perspective and talked about how the distribution system is changing, the challenges for utilities and stressed that regulators need to look at the formula for how utilities are compensated.
  • Carlos Batlle, visiting scholar, MIT Energy Initiative, discussed the "Utility of the Future" study, which is addressing the technology, policy, and business models shaping the evolution of the delivery of electricity services.
  • Karen Weigert, chief sustainability officer, City of Chicago, shared the city's answer to a carbon nation. "Emissions and climate change are things the city has to plan for long-term."
  • Joseph Svachula, VP, engineering and smart grid at ComEd, examined how the utility is using engineers to figure out how 'this new world is going to look." "A smart city is a community that uses information, communications and technology to enhance livability, workability and sustainability." ComEd is using microgrids, efficient streetlights and smart grids.
  • James Amato, VP, Burns & McDonnell, discussed that utilities are going to have to offer new products to grow their business, such as microgrids, net metering and battery storage.
  • Peter Scarpelli, VP and global director of energy and sustainability, CBRE, a real estate management company represented the customer side of the equation, said that "smart cities start with smart buildings."
  • Caralynn Nowinski Collens, M.D. and CEO of UI LABS, a Chicago-based research and commercialization collaborative bringing industry, academia and government together to apply real solutions to tomorrow's most important, business, economic and cultural challenges, said "Be a part of a group to move technology forward."
  • William Kamkwamba, inventor and author inspired the audience with his resilience and determination to make his village better. "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" brought power to his family's village in Malawi for the first time by crafting a wind turbine out of scrap.
  • Mohammad Shahidehpour, director of Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation at the Illinois Institute of Technology, introduced its microgrid, which will reduce the time and money lost to power outages and meet the growing energy needs. "We are able to save IIT about $1 million a year by operating it as a microgrid."
  • Chuck Caisley, VP, marketing and public affairs, Kansas City Power & Light, presented its Clean Charge program. The utility is installing and operating 1,000+ electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, making it the largest EV charging station installation by an electric utility in the U.S.
  • Chairman Brien Sheahan of the Illinois Commerce Commission shared the regulator perspective.  He said, "The Illinois Commerce Commission is looking to be technology-enablers instead of perpetuating antiquated policies."
  • Fidel Marquez Jr., SVP of legislative and external affairs at ComEd, discussed how the utility framework needed to be updated. "Are people going to defect from the grid? Our answer is no, but load is going to shift from the grid."'
  • Mark Hura, global VP of Oracle Utilities, talked about transitioning to the Cloud, the new technologies on the horizon and the policies and regulation must change to allow the grid of tomorrow to thrive.
  • Martha Symko-Davies, director of partnerships for energy systems integration at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, shared information about the Energy Systems Integration Lab in Colorado.  
  • Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the energy program at the National Resources Defense Council, brought the environmental lobby's perspective. He said that utilities are the most important clean energy investors in the economy.
  • Jack Azagury, Accenture managing director, North American Utilities spoke about the business disruption aimed at utilities and the many opportunities they have to transform their businesses and get closer to customers.

After the conference program, event attendees were offered an experience tour of The Shedd Aquarium, S&C Electric Product Demonstration Center and Silver Spring Network and Illinois Institute of Technology.

Mark Milby, Program Manager, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) said, "The tour was a great way to end the conference. By getting out and seeing real-world examples of what we discussed the day prior, I was able to make better connections, ask better questions, and more fully understand the conference content."

Click here to read the coverage from the event.

Empowering Customers & Cities sponsors included: ComEd (Host Utility), Kansas City Power & Light (utility), Burns & McDonnell (Platinum), Oracle Utilities (Gold), Accenture, E Source, G&W Electric, Quanta Services, S&C Electric, Silver Spring Networks (Industry Partners), EEI (Association Partner), ISEN / Northwestern (University Partner) U.S Green Building Council (Breakfast Sponsor)

The Energy Times provides insight on the business and strategy of generation, delivering and using electric power. Coverage includes the news, trends and solutions that impact both energy providers and energy customers in the new energy landscape.

About Penton
Penton is an innovative information services company that empowers nearly 20 million business decision makers in markets that drive more than 12 trillion dollars in purchases each year. Our products inform with rich industry insights and workflow tools; engage through dynamic events, education and networking; and advance business with powerful marketing services programs. Penton is the way smart businesses buy, sell and grow.

Headquartered in New York, Penton is privately owned by MidOcean Partners and Wasserstein & Co., LP. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @PentonNow.

Angie Gates
Marketing Director
The Energy Times / Empowering Customers & Cities