BioCycle Magazine

Energy Company Of The Future

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Mary Powell, CEO, is leading Green Mountain Power to be a positive force for change, taking the path of lower cost, clean energy. “I am driven to make things better and am not afraid of doing things differently and taking risks,” she tells BioCycle.

Mary Powell, is a Keynote Speaker at BioCycle REFOR15, October 19-22, 2015, Boston, MA

Mary Powell is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for Green Mountain Power based in Colchester, Vermont. Prior to becoming CEO in 2008, she was the Chief Operating Officer for the company, a position she had held since February 2001. Powell initiated, and implemented, a strategic and comprehensive restructuring of the company that dramatically transformed Green Mountain Power (GMP) and has been the backbone of a cultural transformation and service quality improvement. As CEO, she launched an ambitious energy vision to provide low carbon, low cost and reliable power to Vermonters.

Under her leadership, GMP built Vermont’s largest wind farm, is building New England’s Solar Capital in Rutland, Vermont and installed smart grid technology across the entire utility infrastructure. This month, Powell will be dedicating GMP’s new solar farm and battery storage facility in Rutland. In June 2012, the company closed on an acquisition of Central Vermont Public Service, which had started the Cow Power farm digester program in 2004.

In 2014, Powell announced a pioneering new partnership with NRG Energy, Inc. to make Vermont a leader in sustainable energy and to completely transform the electrical delivery system. The partnership is bringing innovative clean energy products and services to Vermont, while helping customers manage energy use and save money. In 2015, she announced another groundbreaking partnership with Tesla. GMP is the first utility to offer customers a back-up battery to improve reliability and transform the electricity system.

BioCycle interviewed Mary Powell, Keynote Speaker at BioCycle’s 15th Annual Conference on Renewable Energy From Organics Recycling, October 19-22 in Boston, about her vision for a 21st Century electric utility, the role of anaerobic digestion in the company’s renewable energy portfolio, and if she views GMP as setting the pace for climate-resilient electricity production and distribution.

BIOCYCLE: You use the phrase “low cost, low carbon” to describe your energy vision. Please define low cost, low carbon energy. What is in the mix, and what is the role that biogas from anaerobic digesters plays in that mix?

POWELL: Low cost and low carbon means we are delivering clean energy that is cost-effective and reliable to customers. Delivering that requires ramping up renewable generation, while still keeping rates low. We are laser focused on that and have had three bill decreases in the last four years. While we are lowering costs, we are staying on the cutting edge of innovation, whether it is battery storage, comprehensive home energy makeovers, or digesters on the farm. We have worked with farmers in Vermont to generate power from cow manure, and we offer our customers the ability to purchase a portion of their [electricity] use entirely from Cow Power. Our customers appreciate the ability to purchase local, farm-generated power while helping farmers. We see great opportunity to grow this renewable resource and are about to expand into multifarm digesters that will create value for farmers, generate clean electricity and help clean up Lake Champlain.

BIOCYCLE: You were interviewed by Bill McKibben for his article, “Power To The People,” in the June 29, 2015 issue of The New Yorker. The “energy makeover” example of the Borkowski family in Rutland, Vermont illustrates how today’s energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and services provide an opportunity for power companies to change how they currently do business. Green Mountain Power is clearly taking advantage of and investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as distributed energy and smart grid technologies. Is your utility in a unique environment that makes it possible to tap in, or could utilities in any state ride this wave?

POWELL: We are focused on delivering what customers tell us they want — to save money, reduce fossil fuel use and be more comfortable. Leaning in and being customer obsessed is our touchstone everyday. We want to accelerate the pace of change and find new ways to benefit customers. With climate change, there is also an imperative to act. In Vermont, we do have support from our customers, lawmakers and state leaders.

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