EDITOR IN CHIEF
TransmissionHub Chief Analyst Rosy Lum
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Want to Save the US $370
Million a Year? Throw in Some Kumbyah
As the seasons hinted of change within San Antonio Hill Country, speakers at the 32nd annual Itron Utility Week left subtlety to Mother Nature.
Change, they said, is necessary and attainable within the utilities industry, but
it requires extreme, motivated leadership in addition to technology—plus a
cultivation of love in the workplace.
Itron President and CEO Philip Mezey emphasized doing more with less
during his keynote presentation.
“In the past 30 years, we have halved the amount of energy used per GDP,”
Mezey said. “GDP has doubled in size at a time when we have become more
Still, the room for improvement is staggering. The total cost of wasted
resources each year in the U.S. is $37 billion, Mezey said.
Just for perspective’s sake, Citic Pacific Ltd., the largest conglomerate in
China, paid $37 billion in August for assets from its parent company, China’s
first state-owned investment corporation. That money bought stakes in financial services, resources and energy, manufacturing, real estate, infrastructure,
engineering contracting and other businesses in China and other countries.
Back stateside, that wasted $37 billion weighs heavily on utilities. The
breakdown includes $13 billion in water leaks, $24 billion in electricity lost
through transmission and distribution, and $20 billion in unaccounted for
natural gas, Mezey said. He challenged the utility industry to reduce wasted
resources just 1 percent, which would save $370 million annually. Smart
metering, he said, is a feasible way to achieve that goal.
“That 1 percent will set us on a road,” Mezey said. “Imagine how your job
would change if AMI technology could help reach that reduction goal.”
Attendees got the numbers and challenge from Mezey on the first day. On
the second day, they learned how to disregard normal constraints to change
the world. Keynote speaker Steve Farber said “extreme leaders” can find creative solutions and convince others to sign on. And those he’s interviewed all
used a common word when describing their jobs: love. They love their jobs
like they’re extensions of their families, and they seek job thrills similar to
those who enjoy extreme sports. Farber calls it “the dynamic interplay of fear
and love—two of the most powerful forces in the human experience.” He also
said extreme leaders aren’t afraid to hire and train people who are better than
That’s what it’s going to take for the industry to reach Mezey’s 1 percent
reduction challenge. Technology alone won’t get us there, and neither will
Kumbyah—but a lot of both might.
I urge the rest of the industry to join me in sharing and accepting Mr.