Executive: Sustainability a growing factor for utility

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Alice Jackson

Reliability and affordability long have ranked as the most important factors in meeting the needs of utility customers.

Add sustainability to the list and along with it solar and wind power and other forms of renewable energy, said Alice Jackson, president of Xcel Energy-Colorado. “At the end of the day, it’s a balance.”

Speaking at an energy summit organized by the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Jackson discussed what she envisioned as the future of the energy grid and the changes under way.

Xcel Energy provides electricity and natural gas in Colorado and seven other states with both urban and rural areas, Jackson said.

Customers expect foremost reliable service, she said. Utilities are held to a standard of perfection, in fact. Customers also want to pay as little as possible.

But sustainability and the use of renewable energy has emerged as another important factor in driving the decisions utilities make, Jackson said.

Challenges arise because electrical generation from solar and wind power varies and adds uncertainty, she said.

While cost was a factor, the price of renewable energy has come down to the extent it’s sometimes more affordable, she said. “It’s saving our customers money.”

Xcel Energy compares favorably on a national scale in meeting customer expectations in ranking in the top quarter of utilities for reliability and in the top six for sustainability, Jackson said. Residential and commercial costs remain below the national average.

Xcel Energy has invested in renewable energy and plans additional investments in both generation and transmission to meet renewable energy standards and a growing customer base, she said.

Supply chain issues and growing demand present challenges, as do the potential risks from cyber attacks on utilities and the grid, she said.

But Jackson said she’s excited about technological advances and the overall evolution of utilities and the services they provide. “Gosh, it’s surely exciting to be in the industry right now.”