Rainer reigns at Entergy Texas

Part of the women-in-energy article series

Kathleen Wolf Davis | Jun 18, 2014

sally rainer 2Sallie Rainer, president and CEO of Entergy Texas, tells outsiders that her role is all about value. Top value: delivering power to 420,000 customers in Southeast Texas. But, there are others at play as well, including creating value for shareholders, employees and communities.

But, certainly, creating value through power delivery wasn’t Rainer’s dream job as a kid. It wasn’t what she always wanted to be, though, even as a kid, it sounds like she had the executive-level drive.

“I dreamed of being successful in whatever I did,” she said. “But I had no idea that I would ultimately become CEO of an electric utility. As a kid, I didn’t even know what an electric utility was. As I went through college and studied management and engineering, I began to develop an interest in the energy industry. It was during my first entry-level position at Entergy when I began to understand what impact the industry had in our day to day life. Today, I feel honored to be leading Entergy Texas in this very challenging industry.”

To do all that leading, Rainer’s day is a long one. It takes a lot of hours to juggle responsibilities that include everything from distribution lines to customer service, from government discussions to community contributions—along with the financial aspects. And all of that boils down to something else no kid thinks of when dreaming of the future—namely, lots and lots and lots of meetings: with employees, with community leaders, with officials (to keep them informed about issues), with her direct team and with other employees “to ensure they understand the vision and mission of the company and how they fit into the company’s success,” she said.

“Listening to the ideas and feedback from our employees is an excellent means of identifying solutions to improve how we do business,” she added. And she sometimes enjoys all those meeting—especially if they include participating on her favorite volunteer boards for area nonprofits. (So meetings aren’t always so bad.)

And her skill with all those meetings may come from one underlying realization: She really loves gaining insights into her company from outsiders and employees alike. “What I enjoy most about my job is talking to our front-line employees to understand how things are going in their local offices and to help them understand what is going on in areas of the company outside of their day to day job duties,” she said. “The men and women who keep the electricity flowing are dedicated to serving our customers, working in a very dangerous field, often in dangerous weather conditions. Their commitment to serve our customers is inspiring to me.”

Rainer’s commitment to serve both customers and employees blends seamlessly into a utility’s with a service business that, she believes, has the potential to grow by leaps and bounds over the next few years.With industries looking to expand or locate in the Gulf South, Rainer and Entergy Texas are focused on bringing those businesses into the communities they serve. “Over the next few years, we will be adding new transmission lines and other infrastructure to ensure that we can reliably meet the growing demand for electricity this creates,” she added. She admits, though, this focus may be a bit unique to Entergy Texas and depends, entirely, on high-levels of growth, which isn’t the norm for most American utilities. In this area, Rainer and Entergy Texas are facing a unique opportunity.

And speaking of unique opportunities, Rainer would like to encourage more women to join the energy industry and get into this business of creating value and serving a community, from technical areas to regulatory accounting, human resources, communications and even meter reading. “My advice for anyone entering the field would be to set goals, build strong relationships and don’t be afraid to take a position outside of the traditional career progression,” she said. “When I began my career at Entergy 30 years ago, I did not expect to be in the position I am in today. I have found every step along the way to be very challenging and rewarding.”

Ex-LCRA manager thrives at nonprofit

becky-motal-photo*750xx1793-2390-60-0When Becky Motal announced her retirement as general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority effective at the end of last year, most anybody who knew her likely had the same thought: This will never last. Sure enough, in February she was named president and chairman of the Association of Women in Energy, a relatively new nonprofit that aims to connect and unite women in the industry. And she’s got a consulting business. Some retirement.

“I’ve truly found a great interest in this from others in the industry” said Motal, who worked in a variety of capacities at the LCRA for more than 25 years. “It’s fun to be involved in the industry from a different perspective. So I’m staying really, really busy.”

Motal, 64, says her organization has about 500 active members, but “the potential is huge if we get the word out about the value we can create for our membership.”

All employees of companies that sponsor the association are automatically members. Roughly a dozen companies are sponsors; the group also has individual members that work for other entities. A key component of the nonprofit is to foster and encourage networking and information-sharing. Think of it, in part, as a sort of Facebook for female energy professionals. The organization was founded in 2010.

Anybody in the top job at the River Authority is bound to be criticized, and Motal got her share, including when the agency floated the idea of lowering Lake Austin’s level 2 to 4 feet to catch rainwater during this cursed drought. Homeowners said such a move would destroy their property values. So what does she miss?

“I really miss the policy discussions because there’s so much going on in the state relating to water and energy,” she said. “It’s real hard to make it rain. (Current General Manager) Phil Wilson has a tough job.”



New research center to focus on energy law and business

Hutchison_kay_bailey_KBH_article_image_quoteNew research center to focus on energy law and business UT Austin will create an innovative new center that combines the expertise and resources associated with three existing research units focused on energy law and business. The Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law and Business will merge the UT School of Law’s Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law; the McCombs School of Business’ Energy Management and Innovation Center; and the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Latin American Law.

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law and Business will be established jointly by the School of Law and the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. The naming of the center was approved on May 15, 2014 by the University of Texas System Board of Regents. The mission of the interdisciplinary center will be to provide the finest educational opportunities in the U.S. to students pursuing careers in energy. The center will also provide critical analyses of legal, business and policy questions related to energy and the energy industry, both domestic and international, including an emphasis on Latin America. The center will combine three existing centers at the university: the School of Law’s Center for Global Energy, International Arbitrations, and Environmental Law; the McCombs School’s Energy Management and Innovation Center; and the School of Law’s Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Latin American Law, which the Board of Regents honorifically named for Hutchison last July. The Center for Latin American Law was formally established in 2013 but is not yet active. The new Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law and Business will unite the expertise and resources of these three centers. “We are proud this new center will be named for such a wonderful public servant who has a long and cherished relationship with our university,” said UT Austin President Bill Powers. “This exciting new venture will help us continue to establish The University of Texas at Austin as the country’s premier energy university.” “We are proud to name the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law, and Business in honor of an outstanding public servant and distinguished University of Texas at Austin alumna who has supported energy studies from a broad perspective for many years, including the legal, managerial, and policy issues relevant to the energy industry,” added Francisco Cigarroa, chancellor of the University of Texas System. “This new center will combine the expertise and resources associated with three existing centers in law and business at UT Austin and provide a world-class, innovative educational experience to students and researchers, and balanced and incisive analyses to policy makers.” Hutchison is a distinguished alumna (B.A. 1962, J.D. 1967) and staunch advocate for centers of excellence in higher education. She retired from politics in 2012 after serving for nearly 20 years as a U.S. senator from Texas. She joined Bracewell & Giuliani in 2013 and represents clients in banking, energy, transportation, telecommunications and public policy. She is active in supporting both the School of Law and the LBJ School of Public Affairs and has ardently promoted the importance of research and diversity within higher education.

UT Austin graduate student takes first prize in Pike Powers Research Fellowship Competition

Pecan-Street-staff-join-winners-of-the-Pike-Powers-energy-research-fellowshipUT Austin graduate student takes first prize in Pike Powers Research Fellowship Competition

UT Austin’s Krystian Perez, a Ph.D. student in chemical engineering, was awarded first place in the Pike Powers Research Fellowship Competition, sponsored by the Pecan Street Research Institute. The fellowship was awarded to a student or faculty member of the research consortium that developed the most impactful research using Pecan Street’s unique dataset to answer a question of critical importance to industry. The first place award came with a $10,000 cash prize.

Krystian’s work is supported by a fellowship from the National Science Foundation and is co-sponsored by Dr. Thomas Edgar and Dr. Michael Baldea, professors in UT’s Department of Chemical Engineering.

Krystian’s research, titled “Meters to models: Using smart meter data to predict and control home energy use,” centered on developing simplified, dynamic models of air-conditioning use in residential houses, which account for a large and variable load on the electric grid. Employing controls strategies developed for the chemical industry, Krystian used a centralized controller to adjust thermostat settings for a community of houses to spread energy use throughout the day.

Competitors for the Pike Powers award submitted a research proposal in December 2013. The Industry Advisory Council (IAC) reviewed proposals and 10 competitors were selected to complete and submit a draft of their research papers to the Pecan Street Institute prior to a March 2014 technical workshop. Draft findings of the finalists’ proposals were presented to IAC members for industry review (similar to peer review), and award winners were announced June 2014.

Study: Duke Energy tops among world power companies for women in key posts

John Downey
Senior Staff Writer-
Charlotte Business Journal

A new study on women in the power and utility industry ranks Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE:DUK) first among the 100 largest power companies internationally for women in decision-making positions. The report — released by international consulting firm EY, formerly known as Ernst & Young — is titled “Talent on the table: index of women in power & utilities.” It is the first attempt by EY to evaluate the industry’s record in tapping women for important board, executive and management posts.

Charlotte-based Duke’s CEO is Lynn Good, and the CEO of the second-ranked company, San Diego-based Sempra Energy, is also a woman. But more important for EY’s analysis is that each are members of their company’s board of directors.

The EY report finds the power industry as a whole “fared better for gender diversity than other infrastructure-specific industries such as telecommunications, oil and gas (and) mining.” But it lags behind less technical industries such as consumer services.

Other U.S. companies
Among power companies, Duke scores well because, beyond Good, there are two other women on the senior management team, two other women on the board of directors and at least half a dozen women in business unit and audit leadership positions.

The report profiles one of them: Chief Customer Officer Gayle Lanier. She told EY that diversity is a key for successful companies.

“At Duke we need diverse teams more than ever as we get more personal with customers and move from the meter into the home,” she told EY. “One of the reasons I joined Duke five years ago was to bring diversity of thought.” Duke and Sempra are the only U.S. companies EY ranks in the top 10 worldwide. New York based-Consolidated Edison, Virginia-based Dominion Resources and the Tennessee Valley Authority rank in the top 20 at 14th, 15th and 19th, respectively.

John Downey covers the energy industry and public companies for the Charlotte Business Journal.

TIME shows how attitudes toward conservation may be guided by gender

A new global survey for TIME shows how attitudes toward conservation may be guided by gender.

More women than men worldwide say energy conservation is a “very important” issue, while men report greater personal concern about global warming, according to the results of a new global energy survey conducted for TIME.

The survey polled online respondents in six countries—the U.S., Germany, India, Turkey, Brazil and South Korea—on their attitudes toward energy. It revealed that conservation habits and perspectives about energy challenges differ along gender lines, and not always in the ways you might expect.

Silhouetted electricity pylon grid
Source: Getty Images

Nearly 70% of women said energy conservation was a vital issue, compared with less than 50% of men. At the same, 65% of males reported that global warming was a very important issue to them, far outpacing the 37% of females who said the same.

The survey suggests that women are more leery of nuclear power (by a 48% to 40% margin), slightly more convinced the earth is warming (60% to 56%) and more likely to report high degrees of concern over rising sea levels, pollution and gas prices. By a couple of percentage points, women also took a more favorable stand on the oil-and-gas industry’s role in the issue.

Men, on the other hand, were more likely to say that rich nations should take the lead in the fight to reduce emissions (50% to 46%), and more likely to lay blame for the global warming crisis at the feet of the United States (45% to 38%), which has long held the ignominious title of the world’s largest carbon emitter.

The sexes were also split in their assessment of their home country’s role in the climate crisis. Sixty-three percent of women say their nation is part of the problem, compared with 54% of men. Men were more likely to say their country was part of the solution, by a 46% to 37% margin.

The survey was conducted among 3,505 online respondents equally divided between the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Turkey, India and South Korea. Polling was conducted from May 10 to May 22. The overall margin of error overall in the survey is 1.8%