“We are making history here together,” Patti Poppe, CEO PG&E.

San Francisco is famously known as the city of love, but when was the last time you heard the R&D leaders at an engineering-driven utility talk the importance of leading a culture of innovation with love to drive a 10-year mission to drive transformational infrastructure change? That was the message from PG&E CEO Patti Poppe, the San-Francisco-based utility backed by her R&D team that had assembled hundreds of people together in San Ramon, CA accompanied by thousands of additional attending virtually around the world. 

Jason Glickman, Executive Vice President, Engineering, Planning & Strategy kicked off their 2023 Innovation Summit with the realization that to reverse the adverse impact of climate change would require “collective action” starting with a “culture of innovation.”

Those of us at InnovationForce couldn’t agree more with the need for culture being a center point of any dialogue on innovation. We were so humbled and honored for the shout out from Heather Rock, Senior Director, Strategy Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) who began the keynote Plenary Panel referencing our co-founder Linda Hill’s amazing and inspiring TedTalk

Walking the walk were Jason Glickman and Quinn Nakayama Senior Director, GRID Innovation Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). These leaders convinced the audience that if a prototype works in California, it can work anywhere. California sees it all – from snow and ice to record-breaking heat. From urban high-tech centers to the central valley where farms produce 25% of fruits and vegetables grown in the US. PG&E believes they know what it is going to take to drive not only change for their regions and customers, but also the world. “If we can do it here, we can do it anywhere in the world,” said Jason Glickman. 

Indeed, the solid 150-page R&D report is claimed to identify 300 problem statements that will enable strategic investment and support to accomplish the utility’s goals, as well as help other utilities in the industry succeed in leading the clean energy transition. Why publish such a report and host this event? According to PG&E leaders “are we humbling asking for your help.” 

But for Quinn, it wasn’t so much about the WHY but about how the team FEELS about what they can do to make a difference with their engineering and innovative break throughs. 

Which is why their rallying  cry is behind the mission  is to “lead with love… We are not doing experiments for the sake of experiments. We are bringing prototypes to life. We got to get moving, we feel that sense of urgency.” 

Rob Chapman Senior Vice President Energy Delivery and Customer Solutions; Chief Sustainability Officer Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) echoed the sentiment that “R&D that sits on a shelf has no value.”

And according to all the pace of change must come faster. Darryl Willis, Corporate Vice President, Energy & Resources Industry at Microsoft shared “What keeps me up at night is the speed, the pace of innovation needs to be faster.” Followed by “Partnership matters. Ambition matters. Alignment around the mission matters.”

Speed of mission couldn’t be timelier. According to Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, “if I had one message, the magnitude of the energy problem that lies ahead is enormous. People are going to use A LOT of electricity… if we want to run the planet on sustainable electric, electrical output will need to triple.”

To support this, Poppe commented, “we have to have a grid that is ready for the demand electrification will need. And it is going to take a collective with a growth mindset.”

To inspire all engineers in the room and attending virtually, the fearless CEO of PG&E remined attendees of a stanza in a poem by Golden Gate bridge engineer Joseph Baermann Strauss, “The Mighty Task is Done.”

Launched midst a thousand hopes and fears,
Damned by a thousand hostile sneers,
Yet ne’er its course was stayed,
But ask of those who met the foe
Who stood alone when faith was low,
Ask them the price they paid.

On that note, I stand for the entire team at InnovationForce when I say our rallying cry is SPEED and SCALE because innovation is the greatest weapon that we have to combat climate change. Or, in the words of our co-founder Linda Hill, “By empowering, scaling and democratizing innovation in the energy industry, we can help more frontline innovators address the severity of our global climate challenges much faster.”

Ready to learn more? Schedule a demo with us to see how we can help your utility leverage this strategy and put it into action and we’ll send you a copy of Linda’s groundbreaking book Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading innovation.

Together, we got this.