By Warren Causey

CIOs have become increasingly pivotal in helping utilities address unprecedented financial and regulatory challenges. They also are responsible with keeping technology aligned with strategic vision within their companies, and for expenditures averaging more than $11,000 per year, per utility employee. Four CIOs exemplify excellence in meeting their responsibilities, according to the annual CIO of the Year competition conducted this fall by EnergyBiz and Sierra Energy Group, the research and analysis division of Energy Central. The competition was held in conjunction with the Knowledge 2007 annual utility CIO conference. Energy Central, publisher of EnergyBiz, produced the second annual conference, held in November in Austin, Tex., in association with Spintelligent. The 2007 CIOs of the year deal with diverse challenges. One has to manage relations with the Chinese government.

Joe Locandro

Joe Locandro,
director of group
information technology,
CLP Group

Selected by an international panel of utility experts, the 2007 winners are Joe Locandro, director of group information technology, CLP Group in Hong Kong, representing large utilities, and Robert Arnett, vice president of Technology Services, Cobb Energy in Marietta, Ga., representing small utilities. Daniel C. Hill, senior vice president and chief information officer, Exelon Corp. in Chicago, is first runner-up among large utilities, and Wanyonyi J. Kendrick, chief information officer, JEA in Jacksonville, Fla., is first runner-up among small utilities.

“We have had tremendous growth nominations this year. The selection committee decided to designate first runners-up this year,” a statement issued on behalf of the judges said. “So many of the nominations were very good that it was decided to recognise four outstanding CIOs.”

Locandro works for a vertically integrated generation, transmission and distribution business that supplies electricity to 5.5 million people in Hong Kong through its subsidiary China Light & Power. CLP Group also is the largest external investor in mainland China’s power industry and has equity in about 6,400 MW of generating assets in Australia, India, Thailand and Taiwan.

Managing the information technology needs of such a far-flung enterprise, Locandro was recognised for his strategic vision in developing and implementing the systems necessary to do the job. Some of these include: corporate rollout of an upgraded enterprise financial management system, upgrades to the customer care and billing system, a new outage management system, a new project management system, and a new generation intelligence system.

Robert Arnett

Robert Arnett,
vice president of
Technology Service,
Cobb Energy

Arnett, the small utility CIO of the year, has led a complete re-vamping of technology at Cobb Energy, the parent of Cobb EMC, which serves one of the fastest growing areas in the United States, northwest of Atlanta. Arnett arrived at Cobb Energy in the spring of 2003 with the company at a crossroads. The company’s roots were those of a rural cooperative, but Cobb now serves a large urban and suburban population in and around Atlanta. When he arrived, just keeping existing operations running at the former, much smaller coop put a significant strain on existing hardware and applications. Over the next four years, Arnett completely re-vamped Cobb’s systems to enable the utility to not only deal with the new environment, but also to expand into new areas of enterprise.

This led to a radical reinvention of Cobb Energy’s technology services organisation, the complete replacement of the technical infrastructure, all key applications, the integration technology and the reporting and analytics approach. This included executing and enforcing standardised implementation processes based on the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Project Management Institute (PMI) concepts.

Hill, at Exelon, the largest nuclear generator in the United States, was dealing with issues of power trading and accountability. Working with Exelon’s power team, the trading organisation, Hill created a fully systemised profitand- loss reporting system that keeps up with the changing business rules and financial classifications. The system generates daily profit statements to help the power team measure the success of each day’s activities and decisions.

At JEA, Kendrick led a rethinking of AMR/AMI as a platform for future services. This led to the building of an end-to-end AMI solution for daily meter reading, field order automation for customer connects and disconnects, system planning, transformer load management, theft monitoring and other benefits. Actual savings to date from the new system are in excess of $3 million per year, with savings in multiple millions of dollars anticipated from upcoming demand forecasting, systemised load management and customised rates enabled by the system.