[Q&A] AES’s Elizabeth Hackenson on the Evolving CIO Role

[Q&A] AES’s Elizabeth Hackenson on the Evolving CIO Role

elizabeth-heckenson How will the energy CIO’s role change in the futuristic grid? We had a chance to catch up with Elizabeth Hackenson, Senior Vice President of Technology and Services and CIO, The AES Corporation, for her thoughts on the evolution of the energy CIO, the role of AES in renewable generation and her favorite energy thought leaders.

[ZP] What do you look forward to the most in your business day?

[Hackenson] I look forward to engaging with others on a variety of activities, from brainstorming to solving problems to providing advice. People give me energy and I am at my best when in an interactive mode. I also believe the best ideas come from synthesizing a collection of input.

[ZP] How has the role of the energy CIO changed in the past five years?

[Hackenson] We have been fortunate to see the expansion of digital, as well as big data in our industry. Prior to five years ago, probably the most exciting aspect was implementing an ERP. Today, we have the opportunity to transform service centers and equip our field technicians with real-time information to service customers more rapidly and to leverage drones, allowing for remote monitoring of transmission lines. Technology advances will continue to enhance energy generation and delivery not seen in the past 10 years and CIOs will be at the forefront of such activities.

[ZP] How important are energy storage and solar to the energy mix in the US? The Midwest?

[Hackenson] I personally believe the shift will be profound. We have seen other historic shifts in computing and telecom, which dramatically changed those industries. With technology advances including pricing, batteries and solar panels are becoming economically viable (both have dropped over 80%). As more companies enter into the ecosystem of energy storage and solar, technology improves, pricing lowers and consumers take notice. Once a consumer can control their demand easily (similar to the smart phone wave), I believe we will see a big shift to distributed generation. Leading states such as California and New York are paving the way.

[ZP] Where does the Midwest fit with the AES portfolio, any specific initiatives?

[Hackenson] In the Midwest we own two utilities and a number of generation businesses. We are currently upgrading some of our generation and continue to add energy storage and solar to our existing platforms. In fact, within the next year we will be adding 30 MW of interconnected energy storage to an already operational platform of over 50 MW interconnected in the Midwest and East.

[ZP] What individuals (i.e. thought leaders) get you excited about energy?

[Hackenson] I guess I would have to call out Elon Musk. He is a person who can publicly talk about disrupting a 125-year-old industry without a lot of backlash. He is bold, has the resources and the vision to think what some believe impossible. Regardless of his long-term success, he has opened the door and in a big way.

Elizabeth Hackerson will be appearing at Zpryme’s ETS@chicago event, July 22-23 in Chicago. To learn more, see her profile here.

ETS@chicago is LIVE!
July 22-23, 2015 | Chicago Symphony Center