Paula Gold Williams
President and CEO of CPS Energy

On this episode of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless speaks with Paula Gold Williams, the President and CEO of CPS Energy in San Antonio, Texas, the largest public electric and gas utility in the U.S. Bill and Paula talk about the changes taking place in the utility sector, with new technology and new expectations making the business more dynamic than ever. One of these areas that Bill and Paula tackle is the emergence of Smart Cities, where the grid will play a central role. 

Bill and Paula also discuss how the changes in the industry are opening new career opportunities and creating a more diverse work force. They specifically focus on the growing role of women in the energy sector, a topic Paula regularly speaks on. 

Paula Gold Williams joined CPS in 2004 and held a number of top positions at the utility, including Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer, before being named President and CEO in 2016. 

Read the Transcript

Bill Loveless:  Look across the landscape of electric and natural gas utilities in the United States and you’ll see more women in executive positions than ever before.  But by and large, it’s still a world where men prevail.  Even as the industry itself undergoes tremendous change.  Hello and welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange.  A weekly podcast from the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.  From Washington, I’m Bill Loveless.  Our guest today is Paula Gold Williams, the President and CEO of CPS Energy in San Antonio, Texas, the largest public electric and gas utility in the U.S.  I reached Paula by phone at her office to talk about Woman in Energy, a topic she represents well in her role at CPS and once she speaks out on nationally as new career opportunities open in a transforming industry.  My talk with Paula is also an occasion to toot the horn about the exciting Woman in Energy program at the Center on Global Energy Policy where my colleague Julie Merino conducts programs throughout the year spotlighting successful women in the field and offering skills training, workshops, mentoring and more.  Joining Julie in supporting the Woman in Energy program are two other fine role models.  Amy Jaffe, David M.  Rubenstein senior fellow for energy in the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations and Maria Jelescu, Founder and CEO of Ardinall Investment Management.  Amy and Maria serve as co-chairs of the Women in Energy Steering Committee at the Center.  You can find more information on the program on the web at Energypolicy.columbia.edu.  Now back to Paula Gold Williams.  She joined CPS in 2004 and held a number of top positions at the utility including Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer before being named President and CEO in 2016.  Previously, she had been a regional controller for Time Warner Cable and vice-president of finance for the restaurant chain at Luby’s.  A CPA by training, she holds an MBA from Regis University.  As you will hear Paula is pretty excited about the changing taking place in the utility sector with new technology and new expectations making business more different than ever and opening new career opportunities for a diverse workforce.  We talk about some of those changes too, including the emergence of smart cities where the grid will play a more important part than ever.  Here is our conversation.

Paula Gold Williams, welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange.

 

[00:02:38]

Paula Gold Williams:  Well, thank you so much.  I’m excited to be talking to you today.

 

[00:02:42]

Bill Loveless:  Yeah, I’m glad, we had the opportunity to get together.  We had a little bit of time to chat recently at a smart city summit in Washington DC but that’s a topic we’ll certainly…

 

[00:02:53]

Paula Gold Williams:  Absolutely.

 

[00:02:54]

Bill Loveless:  Talk some more about today.  But here I want to talk largely about Women in Energy and you certainly represent a good example of a prominent woman, a very successful woman in energy.  But before we get there, I’m interested how did you get involved in the energy business? You didn’t start out that way.

 

[00:03:11]

Paula Gold Williams:  I did not.  I have not come through the industry in any typical way.  Matter of fact, I am actually an accountant and started my career as a CPA and worked for what was back then a big ____ [00:03:28] firm, earned some money.  I’ve never imagined that I’d actually end up in the energy industry.  That wasn’t a goal of mine.  But my specialization early in my career were SCC clients, large clients with probably pretty sophisticated filing rules.  Most of them were stock companies, stock-based companies.  The benefit of that was I had a lot of exposure to different types of industries, communications companies, cable company end up being one of my main focal points.  But media companies, banks, mining companies.

 

[00:04:11]

Bill Loveless:  I was going to say, you worked for Time Warner Cable.  That was one of your first jobs there in San Antonio.

 

[00:04:16]

Paula Gold Williams:  Absolutely.  They were my client at first and then they weren’t Time Warner right away.  They were actually owned by a Canadian company called Rogers Cable and I end up getting hired there and then we converted and we brought by Time Warner and I had a pretty good interest around there.  I worked there for eight years.  So, it was a place that I eventually got to.  I worked in different roles, in different financial roles.  Worked for a company called Luby’s which is a restaurant company, did that.  And I was on my way to Houston to take a job at the corporate office and I was being moved from San Antonio to Houston.  And then I got a phone call to come and interview at CPS Energy.  I think at the time, you were called City Public Service Energy.  I found it fascinating.  It had a reputation of only wanting to hire you out of college at the time.  I had about 20 years’ experience and I’ve always respected the company.  I end up taking a demotion.  I end up so to speak, I end up, I was the vice-president but I end up taking a senior director role, end up getting less money to do it.  But I love San Antonio and I thought the company was great and I thought, I had a great opportunity to learn.  I came in as the controller and interestingly the CEO at the time not me was really interested in getting a mix of people who were from the outside to help augment the talent we had on the inside.  And so, he let me and my boss, a gentleman, by the name of Rick Williamson, CFO at the time allowed me to not just focus on accounting work but allowed me to venture into people development work and focal points and building relationships in the organization.  Something kind of very different and from there I just kept saying yes to opportunity.  I eventually got to compete for and earn the privilege to serve as CFO and then I became an executive vice-president over service functions.  And then my boss, my immediate boss, a gentleman by the name of Doyle Benby (ph.), wonderful person for me, great at challenging me to be better and making it not easy, making me learn along the way.  I worked for him for five years and then he decided to leave the company.  I became the interim about three years ago and I took over running the company as an interim after what I call the telenovela of searching for CEOs.  It took the board a while.  The board thought they were looking for Doyle 2.0.  They were looking for an engineer.  All of a sudden this, you know, this, I wouldn’t say gender was an issue at all.  But they were looking for someone who, and then they thought well, she’s very different than what we thought we.  She doesn’t come from that operational background.  It’s very diverse.  It’s very business driven and it’s a different type of analytical abilities.  But I was making it work and so after six months, we, you know, I looked at the board and the board looked at me and we talked about it and just give it to me though I wanted them to take me through the process that they would any candidate that they were seriously considering.  I competed again with another gentleman who had decades of operational experience pretty much was much closer to the Doyle Benbly (ph.) model.

 

[00:07:49]

Bill Loveless:  Right.

 

[00:07:50]

Paula Gold Williams:  And I was fortunate.  They decided to give me a chance and it worked.  And I, for years soon.

 

[00:07:58]

Bill Loveless:  There you are and you mentioned Doyle Benby.  I know Doyle well.  I interviewed him a couple of times back when I was anchoring a TV program called _____ [00:08:06] Energy Weekend and he certainly is…

 

[00:08:08]

Paula Gold Williams:  Oh yeah.

 

[00:08:09]

Bill Loveless:  Was a prominent figure in the business.  Tough act to follow, I would have to say but it sounds like from everything I’ve seen and heard, you certainly more than fill the bill there at CPS.  And when I… Again, we talk about the Women in Energy program and that’s you know, the Center on Global Energy Policy has a woman in energy program.  They want to promote, you know diversity, gender diversity and diversity in general but particularly to bring more women into business and energy business.  By and large, you still don’t see a lot of women, especially at the executive levels.  Now, you know, when I look across the public power sector in the United States, I do see a number of women like yourself in positions as CEO and when you look across even the industry around utilities, you have, you know, a number of prominent women, _____ [00:09:03] are a few that I can think of offhand.  But still not, it’s still largely a male dominated business.  How do you see it?

 

[00:09:10]

Paula Gold Williams:  Well, I think, I see it in the same way as you see it.  It is male dominated but you know, not to be sound illogical, that’s how we got here, I mean, years and years ago our company in particular is a 158 years old.  You know, that was just a different day and time and so legacy of what the industry has been is, you know, that’s the foundation.  But we’ve seen a tremendous amount of change, I would say maybe even more so in the last five to ten years, pretty heavy in the last five years.  I would add to the list of wonderful women that you have mentioned and ____ [00:09:52] from Comaid.  She’s actually one of my co-peers on the ____ [00:09:57] city think tank and she’s been nothing but a pleasure to be, you know, to be affiliated with and to work with and I look forward to doing a lot of other great things.  But it does feel like, you know, one step at a time in terms of our progress.  I mean, I’m highly encouraged though because with the industry going through this recent evolution or revolution, I think we are all kind of letting semantics kill us.  What is it? A revolution or an evolution.  Probably both.

 

[00:10:30]

Bill Loveless:  Or disruption, a lot of people call it.

 

[00:10:32]

Paula Gold Williams:  Or disruption, exactly.  This is actually the perfect time for women to leapfrog so to speak into an industry which hasn’t been our legacy.  And so, you know, everybody is learning, everybody is changing their paradigm.  They see that new technologies and new solutions are on the forefront of nearly reaching customers and so there is no gender boundary.  There is no historical mileage that you can’t partner with someone to fill the gap and then add value to.  So, I’m very positive.  I have a very positive outlook about it.

 

[00:11:12]

Bill Loveless:  I look across your company.  I see a lot of women in top positions.  I don’t know if this happened over a long period of time or it’s something more recent but do you think, when you look at your company, do you think it reflects the sort of change that you see have taken place or you think needs to take place?

 

[00:11:33]

Paula Gold Williams:  I would say, absolutely it is a change that needs to take place.  You know, there shouldn’t be gender biases.  There is probably a lot more men in the engineering field on average that you know, I think one of the compelling points that I raised to the board when they were assessing me is we need engineers and we need analytical people to help us solve a lot of the problems and the opportunities to take challenges and make them opportunities.  However, not everything will be solved in our industry through solely an engineering solution set.  So, what we really need is, we need a ton of different thinking and we need ways to think about different business models that will get not just the technical issues but the regulatory issues, the policy issues, all the way to the reputational issues and the customer perception and desire issues.  I mean, it’s very, very broad and so we saw that early on, I think when the board place me, it was a critical step that basically said, they want to try to create a profile.  They wanted to just create an opportunity for someone to be successful.  In the end, I have a three other very strong women that work for me.  One of them that’s worked with me for a very long time.  Kerman Sherman (ph.) and I have been working together for probably ten years and she has extensive experience as an attorney, as a partner in the firm, as a general counsel of the archive system in Texas.  Tremendous amount of experience.  There has been nothing but value add have her on our team and then I added two women.  One of them is ____ [00:13:26] and she is a chief customer engagement officer.  Lots of experience in many facets.  She understands operations.  She understands customer and she’s extremely strategic.  And then the last person, I just hired at the end of last year is a lady by the name of Karen Kuron.  Karen has some experience in the energy industry.  Worked with other large IOU firms both as a leader and as a consultant.  She’s owned her own business and she’s also been a thought leader overall and she has some experience, had a bit of experience in the telephone industry which is actually really important as we think about the best ways to improve our infrastructure and the things in the investments that we are doing in fiber for example related to smart city.  That I go out each time, I didn’t go out and say I’ve got to have a woman.  But I left myself in the open to any candidate who has the right mix of leadership, technical ability and desire is what I look for.

 

[00:14:34]

Bill Loveless:  And did you find that there were a number of women to choose from or the least within the pool of men and women? I mean, did you find there were a number of women candidates in many instances for these types of jobs?

 

[00:14:46]

Paula Gold Williams:  You know, I think, I ended up with probably a disproportionate lower level of women than I expected but.  Yeah, I think the IT industry is probably more diversified than most like for my last hire.  But there is still a lot of pretty male dominated as an industry.

 

[00:15:06]

Bill Loveless:  Yeah.

 

[00:15:07]

Paula Gold Williams:  So, I probably would have liked to see an even spectrum of candidates both male and female.  But I probably had a majority of more men in the last several places that I’ve been.  But again, I wasn’t discouraged.  The caliber women that I did find and again what was interesting not just technical ability, strategic people really focused on people.  Had good level of emotional intelligence.  I mean, I was beyond blown away that when I did find my top candidates, they were awesome in every sense and their gender was a thing.  It wasn’t a barrier or limitation.  I just happened to find wonderful people and I’m just excited that people are coming here because they are coming for principles, for people first aspects to make sure that they know that they can be creative here.  And we are starting to attract those types of candidates in probably every facet of what we do here.

 

[00:16:05]

Bill Loveless:  Right.  I know, people first is one of the model, slogans you have for your utility there.  But you know, when I look at, you know, you look at this industry and you’re right, in the engineering field, typically has been one that attracted more men than women.  And the tech industry too is often the case there.  I was reading recently a comment by Sue Kelly (ph.), the CEO, and another woman CEO.  In this case, of the American Public Power Association and she said that the business needs to think about the Amazon way of life and how it impacts communities.  That she was talking about consumer expectations and how you can learn from Amazon.  And my first thought was, well, you know, again, you know, you look at a lot of these companies, these tech companies and they seem, you know, they seem to be a place that can be very male dominated.  But I don’t know, I mean, maybe that’s a misperception on my part when it comes to say the utility industry or the opportunities there.  Maybe things are opening up a lot more even in those fields than they had done previously.

 

[00:17:04]

Paula Gold Williams:  I don’t, I mean, I don’t think you’re off in terms of we’ve got a long way to go to get more women interested in stem.  You know, one thing we do here is we do a tremendous amount of outreach and we organically encourage, mentoring internally and then we also have like what we call an educational alliance strategy where we might work with the university or high school and we have a tremendous amount of outreach that tries to ensure that we have a balance of young men and young women who come into our organization to learn.  I’ll give you a really very different example.  A couple of years ago, we went out and we specifically looked for young ladies who would want to work on our fleet department.  We never had it before and we even thought about having it.  And we just happened to find two young women who wanted to work with the mechanics and they did wonderfully.  And we have a discussion with our highly tenured teams.  We now have one of the top 50 fleets in the nation.  Our mechanics are amazingly committed to the craft.  They understand that technology is changing what they do and they’re really busy learning the mind taking on a few, you know, probably non-traditional interns to be in your program.  They were great.  We had seen such a leadership.  These are highly craft individuals who don’t have advanced degrees but have a huge passion for what they do.  And the young women thrived and they actually got under the hoods of huge vehicles and trucks and engines.  I mean, we had to be extremely focused on safety.  But they weren’t afraid and we encouraged them to get in there and kind of learn the mechanics of it.  At the end of the session, one of the young women, I asked her so what did you think about the whole thing? What are you going to do? Are you going to go to college? She goes, yeah, I’m going to go to college.  She goes, but now I know what I want to do is I want to get and understand how to make things better for the craft employees.  I want to do new innovation in terms of electric vehicles and the way things work so that it’s easy for things to be fixed and you know, preventive maintenance and all those things.  It was great to see a different view.  But we had a to have a thirst for it.  We had to ask for our employees to put in at every level and we had to have some young ladies who that were willing and open to having that opportunity.  There are more and more young ladies who want that.  But you got to, you got to figure out ways to engage them in the conversation and talk to them more about the possibilities.  And so, we look at that and we’re hoping what that’s going to do is change the trajectory and we have that.  Here is the real point.  You know, Bill, look we are going to be and we are currently in a pretty global industry and talent is difficult.  Unemployment is low which is great.  But it means everybody has to be at the table for us to meet the productivity levels and meet the needs of customers on time when they need it.  And so, we believe it’s a competitive advantage to get more women focused in our industry.

 

[00:20:35]

Bill Loveless:  Yeah.  It’s interesting.  You know, I’m thinking as well when we talk diversity, it isn’t just gender diversity we talk about.  It’s other things.  Ethnic diversity.  You’re among the few African American CEOs, I see in positions such as yours across the energy industry.  That’s important to promote as well.  Is this something too you take on when you’re dealing with, looking for the best people across the board?

 

[00:21:06]

Paula Gold Williams:  You know, we don’t, what we make sure we don’t do is pre-create the profile.  Matter of fact one of the, here is a hint.  Anybody who wants to interview for us.  Eventually, you’ll get asked what would you do if given the opportunity and you’re successful candidate in the role.  What would you do? What’s important to you? How are you going to lead and we actually want people to be super creative with that and make us believe and be highly engaged before it ever gets started in the future of this industry as well as our company.  So, we eliminate the profile requirements and what we find then is you’re going to.  Every time you go out, every time you go out and you see a young person whether they be African American or Mexican American or from another country, we are very, very open to getting people who want to work in San Antonio and we don’t box them out.  So, we are extremely, I think so open.  We don’t have to go after ____ [00:22:14].  We don’t have to go after targets and we go after, you know character and content and emotional intelligence, to couple that with technical ability.  And I always tell my team, we need to be in balance.  We need to be technically strong but you got to be, you got to be engaged and you got to be building people behind you.  So, this makes us have different conversations.  We’re also Military City USA.  We have 10% of our workforce are actual veterans.  But we think that is a gold mine for us and the industry.  There are so many great leaders in the military forces that we have and they eventually come out and they want to continue to focus on being, you know, advancing their careers and their knowledge.  A lot of them are minorities, not all women.  You don’t exclude people out.  We just open the doors and since we are looking for a special blend of caring person, you know, a people first type leader.  You know, I think we are very happy with the mix of people that continue to be attracted to us and see their opportunities here.

 

[00:23:30]

Bill Loveless:  Yeah.  But and I think it’s, I’m sure it’s important too that we represent this in a very big way.  I mean, people are going to find the companies that have this sort of attitude and look for the job opportunities there and avoid perhaps all those where they don’t see that kind of opportunity taking place.  No, I wanted to, there is so much going on in San Antonio when it comes to disruption in the energy business and innovative things going on and all of that and of course this is where it creates a lot of the job opportunities for everyone including a diversified workforce that you talk about.  I want to touch on one thing here and that’s the smart cities.  I know, you’re a big advocate of this nationally.  You were participating in the Denton’s conference here in Washington recently.  To be clear, for those who may not follow the topic very carefully.  What is a smart city?

 

[00:24:25]

Paula Gold Williams:  That is a great question.  A smart city is one that enhances their community with technology in such a way that it improves the quality of life more than people would have ever imagined.  And so, and energy companies in particular have this great ability to help create the foundation of a technological approach to solving issues.  One of the easiest ones I always talk about is the optimization of lighting in your community.  And that may sound boring but it’s actually fascinating.  We want technology and we want lighting to respond to the way that people want to live.  We want it to be smart in terms of when it’s utilized.  So, for example, if there are no people on the roads and no cars on the road, you don’t need to be blaring your lights as intensely as if you would right after dusk or early in the morning when people are trying to get to work and the sun hasn’t come out yet.  So, we want lighting to be subtle and dim, if not off.  Dark skies, there are quite a few people who really appreciate dark skies.  They don’t want the skies to be lit up unnecessarily.  That’s actually a waste of energy and it doesn’t and it’s not responsive.  But in a smart community it will have the right level of sensor and full direction positioning of those sensors to where it can detect pedestrian traffic, motor vehicle traffic to make it really safe.  It can intensify.  It can stay intense in terms of time to provide a security, a sense of real brightness and awareness in your community and then when that activity, you know, people go back to do something else in the other side of town, where they are done for the day, the lighting is smart enough to react to that.  That’s going to save money.  It’s going to help us conserve resources.  But it’s going to respond correctly to the way that people live.  And so that’s the best example that I can talk to anybody about, about how that is.  Now in turn, we’re going to utilize it to optimize electric vehicles.  We’re going to use it to determine what the air quality environment is in particular intersections of town that may have prone to heavy traffic congestion.  It will help us reroute traffic.  It will help us optimize public transportation and so it will keep being the backbone of more and more solutions where people can have more control over their environment and it won’t just be a push of power.  Right now, the industry pushes power to people continuously and now it will be more responsive and so that’s, I mean, every community decides how they want to implement those solutions, at what pace, at what intensity and then make it, you know, move into maybe even architectural solutions.  Some people want their communities lit up a certain way.  We have certain situations that are missions.  We have historical world heritage site, missions, cathedrals in different locations across town or downtown.  And we actually like those that are up with stories about San Antonio and our history.  And so, we can make lighting and technology respond to how people want to be remember, want to remember the heritage of San Antonio.  So those are the things that a smart city can do.

 

[00:28:03]

Bill Loveless:  CPS has what you call a flexible path to provide for a smart city in San Antonio.  Does it fundamentally change the way that you will supply power and the way power, electricity will be used in the city?

 

[00:28:17]

Paula Gold Williams:  Absolutely.  It’s supposed to change.  We are owner, operators.  We have had generation from the very beginning.  And so, what we’ve trained ourselves to do over decades and decades of being owners, operators of this community are we will build generation to fit growth.  And that’s the way that we have solved issues and so we typically have build large fossil fuel units and we’ve grown into them.  And we’ve gotten really good at keeping assets, well maintained for 40, 50, 60 plus years until, it’s time to replace it.  It’s major economies of scale.  We make it affordable to customers.  We have a great credit rating that allows us to borrow and we figure that out and that’s the way we’ve always solved issues.  Now, we say, golly, we see an improvement in the production of renewable power.  Not perfect but an improvement.  What we really see is that new technologies in particular energy storage, obviously everybody knows what this is has the ability to optimize renewables in a way that we have not had before.  And we believe that we can change how we solve problems in the future with being open to energy storage and other types of technological solutions.  Maybe they don’t have to cost a billion dollars and in fact because technology is going to change so fast, we might want to asset the last ten years, if not 60.  Because we want to be ready for that next advancement and staying flexible on a flexible path that allows us to do that.  And the only point, I’ll give you Bill is sometimes, you know, we have people at both ends of the spectrum.  Some say, that sounds nice and good.  It should be a 100% renewable, you know in ten years.  And then we have people who say, look you’ve made this business model work for a long time.  Be careful that you’re not so emotionally tied to new solutions.  I mean, just changing for ten sake and maybe that’s not the most economical.  So, we understand that at both ends of the spectrum.  What we think, we have an ability to stay on top of these advancements, make decisions smartly, objectively that are good, that are still good for the environment, that are affordable, if not even more cost effective for the future and so we call it a path.  We don’t call it a plan, we call it a path because our path can change.  We can change directions, we can pivot.  We can, you know, we can partner with other businesses and companies that we have been doing with our new energy economy partners and we continue to invite people into San Antonio to bring jobs and solutions for where we are going to go and staying flexible is the only way that we can do that.  We can’t think the same way, we did five or ten years ago.  We got to have new thinking.  We got to listen more than we talk and then we got to make every single step valuable on our journey.

 

[00:31:23]

Bill Loveless:  Paula, what can Washington policy makers learn from CPS, from San Antonio, from Texas when it comes to meaningful grid policies? What can we learn about this path that you’re talking about?

 

[00:31:23]

Paula Gold Williams:  Well, first and foremost, I always start out with, I’m absolutely respectful to my legislators at the federal, state and local levels.  I mean, they do a really tough job trying to keep it all in balance.  But a bit of advice I will give them kind of similar on our philosophy here that right after I tell people about our people first philosophy, I always say, electrons and now molecules have to expend electrons and molecules not everyone.  There is no focus on political affiliation, general preferences of any type.  It fulfills a need into everyone’s home and business, schools, churches, all of those things.  So, policies should have the ability to be good seekers of solutions that are collaborative, that are open, that try, but still try new things.  There is a challenge in trying to be aspirational and then create and make sure that we have reliable power along the way and we’ve got to listen to it all.  Because reliability is still important but what people want is they want that power delivered to them progressively, not and affordably along the way.  So, I think what we can do that takes away barriers, that actually supports our collaboration in our country and actually outside of our country is very important.  I can’t always get into the politics of it.  I just say, I need as much flexibility from policies as possible to do the right things for this industry and for our customers.

 

[00:33:26]

Bill Loveless:  So, before I let you go, I want to ask you how you’re weathering the heat down in Texas? There has been record breaking temperatures across the state, well across much of the country for that matter but it’s, how are you fairing? How is the grid responding to this weather?

 

[00:33:45]

Paula Gold Williams:  Well, the grid is responding.  It is holding up and functioning well.  I’m knocking on wood.  As an operator we do a tremendous amount of technical effort.  But you still, you have mechanical systems and you can run into anything from a plant tripping to someone doing something to a transmission line that can cause instability of the grid.  So even if your plants are functioning mostly, you could have these little intermittent things or exposures to things around them.  But the great thing, I would say about Texas, we had a tremendous amount of effort that was a lot of focus by our Texas legislature, a lot of leadership from ____ [00:34:31], Bill Magnus who run that.

 

[00:34:35]

Bill Loveless:  Which is the grid, the grid operator in Texas.

 

[00:34:37]

Paula Gold Williams:  Right.  The grid operator.  Additionally, we have a great PUC, Public Utility Commission and all the leaders associated with that.  Basically, made sure that we work together, that we talk and that we came forward and often every single operator was required to talk about their maintenance program.  What they’ve done, are they fully ready? We had to hit deadlines.  We had to be collaborative.  We talk about our commitments.  We talked about our ability to focus on conservation.  In particular for example, San Antonio, at CPS energy, we have one of the biggest demand response programs in the nation.  We can get up to about 200 Megawatts of demand response which is wonderful because it can respond immediately to high temperatures and allow us to reduce the demand and pressures on the system.  So, all of that stuff, I think we are more ready this year than any other year.  And it allowed us to feel much more confident in going into the summer and so the systems have, the system overall has performed.  Every community is stepped up.  All the operators of generation have been very, very dutiful and intensified their communication back and forth and the things that we needed to do.  And so, we are doing well, now.  Here is the challenge.

 

[00:36:13]

Bill Loveless:  And there always is one, right.

 

[00:36:15]

Paula Gold Williams:  We are actually not at the peak, right.  We are not at the peak.  We expect it to get hotter in the month of August and get more intense.  And so, you’re running all your units extremely hard and so we, you know, my chair, John Steen, I have a great board, John Steen is our chair of our board and you know, he was asking us, challenging us.  Telling, you know, talking to about the good work that’s happened so far and he was agreeable that our thoughts were, you know, we won’t feel comfortable for the whole summer until we get, until the October time frame.  Not for a lock of focus and commitment and hard work.  I mean, all of our people are, you know, they are just on high alert to try to prevent an issue and then if there is one, respond quickly.  But we feel better when the pressure starts coming down and it’s a big cooler and we can get our plans back into less stress.

 

[00:37:22]

Bill Loveless:  Paula Gold Williams, thanks for joining us on the Columbia Energy Exchange to talk about women in energy and these other topics.  It’s a good conversation.  I’ve enjoyed it.  Thank you.

 

[00:37:34]

Paula Gold Williams:  Okay.  Thank you, sir.  Very much appreciated and absolutely, send out my thanks to the Columbia University Exchange for doing something like that.  Making again this type of outreach where we make some difference in how we share our message.  We’re going to make sure our community here same conversation.

 

[00:37:53]

Bill Loveless:  Well, that’s our conversation for today and I hope you enjoyed it.  And as always, we ask that you give us a rating on iTunes or your favorite podcast platform and help us spread the word.  It helps us grow.  I hope too you’ll take a look at the Women in Energy program at the Center on Global Energy Policy.  Julie ____ [00:38:09] would love to hear from you.  For more information on the program and other activities at the center, go to energypolicy.columbia.edu on the web or Columbiauenergy on social media.  For the Columbia Energy Exchange, I’m Bill Loveless.  We’ll be back again next week with another conversation.