Graceful Systems
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Pamela’s Blog:
The Energy Utility - re-imagined, re-invented


This is a blog about utilities; specifically, energy utilities.  We all experience these, the organizations of people and structures that stand behind the electricity or natural gas that arrive at the places where we live and where we work, at the server farms and cell phone towers that support our access to the internet, and … + read more

The Energy Utility Industry and the Local Optima

Over the last several years, I have been taking classes and doing reading in decision-making and problem-solving.  One of the things one learns about in such classes and books is the notion of local optima.  The essence of the idea is that there is a three-dimensional (at least!) landscape of possible “solutions” to a given … + read more

Returning to the Cause

July 10, 2012.  That is the date I last managed to capture a thought about re-imagining and re-inventing the energy utility in writing and post it on this blog.  It is not that I stopped having such thoughts, of course.  It is simply that I stopped – temporarily – writing them down.  Shame on me.  … + read more

Thinking Differently About Outages

By now, most if not all of the homes and businesses left without power by the end-of-June storms have electricity service again.  As is common after events such as these, various communities are agitating for their utility to underground the distribution lines to lessen such outages and the Edison Electric Institute – predictably – is … + read more

How Efficient Are We Anyway?

Oregon just announced a ten-year goal of offsetting all increased electricity load with energy efficiency.  This echoes goals in numerous other states, which range from achieving all cost-effective energy efficiency to various targets as a percentage of electricity use.  Moreover, we regularly celebrate utilities and states for the “savings” their customers – with the utilities’ … + read more

“Customer” or “Customer Base”?

The last decade of the energy utility industry has brought new, or in some cases renewed, focus to the customer.  It is not uncommon to find someone in the officer or high-level manager ranks at utilities with the “word” customer” in their title.  Customer surveying is frequent and ubiquitous.  Commissions occasionally join in, looking at … + read more

Lessons from the Desert

Spring has spring in the Pacific Northwest and western Oregon has donned its seasonal showy outfit of lush foliage and riotous color.  The shades of green alone defy one to find enough labels for them all.  But I am just recently returned from a trip to various parts of the Mojave Desert and, because of … + read more

Are We “Ensuring” or “Enabling” Utility Service?

Almost every set of state public utility regulatory statutes has some version of the following charge to the Commission: “Ensure [or assure] that public utilities provide safe and adequate service at just and reasonable prices.”  Every Commission takes this charge very seriously and public utilities, in turn, work hard to provide energy utility service to … + read more

Observations about natural gas and observations

If you follow energy news at all, and have not lived in a cave the last year or so, it is inevitable that you have heard about natural gas produced from shale and how the abundant supply of such gas in the United States will allow us to drastically reduce foreign fuel imports, transition the … + read more


If you are reading this blog, if you are an involved stakeholder of energy utilities, then I assume you likely have knowledge about energy and energy utilities.  Some of you, however, may not know much about systems in the sense that I intend to use them.  This will serve as a short introduction. There are … + read more

Who am I?

I came to the energy utility industry in the early 1980s, a tumultuous decade that followed the challenging 1970s.  The production of natural gas was being deregulated and pipelines and local distributors forced or strongly encouraged to unbundle the service of delivered natural gas into the two (or more) services of moving gas and selling … + read more

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