Donna Cooper on Innovation
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Donna Cooper on Innovation

The energy industry is rapidly changing and energy companies, like Pepco, are quickly evolving to meet new customer expectations and needs. We sat down with Pepco Region President Donna Cooper to see what this looks likes for the company and our customers.

What does innovation mean to you?

In its most simple form, innovation means change, or something new. At Pepco, we are constantly assessing and identifying ways to improve our programs and performance by examining all aspects of our work, ensuring we deliver the highest level of service to our valued customers. Our industry is evolving, and customers’ expectations and interests evolve as well. As a company, we must be responsive to this change. Every Pepco employee – from the lineworkers, engineers, underground team, customer care, and support staff – is critical in developing innovative platforms and tools to improve the way we serve our customers. Their level of technical expertise and experience is invaluable.  

What does innovation look like at Pepco?

We are excited about the innovation efforts that are ongoing at Pepco. Innovation is a primary motivation for the new services we are offering our customers, and it is also the driving force behind how we are addressing our system operations. These new initiatives include providing customers with new platforms to take control of their energy usage, such as our energy management tools; proposing innovative programs for new services, electric vehicles (EVs) and solar energy; and enhancing system reliability and resiliency by incorporating smarter technologies onto the local energy grid, such as DC PLUG and the Capital Grid Project. We also have a rich history of supporting and implementing our employee ideas. An example would be our patent-pending energy absorption roadside transmission poles. These poles were designed with safety in mind and limits the impact of a vehicle making contact.

How do you keep employees focused on innovation?

Innovation and employee participation allows us to offer the best possible service to our customers. It is important for our employees to know that they are a part of a company that embraces and encourages creativity, and promotes employee-led innovation. We must ensure that we have a culture that cultivates innovation at every level of our company’s operations. Pepco challenges employees on focused opportunities across the company which assists in providing higher quality outputs. Everyone’s ideas can have a significant impact and we take great effort in fostering employee ideas, embracing creativity, supporting their implementation, and celebrating them. The annual Exelon Innovation Expo provides our employees the opportunity to display many of the new and innovative products and services they are working on to transform the energy experience for our customers.

What do you see as the next major innovation at Pepco?

I believe furthering grid modernization and implementing EV programs are two major innovation initiatives that are needed and responsive to our customers’ interests. Pepco has established a Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Collaborative and Solar Advisory Council, which provides the company with an opportunity to interact and directly engage with many of our customers on alternative energy sources and energy delivery. We also have two major projects – DC PLUG the Capital Grid project – that will help strengthen our system and facilitate the expansion of more DER in the District of Columbia and Maryland.

The opportunity to expand the much-needed charging infrastructure to support the electrification of the transportation sector is also exciting. Pepco is advancing these initiatives in our region with significant diverse stakeholder input, which is critical. Transportation emissions contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emission levels, so by supporting EV infrastructure expansion and adoption, we are helping our jurisdictions reduce their carbon footprint and meet their sustainability goals. This is really just the beginning. Similar initiatives are being undertaken by our sister utilities in Delaware and New Jersey, and across the country to help bring this transportation alternative to our customers.

The overall focus of innovation within our company is how we can better serve our customers tomorrow given the fast-moving energy ecosystem. To meet this opportunity, we must be flexible, creative and drive innovation to ensure that we are responsive to our valued customers.

Donna Cooper is President of Pepco, a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC). She is the primary executive responsible for engaging in stakeholder relations with state and local officials, community leaders, businesses, and con​sumer and nonprofit organizations within the Pepco region.

She is a Mayoral Appointee, a member of the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility Advisory Board, Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership Board, District of Columbia Building Industry Association Board, the D.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Board, Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable, and WorkSource Montgomery, Inc.