Each day in the program has approximately eight hours of in-class sessions, comprised of lecture, discussion, exercises and break-out group work. The cohort has numerous opportunities to work in teams with different people. 

Over the course of the program, there will be a total of three graded assignments that are combined with participation evaluations to make the up the participants’ final grade. A certificate of completion is awarded to all students who complete the program. Participants with a bachelor's degree may apply to receive 4 hours of graduate school credit.

The Approach

This program utilizes readings, presentations, case studies, and an experiential exercise designed to engage the participants and deepen their learning. A final exercise is a strategic planning exercise where participants develop a five-year strategic plan for their utility. The exercise teaches foundations in strategic planning and helps participants identify key factors influencing the utility of the future. These include, but are not limited to, regulatory environment, market conditions, competitive forces, financial drivers, customer needs, and technological innovation. The team assignment focuses on the questions:

  1. How should the utility position itself to be successful in this environment and what strategy should it pursue?
  2. What are the financial, organizational and customer implications with the scenario and strategy?

The industry information and competency training provided during the program will help participants complete this final assignment. Coaching will be available intermittently during the program to assist with techniques for problem solving and working in teams, and each team will make its final project presentation on the last day of the program.

Days 1-2: Utility Strategy and Finance

In the first two days of the program, participants will learn about opportunities and challenges facing utilities, how utility strategy is developed, and the financial drivers to the utility business. Strategy and Finance topics will be covered in both days of the programs. In the morning of the first day, participants will be introduced to the utility strategy development- what is considered and how to develop strategic goals, initiatives, success measures, and risk analysis. In the afternoon, participants will be introduced to key financial drivers to the utility business. This will help them understand the impacts of revenues, expenses and funding capital investments.

On Day 2, the curriculum will turn to how to develop a strategic plan by exploring internal resources and capabilities against an external backdrop of regulation, economic factors, customer preferences, new technology and competitive forces. This morning session will provide a foundation for the
final assignment that will be due on day 10.  And the final segment will focus on financial analyses used for investment analysis and the financial drivers to rate design. Participants will learn what drives financial success and the factors equity and debt investors consider when investing equity or purchasing bonds. Lastly, participants will learn how new financial investments and rising costs translate into rate impact for customers.

Day 3: Energy Resources and Markets in Transition

This session will provide an overview of energy resource operations, economics, planning and markets. Program participants will learn key characteristics and functions of the bulk energy system. Major policy, regulatory and structural changes occurring in this segment of the utility industry will also be discussed. Specific topic areas include:

  • resource attributes and system load-resource balancing
  • commodity energy products and markets
  • evolving policies and regulatory requirements
  • conventional resources, renewable resources, and energy storage
  • clean energy and carbon reduction initiatives
  • demand-side resources, distributed energy resources, and microgrids
  • utility integrated resource planning and acquisition
  • new energy market designs and organizations

Day 4: Executive Presentation Skills

This will be an interactive workshop with inputs on the elements and techniques of presentation - a critical aspect of management. By the end of the day, the participants will be aware of their strengths as speakers and be more credible and clear. The workshop is designed to support the participants' final assignment on Day 10 as well as provide presentation techniques they can take back to the workplace.

Day 5: Customer Engagement

This first week will close with a focus on the utility customer. Participants begin with an introduction to "Customer Engagement" by reviewing the relationship between a utility and its customers. This segment will focus on customer contact points and changing customer needs, to explore what the utility of the future should be considering with respect to enhancing the customer experience.

Day 6 & 7: Fundamentals of Rate Regulation

This two-day segment begins with providing participants insight to state regulation and rate setting. They will learn rate-making principles, the rate design process and explore the principles and impact of rate regulation on a utility. Participants learn about the regulatory process through a role-playing exercise (a mock rate proceeding). Based on information about a fictitious gas and electric utility, participants representing different stakeholder groups prepare presentations about a rate request before a mock rate-setting body.

Day 8: Effective Leadership

Utility leaders need to be prepared to lead their organizations through future change in a rapidly evolving environment. Therefore, the focus today is on helping participants understand leadership styles, recognize their own strengths, consider change management issues, and learn how to use both to effectively lead in an increasingly complex and diverse workplace. 

Day 9: Negotiations and Stakeholder Relations 

This main portion of the day will focus on negotiations and stakeholder relations in order to help participants be more effective in their interactions with third parties. Utility managers often are involved in internal and external negotiations. Participants will identify their natural negotiation style and explore alternative styles. Participants will also be coached in how to network more effectively and to better utilize their network. And, participants will be guided in exploring how individuals and their organization can better manage relationships with their internal and external stakeholders.

Day 10: Capstone Day

Strategic Plan Presentations

The program closes with teams presenting their ten-year strategic plan. The assignment includes developing assumptions; analyzing the organization's strengths and weaknesses as well as potential opportunities and threats; strategic initiatives; success measures; and financial impacts for investors and customers. The teams will present as if they were presenting to an internal executive team. The team presentations will conclude with input regarding the content and ideas presented, their effectiveness presenting as a team, and the quality of the presentation.

Willamette University

Executive Development Center

Salem Campus

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

Portland Campus

200 SW Market Street, Suite 101
Portland Oregon 97201 U.S.A.

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