People + AI for a Better Tomorrow: Learnings and Lessons from the 2023 WE3 Summit

Deepak Garg
Published: December 19, 2023
8 min read

The reverberations from the WE3 Summit are still echoing in our minds, and I am thrilled to share the exceptional journey we undertook towards building a sustainable future. This monumental success owes gratitude to our dedicated team, clients, partners, and every participant who invested their effort and passion in the WE3 movement.

Heartfelt thank you to all for making this summit a catalyst for change in the Energy and Water sector, shaping a better tomorrow for us all!

WE3 is deeply rooted to address the concerns surrounding energy, water, and climate. It is a movement to Engage, Empower, and Educate billions of people craving a path toward a cleaner and sustainable world.

But what does this encompass?

Imagine a happy future - zero-carbon emissions, sustainable businesses, green energy, clean water, renewable systems, electric vehicles, and much more.

Sounds like a place to belong, doesn’t it?

Given the chance, I would be the first to reach this place!

The vision of the WE3 Summit is all about making it possible together with partnerships with utility providers. It stands as a global movement, fostering connections among change-makers and industry leaders globally to address the sustainability concerns with technology and innovation, pledging to propel humanity toward this promising future.

This year’s WE3 Summit surpassed expectations, hosting a convergence of industry leaders, experts, and visionaries from around the globe. I enjoyed discussing and learning from the leaders as we delved into engaging discussions over the course of 2-days to express our commitment and devise actionable roadmaps for addressing global challenges.

The WE3 Summit delved into the belief that complex problems have simple answers, found in the synergy of People+AI.

The sessions posed thought-provoking questions and unearthed actionable insights, emphasizing the imperative to address pressing issues. As the summit unfolded, a wealth of learnings emerged, underscoring the collective journey toward a sustainable future.

  • Preparing customers and communities and putting them at the center of the equation is the first step to making net zero and sustainability possible.

    During the WE3 Summit, everyone emphasized on ‘putting the customers at the center of the sustainability equation.’ Blue Jenkins, President at Washington Gas, said, “A lot of the community and customer role is about understanding what they want, what their impact is, and how they can achieve that. We, as an industry, can help guide and educate them on their choices and options.” And I strongly conform to this imperative for evolution. As we transition towards a changing world, a positive change, I believe educating customers and communities is the first step to glide through this transition.

    Paul Lau, CEO and General Manager at SMUD, discussed the importance of keeping the customers aware. And it is essential to understand that everything we build is ultimately for the customers. As Johnny Johnston, COO of Algonquin Power & Utilities, says, ‘We have to be uber-focused on what our customers are looking for and serve that for successful outcomes and business.’ They are no longer just ratepayers but an essential part of the equation. We must drive awareness programs, educate them, address their misconceptions and concerns, and maintain transparency to build and foster trust. Retha Hunsicker, Vice President, Duke Energy, said, “To be successful in this transition, our relationship with the customers must be deliberate.” This deliberate relationship enables smoother functioning, reliable services, and a better customer and utility experience.

  • Driving Electric Vehicles will take us swiftly into a green future! Preparing for a thriving EV ecosystem.

    Global transportation runs on traditional fuels and combustion engines, impacting sustainability and the future. Thankfully, this is changing with the rapidly increasing adoption of electric vehicles. Embracing EVs is pivotal for a green future, but the success of this transformation hinges on smooth onboarding for customers. Brian Bentz, President & CEO, Alectra, raised a very important point: “EV transition is all about empowerment, partnerships, people, innovation, technology; it's about the holistic relationship’. We must make the switch to electric vehicles not just with a change in driving experience but also in terms of a seamless lifestyle transition. Introducing customer-centric programs, offering the right rebates, and providing customized incentives go a long way in driving this transition. For utilities and other stakeholders, it is essential to stay relevant to the latest technology updates and adopt innovative solutions, such as integrating distributed energy resources, vehicle-to-grid technology, and digital platforms, to build grid resiliency and streamline charging infrastructure operations.

  • Setting Up the right ESG Goals can take you places.

    Another significant focus at the WE3 Summit was the role of Environmental, Sustainability, and Governance (ESG) goals and how they are necessary to drive positive change for businesses and society. I believe the meaning of these goals has evolved beyond traditional metrics and is growing towards the holistic betterment of our ecosystem. We must consider harnessing partnerships with communities, employees, and customers to fulfill these goals. Steps such as avoiding greenwashing and issuing green bonds are new initiatives that industries need to implement, and our friends in utilities have already been miles ahead in these efforts. Fostering solid communication with all stakeholders in our environment is a significant step toward embracing sustainability and successfully implementing ESG Goals.
  • Connected Platforms are the bridge to a seamless, unified experience.

    We can all agree that COVID-19 has changed the utility industry in many aspects, from the delivery of services and working methods to interactions with customers and more.

    And now AI is driving the next leg of transformation.

    With technological advancements in connectivity, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things, the role of platforms has become paramount in the new evolving world. At SEW, we identified the importance of connected digital platforms in building a unified experience long back.

    Platforms that connect customers, field workforce, assets and the evolving grid are important. These platforms act as the bridge to connect the utilities with their customers and workforce, not in silos but as an ecosystem. I remember during the WE3 Summit, in one of the discussions, Jordan Baculpo, Principal Program Manager at PG&E, said it right: ‘In today’s world, there is an app for everything,’ and I agree.

    Apart from fostering a transparent ecosystem, these platforms empower field workers to execute the work with an informed knowledge base, enable customers to make informed decisions about their energy and water usage, and, most importantly, allow utilities to facilitate seamless utility operations and build a sustainable world.

    Thomas Lord, Chief Information Officer, UGI, said it right: “The reality is, there is no one solution to the challenges facing us; every little piece helps improve where we are.” The operations might seem isolated, but in truth, they are all interconnected, and small positive steps in this interconnectedness make a huge difference.

    Connected platforms are the future; a technological imperative that utilities must embrace them to drive a successful industry transformation.

  • Embracing diversity is always an imperative: Women in Energy.

    Diversity has been a crucial part of SEW; in fact, the WE3 Summit was a huge success because of our capable and diverse team. During the summit, I had the chance to gain perspectives from successful women in the utility industry, and their dedication is commendable. Lisa Primeggia, Vice President at ConEdison, was one of them and said it rightly: ‘It is important that you show that any woman can do any job.’ These exceptional leaders, including Erin Christy, President at SEW; Janie Gonzalez, Chairman of the board at CPS Energy; Retha Hunsicker, Vice President at Duke Energy; and Utibe Bassey, Vice President at Dominion Energy, have proven it right, and I believe maintaining the right balance in diversity highlights a path to great culture and business success.

  • Harness the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to gain technological advantage.

    AI emerged as a recurring theme during the WE3 Summit, signifying its transformative potential. Manoj Kohli, Chairman at Smart eMobility ex-Head Softbank India, said, and I quote, “AI adoption should be a very critical goal of every utility.” The rapid growth of AI, exemplified by ChatGPT’s reach of 100 million global monthly users within two months, is reshaping industries. From predicting outages and suggesting proactive measures to acting as a virtual customer agent (chatbot), or providing personalized insights to customers, or elevating field workforce experience, the use cases are endless, and AI is doing it all! It is indeed the right time to be alive, to watch this technology marvel unravel, learn, and adopt. And harness this technology for the betterment of the people and the planet.

  • Build grid resilience to prepare for the future.

    Grid resilience is a longstanding concern for the industry, and the summit shed light on innovations in resiliency initiatives. Virtual power plants and Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) are crucial components, especially with the increasing load from eMobility. It has become critical, more than ever, for the utilities to develop scalable infrastructure and enhance grid stability. But how? By harnessing the power of technology, such as microgrids and vehicle-to-grid integration. Leveraging the power of these resources is the most optimal way to balance the grid, a gem of an investment.

In addition to the enlightening sessions, the summit was also an opportunity to celebrate our teams and demonstrate digital innovations - from Smart CX, Smart WX, iPaySmart, and Smart eMobility. This summit owes its success to their dedication and contributions. So, a heartfelt cheers to you all - thank you! We also unfurled that Version 11, Smart GX (GrideXchange by SEW, Smart BX, Smart BITs) to the surprise of the attendees with a promise that innovation is what SEW leads with! More information to come on these products.

The WE3 summit is also an occasion to express gratitude to our valued partners. I am thrilled to announce our latest strategic collaboration with Accenture, anticipating a multitude of exciting adventures ahead. Heartfelt appreciation goes to our steadfast existing partners - PwC, Siemens, and Itron - for their unwavering commitment and support on this collective journey toward a more promising future.

This is the most crucial time for the industry, and I believe we are transforming at hyper speed. The WE3 Summit has been a charging station for me, where I spent some time getting charged up with all the discussions, insights, and networking. With many great sessions and powerful talks, I am grateful for everything I have learned at the WE3 Summit.

A dear friend quoted this at the summit: ' If you get the people part right, everything else will follow!’ And I cannot get over it. I am confident that these learnings will create a positive impact, and we will build on them for a better, sustainable future.

The Summit saw industry leaders commit to the WE3 Pledge – an initiative to Engage, Educate, and Empower people to save energy and water. This commitment is more than ‘just a pledge.’ I believe it is a movement toward sustainability, serving as a practical roadmap for a better future.

So, as we gear up for WE3 Summit 2024 and the future, our vision is to inspire billions of people to commit to building a better future. With a commitment to action far beyond our operations, we at SEW are committed to helping build a sustainable future. Standing at the forefront of this transformation, we are pro-sustainability. With the power of our connected platforms, we have connected over 1.21 billion people in over 42 countries and plan to make it over 4 billion by 2025. We strive to ignite the change from ‘I’ to ‘We.’ Let us all take a pledge as we aim for a better Earth, for a better WE.

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Deepak Garg
CEO & Founder

Deepak Garg is the Founder and CEO of Smart Energy Water (SEW). A respected leader in the technology and utility industry, Deepak has over two decades of experience in product development and is responsible for driving innovation, vision, and strategy at SEW. Deepak has spearheaded SEW’s initiatives to build innovative digital platforms that address the challenges of global sustainability and help utilities connect with people. He has successfully established high-powered technology teams, to develop the #1 Digital Customer Experience, Digital Workforce Experience, Smart AI/ML Analytics platforms that address key business challenges for energy, water and gas providers. All the SEW platforms leverage next-gen technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, IoT, to power customer and workforce experiences. Backing on scalability, modularity, flexibility, and security, SEW clients deliver award-wining experiences and set new benchmarks for the industry.

Driven by Deepak’s stellar vision, SEW has navigated 37+ geographies to serve energy and utility companies, connecting 1.5 B+ people and serving 22000+ Smart Cities/communities.

Deepak’s passion and dedication to transform the energy and utility industry is mirrored in the company’s vision to Engage, Educate, and Empower. Deepak founded SEW, guided by five core values — Sustainability, Integrity, Innovation, Compassion, and Performance. Over the years, he has brought together like-minded people, developed high-powered business and technology teams, and started a SEW family (now 1000+ strong) that aims to connect billions of people with their energy and water providers.

The company has been recognized by INC 5000 and is one of the fastest growing companies in America. Deepak is an active contributor in the Forbes Technology Council. Deepak is also propelling the cleantech conversations with other utility and tech leaders with the WE3 platform. The thought leadership space brings perspectives from industry leaders on the key themes affecting the energy and water world to spark change and normalize innovation.

Deepak has received multiple industry recognitions such as EY Entrepreneurship of the Year, Best CEO Award, Innovator of the Year and more.

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