Spotlight Story

Wayne Leighty ‘10 and Alex Morris ‘07
GSM Alumni Working to Develop Smart Grid in Southern California

UC Davis MBAs Wayne Leighty ‘10 and Alex Morris ‘07 teamed up this past summer at the Advanced Technology group at Southern California Edison (SCE), the electric utility that serves most of Southern California. Morris is a project manager in strategy and planning; Leighty was working as a summer intern prior to returning to UC Davis to complete a Ph.D. in transportation technology and policy. The two applied a full range of business skills learned at the GSM to the challenge of engaging with ongoing state and federal policy making that will define what the “smart grid” becomes and how it will work.

The “smart grid” refers to an array of innovations for the nation’s electrical grid that enable it to incorporate more clean energy, provide more real-time information to empower customers, and operate more safely, efficiently and securely.

“The California electricity industry is very complex, driven by progressive environmental regulations and a wave of technological innovations that potentially enable many new exciting capabilities,” said Morris. “Within this complexity, the ability to provide analytical bases for decisions and to communicate findings and recommendations is a critical skill. I frequently rely on my GSM training in financial and statistical analyses and in communication. Working with Wayne has been an incredible experience because our common background enables us to better collaborate on problem-solving approaches.”

The questions the UC Davis MBAs tackled range from exciting to mundane. Who owns and should have access to the energy usage data that will be generated by the smart grid? Should companies that offer charging stations for electric vehicles be regulated like public utilities? How should progress in the deployment of smart grid technologies be measured and reported? Morris and Leighty analyzed these questions, developed SCE positions on each, and then communicated these positions both internally and externally.

“One project was helping the California Public Utilities Commission develop metrics by which to measure progress in Smart Grid deployment,” said Leighty. “As we learned at the GSM, we often get what we measure. So defining these metrics wisely – what may at first seem to be a mundane task – is hugely important for ensuring the Smart Grid develops into something that is beneficial for California.”

SCE is a Fortune 100 company that is over 100 years old and is headquartered outside of Los Angeles. It is often regarded as a leader in Smart Grid and in the integration of plug-in electric vehicles, renewable energy, and energy efficiency.  SCE is a major supporter of the UC Davis Energy Efficiency center, where Wayne worked as an Emerging Venture Analyst.

“It’s exciting to know that the GSM network extends to companies that are tackling some of today’s most critical challenges. The alumni network helped me to ‘plug-in’ and contribute more quickly at SCE, and also to find colleagues and career support in a city hundreds of miles from Davis,” said Leighty. “I look forward to future opportunities to help others in the expanding the GSM network.”