Interviewed by Rick Cutter, Managing Director, Cloud for Utilities

August 15, 2019

During the Cloud for Utilities Summit last November 2018, Rick Cutter, managing director of Cloud for Utilities, sat down with Calvin Butler, CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) to discuss Butleŕs career path and his decisions along the way that led to his position at BGE. Perhaps most importantly, Calvin touched on how important it was for him to “be prepared and to make calculated risks for his career.”

Cutter asked Butler about how he started his career and what steps he took that led to his position as CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric, the first gas utility in the United States:

“For me, Ím not your typical utility CEO. And what I would always say in terms of how I got here – it was being prepared and taking calculated risks,” said Butler. “Out of undergraduate school, I had a great job lined up with Procter & Gamble, but I decided to go to law school. Then as a lawyer in government affairs. I took a calculated risk to go run manufacturing because I knew that was the course, the path, to be a CEO.”

In 2011, Exelon, another leading energy provider in the U.S., asked Butler to help them get their merger done with Constellation Energy. No questions asked, he went to Baltimore, sight unseen, four or five days a week. They completed the merger a year and a half later. In February of 2013, BGE asked Butler to come to Baltimore full time as a senior executive. About one year later, on March 1, 2014, he was named CEO of BGE.

“For me, it was all about understanding where I needed to be or wanted to be and taking the calculated risk to continue my career and my personal development to be ready for when that opportunity came,” said Butler. “And Ím appreciative of Exelon for giving me those opportunities, and my previous employers for making sure that I continued to be put in a situation to learn. And it́s really all been about continual learning, and Íve been very fortunate to have those opportunities.”

Butleŕs drive and willingness to continue learning, determining the right steps and taking calculated risks helped him become the successful CEO that he is today for BGE. Now, Butler continues to move BGE forward as a leader in innovation in the utility industry.   

Innovation is a critical component to the continued success of virtually any company in todaýs world, and BGE is no stranger to this. Cutter asked Butler to tell share a few of the things that BGE is currently working on to keep up with the everchanging technology and societal evolution.

You dońt normally think of a utility company as being innovative. As a matter of fact you think of just the opposite. But Ím so proud of the fact that as a 202 year-old company, we have to continue to innovate in order to keep ourselves relevant outside of just delivering gas and keeping the lights on.”

Butler emphasized that BGE was founded on innovation. In fact, BGE came about because of an artist who innovated a gas lamp just so he could showcase his art in the evenings. This same gas lamp is on display today right across from Baltimorés city hall. The question, then, is how do you take that innovative spirit and communicate it to the 3,200 men and women that work at BGE every day?

“Wéve done a couple of things, because innovation is critical. And I always stress that́s it́s critical because our customers are demanding more from their utilities today than they did five or ten years ago,” said Butler. “Theýre comparing their customer experiences to all the other outlets that they have. They expect their experience with BGE to be like it is with Amazon.”

BGE customers want, as many other utility customers do, to be able to communicate with their utility company in the same ways they communicate with their social networks – phone apps and social media. “Customers are asking the question, ‘why do I have to wait at home between 12 and 4 ó clock for a service truck to show, when I can track my Dominoes pizza on my phone?́,” said Butler. “It́s real.”

“We have to communicate with everyone all the time, using the channels that customers prefer, and that all starts with innovation,” he said.  “And innovation for me is not about the next iPhone. It́s about looking at our processes, looking at how we can employ technology, and make us more efficient in delivering the service that́s so core to peopleś lives.”

One of BGÉs recent developments is its electric vehicle program. BGE is partnering with the Maryland Public Service Commission to make Maryland one of the most progressive in the nation in installing EV charging stations around the mid-Atlantic.

“BGE is the first utility in the nation to have an electric bus fleet,” said Butler. “We bought two electric buses last year to shuttle our employees from one location to this main office location and it does a couple of things: (1) encourages them not to drive to work, (2) reduces emissions in the city of Baltimore, and (3) highlights and showcases what an all-electric bus fleet looks like. That́s innovative.”

At the end of the day, technology drives companies forward, including utilities like Baltimore Gas and Electric. As the CEO of BGE, Butler understands the importance of leveraging the latest technologies to achieve the companýs mission.

“Technology is all over our business and I say, Ím a CEO of a company that happens to deliver electricity and gas. You should have the highest expectations that your gas flows and the lights come on,” said Butler. “What Ím trying to do is utilize all this new technology to deliver it the most efficiently, at the lowest cost, with the highest service.”

This yeaŕs theme at BGE is “Innovation at Work.” Last yeaŕs theme was “The Energy to Innovate.” The emphasis being that innovation is not going to go away and that BGE is always on top of it.

“This is really about how we go about doing our business each and every day, and it takes all 3,200 of us to lean in and be committed to moving this business forward,” said Butler. “At BGE, we talk about it, we live it, we recognize it, and we reward it. I think that́s how you get a culture of innovation and let people know that we welcome it and this is going to be the business of the future.”

Therés no doubt that Butler has been and continues to be a leader for the 3,200 employees at BGE. He attributes his readiness to take on the position of CEO to his focus on being prepared and taking calculated risks. His desire to be put in positions where he can learn is what allows him to be forward thinking, helping to keep BGE moving with the changing tides.

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