Member Spotlight

Brett French, Vice President of Business Development and Communications — Upper Peninsula Power Company, Marquette

MY BUSINESS…MYSELF

I first entered the complex world of energy in 2001, as stand-alone electric transmission companies were beginning to emerge to form the electrical grid that now serves families and businesses throughout Michigan. The energy industry was undergoing a major transformation where transmission companies were being spun off from vertically integrated utilities that historically owned generation, transmission and distribution. Over the next 18 years, I watched as challenges with energy infrastructure restrained economic growth and prosperity in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For more than a decade, energy has persisted as one of the most complicated and vexing challenges in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula affecting its families and businesses. Solutions have been elusive.

From customer service to public relations and government affairs to public policy, my work has largely focused on developing and mobilizing partnerships to improve the business climate of the Upper Peninsula and our state. Job creation, productivity and economic growth are essential to the well-being of every family. Energy plays a key role in helping to stimulate this growth and prosperity. In August 2017, I joined Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO) as Vice President of Business Development and Communications after a 17-year career with American Transmission Company (ATC) – the electric transmission company that serves the communities of the U.P.

For more than 100 years, UPPCO and its predecessors have provided clean, renewable, reliable energy to U.P. residents and businesses from its hydroelectric generation fleet. Today, UPPCO’s seven U.P. - based hydroelectric generation plants produce 20 percent of the energy that is consumed by our customers. UPPCO’s hydros provide extensive fish and wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities, and they support the local tax base. UPPCO takes great pride in supplying U.P. families and businesses with the energy that keeps families safe and warm, businesses moving forward and our communities strong. U.P. Power, U.P. Proud!

GREATEST CHALLENGE

The energy industry has undergone considerable change during the last 20 years as public policy and society’s expectations have evolved. The adage “we’re not your grandparent’s utility” has never rung truer than today. Utilities throughout the U.S. have worked tirelessly to anticipate and respond to the everchanging landscape. From Customer Choice to Net Metering and Renewable Portfolio Standards to Integrated Resource Plans, every utility professional has been affected by massive shifts in how we produce and deliver the energy every person needs to survive and thrive. Those that have resisted these changes have perished or are quickly becoming obsolete.

GREATEST OPPORTUNITY

Change and opportunity are conjoined bedfellows. And, these are very exciting times. Our new energy paradigm has created an impetus to evolve, which can be daunting and uncertain. Advancements with technology and a laser-focus on delivering strong value to customers and stakeholders are vitally important. We’re witnessing the decarbonization of our nation’s generation resources and reliance on new and emerging technologies. New infrastructure and technology are transforming the way we energize our homes, cars, businesses and economy.

WHY I SERVE AS A VOLUNTEER LEADER

After many years of benefitting from the assistance, insight and experience of others, I am at a point in my career where I can share my experiences with others. As a young professional, I participated in the Michigan Chamber Foundation’s Leadership Michigan program in 1998. That experience opened for me a world of opportunities I never would have imagined. I have also participated on the Michigan Chamber’s Energy and Environmental Policy Advisory Committee since 1995. Bar none, the committee provides the best forum to connect with other professionals from throughout the state to engage in meaningful and constructive policy discussions that lead to positive solutions. I firmly believe you reap what you sow. That philosophy has served me well with the Michigan Chamber.

A KEY TAKEAWAY

As a small electric utility serving some of the most rural countryside the state has to offer, UPPCO is embracing change and opportunity with great optimism. It’s good for our customers and our business. Our successes will be defined by innovation and our commitment to delivering uncompromising value. I am grateful for having the opportunity to work with and serve the Michigan Chamber and its members. I look forward with great optimism to the bright future that lies ahead.