In the Arena with Alice Jackson
Alice Jackson is the SVP of System Strategy & Chief Planning Officer at Xcel Energy – Colorado and a board member at Colorado Concern. She joined Xcel in 2011 and has held various positions of increasing responsibility. Prior to her time at Xcel, Alice spent close to 10 years with Occidental Petroleum Corporation.
You have extensive professional experience working in energy, both from the electric utility and oil and gas perspectives. What do you wish people knew about the industry?
Across the US, a survey was done where people were asked, “Would you rather be without electricity or be without the internet?” and a majority said that they would rather be without electricity. This survey gives you some insight into how people perceive energy because if you’re without electricity, you’re without the internet. I don’t think people fully recognize how essential the electric industry is or how critical the natural gas industry is from a personal consumption standpoint, what the energy industry means for jobs, economic development, and our way of life.
Not many people in the US walk up to a light switch and say, “I hope this works today.” It’s expected to provide light. I wish more people realized how essential our industry is to their lives and what a complex business it is. For instance, people ask us why we can’t be 100% renewable tomorrow; it’s more complicated than they realize, and our priority must always be on delivering reliable service for our customers.
Oil and gas are also integral to our lives. It’s not just the gas for our cars, but it is in the materials we use for seat belts and the jackets we wear. It is even the wind turbines Xcel Energy installs, as many are made from carbon fibers. It’s all interconnected and plays a significant role in all our lives.
Xcel has consistently been a leader in clean energy and has recently adopted more ambitious emissions reduction targets than Colorado as a whole. What role does the private sector play in shaping the policy direction for the state?
I think that the private sector needs to be more involved. Currently, the private sector is more reactive than proactive in the setting of public policy. During the HB 19-1261 dialogues, many impacted industries were not in the discussion because they didn’t realize it was about them even though it had economy-wide implications. If you have an energy-intensive business, your world is changing. Especially as we begin looking into transportation electrification and building electrification. We need more private investment in innovation on the technology side if we are going to make all this come together for our customers. We all need to be part of the discussion moving forward.
What advice do you have for the legislature when it comes to working with the private sector?
Engage us earlier. We want to be part of the conversation. When our legislators have ideas, reach out to the experts in the field. We can certainly accomplish more together for the public’s benefit by working together. In my industry, maintaining reliable, safe, and affordable service is paramount. I’m always open to talking about this with lawmakers.
I’d like to see a legislative stakeholder process where more people are invited in for broader conversations to talk about what the impacts could be from the proposed legislation. No one wants unintended consequences that impact people negatively. I’d like to see more collaboration with our lawmakers so that the experts in the field, whether it’s the energy industry, hospitals, oil and gas, and others are allowed to engage in the process and find solutions that lead to sound public policy that benefits the people of Colorado.
What opportunities do you see for Colorado coming out of the pandemic?
Colorado is positioned in a pretty great way to come out of the pandemic. We’ve continued to see significant residential growth, but also commercial development. We’ve been the number one fastest growing economy nationwide, and now we’re number two coming out of 2020. We’re in a terrific position. We have many companies interested in Colorado because we have a strong business climate and access to employees, but there are always things that we can do to make it better. We have more regulations and restrictions on business coming in that make it more challenging. We want to ensure that we protect what makes Colorado attractive to business.
You recently joined the board of Colorado Concern. What drew you to this consortium of leaders?
Colorado Concern is making a difference in the state! The members, the leadership, and the ability to move are all part of the group’s success. Sometimes you can join groups that get together and talk a whole lot, but don’t necessarily move initiatives forward. That’s not Colorado Concern. It’s why I was excited to join the board, add a little diversity, and get stuff done.
Rapid Fire Round:
- Who inspires you? My parents set a great example of dedication, hard work, and being problem solvers.
- What is your favorite place in Colorado? Mesa Verde
- What are you reading? A More Excellent Way by Henry Wright, Why Trust Science by Naomi Oreskes, Think Again by Adam Grant, and Reorganize for Resilience by Ranjay Gulati
- What’s your favorite restaurant? My favorite restaurant was TAG which closed on May 15th. I’m looking for a new favorite.