Waste Not, Want Not

Greg Sarich uses efficiency to foster innovation, toiling night and day to make Texans’ utilities more efficient at CPS Energy

Greg Sarich begins each day at 6:30 a.m. By 8 a.m., he has had his daily operations call with his executive team. The rest of the day, Sarich will be running from project to meeting to speaking event or interview. Often, he’s double booked. It’s not until 7 p.m., that he will finally head home from the day’s work at the largest municipal electric and gas utility in the United States.

As senior vice president of enterprise support and chief information officer of CPS Energy, Sarich has a lot on his plate. He calls it a 24-7 job. The San Antonio, Texas-based company was founded in 1858 and provides electric and natural gas to more than one million customers in Bexar County, which surrounds the San Antonio region.

At CPS Energy, where Sarich heads IT strategy and corporate support services, the New Energy Economy initiative promotes innovation and economic development through fostering clean energy sources and energy efficiency tools.

“Everything we do should impact the consumer in some way, and allow them to make decisions.”

Sarich also oversees security functions at CPS Energy, which includes physical and cyber security. You can bet, if anything, that Sarich’s long days at the office are long but incredibly efficient: one of his main goals at CPS Energy is to drive business and innovation through automation and efficiency.

“I was always interested in gadgets and techy things,” Sarich says. In high school, Sarich participated in a technology program that he says sparked his passion for tech, ultimately leading him to his current role at CPS Energy. “I always thought, whatever happens, if you know something about technology you’ll have a good place in the future,” he explains.

After graduating from Amberton University with a degree in human relations and business, Sarich took a job at Electronic Data Systems (EDS), an information technology services company. From there, Sarich held a series of positions at EDS and Hewlett Packard, where he learned about technology leadership, marketing, sales, and business development. As these jobs took him across the tech field, they also took him across the United States: he worked in Detroit, Harrisburg, New Orleans—and even Australia.

“All those different opportunities gave me a different perspective on business, technology, and customers,” Sarich says.

In 2009, Sarich shook things up with a job at TXU Energy as vice president of information technology. Continuing his work in the energy industry, Sarich began working at CPS Energy in 2013.

Sarich says the aim of his automation and efficiency initiatives are to ultimately improve customer value. Creating a company that works more efficiently improves your speed to market and drives down costs, but most importantly, it benefits the customer, according to the senior vice president and chief information officer.

One of CPS Energy’s biggest efficiency initiatives so far has been its grid optimization project, part of which utilizes automated meter infrastructure. In other words, CPS Energy is working to digitize consumers’ energy information. About eighteen months ago, CPS Energy began installing digital meters on the sides of its customers’  homes. These meters, unlike traditional meters, take readings in fifteen-minute intervals, allowing both consumers and CPS Energy to monitor how energy is being used during the day, week, month, and year. Sarich estimates the project will be finished around 2018.

“We’re already seeing the impact,” Sarich says. “In some cases, we’re offering data and information to our customers in real time.” Automated meters will allow CPS Energy customers to compare their energy consumption over time and to their community, and adjust as they see fit. The information gleaned from these meters will help CPS Energy, too, Sarich adds, by developing more accurate billing, lowering costs, and allowing the company to redeploy employees and resources to
other areas.

Using automated meters is not the first time the company has used technology to make customers’ lives easier. Under Sarich’s guidance, CPS Energy launched new web and mobile apps that provide CPS Energy customers with easy access to energy and billing information.

For Sarich, pushing forward automation and efficiency initiatives, such as the smart meters, also opens the door for innovation. Sarich advises anyone in the tech industry, especially those early in their career, to embrace disruptive technologies and find new ways they can create value for your company.

At CPS Energy, this means integrating renewable energy into its business. “We’re actively engaged in renewables, and in some cases, I think we’re leading the pack,” Sarich says. Most recently, CPS Energy has unveiled new solar offerings. By 2020, Sarich predicts the company will be the leader in the municipal space for solar.

However, every decision the company makes and every new product it rolls out must be based on one thing, Sarich says: “Everything we do should impact the consumer in some way, and allow them to make decisions.”