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Ensuring Success in the Power Business

Doug Sterbenz, a speaker at the marcus evans Power Plant Management & Generation Summit Fall 2013, discusses a unique approach to getting all stakeholders involved on new projects.

Interview with: Doug Sterbenz, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Westar Energy


“Most utilities plan for their future resource needs in a vacuum, without enough interaction at the right time with the real world,” according to Doug Sterbenz, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Westar Energy. “A better approach is to involve others early in the process. This leads to a better outcomes,” he details.

A speaker at the marcus evans Power Plant Management & Generation Summit Fall 2013, in Atlanta, Georgia, October 28-30, Sterbenz uncovers Westar Energy’s planning process and discusses how to engage stakeholders.

How can power generation executives ensure public support for projects?

Power generation executives need to “pull” solutions from the world rather than “push” their solutions on the world. Most utilities do resource planning in a vacuum, without interacting with the real world. Many of us go through the same process that we have for 100 years. It is a very fact- based approach, assuring that we get married to a solution, then trying to sell it to the world.

What is different about your approach?

We have a more interactive process, involving stakeholders who own property or have some interest in the project. Their input is needed early on for a better conclusion in the end - a solution that is much smoother, less expensive, faster and more pleasing to everybody involved, while still getting the job done and serving our customers.

For example, in siting wind farms, we let the many stakeholders determine the best, most suitable locations and we pull that solution from them instead of pushing our solution on them. Of course we do need certain attributes to be successful, but we have turned the conventional process upside down. We now have six wind farms in Kansas and have managed to avoid sensitive areas, bird habitats, tall grass prairies and other areas that ended up in long legal battles for other organizations. We have streamlined our process and actually been very successful bringing our wind farms to the market.

Could this heavy focus on getting public consent impact the bottom line negatively?

We have found that doing it the conventional way impacts our bottom line negatively. Our method is cheaper and leads to a better solution for all in the end, therefore helping our bottom line.

What helps in leading a power business to success?

It is about being present. Leaders must be present in their jobs physically, emotionally and mentally. They cannot sit in a corner office all day long. They have to be out with their people and know what they are capable of. They need to know the community they are serving. Often they let their busy work get in the way of their important work. Many people go through their lives not engaged with the work.

How could they connect in that way?

We have an important job to do, but we often take it for granted. We forget how critical electricity is to economic and physical health. Electric utility business leaders need to get people connected to the business. Their job is not just to fix a pump in the plant but to provide power so that families can have dinner together.

The key is to make sure all employees have a straight line of sight from their job to the overall mission of the company to provide low cost reliable electricity to customers.

Contact: Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans, Summits Division

Tel: + 357 22 849 313

About the Power Plant Management & Generation Summit Fall 2013

This unique forum will take place at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia, October 28-30, 2013. Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed industry thought leaders and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The Summit includes presentations on resource planning, power plant management, NERC compliance, environmental regulations and aging workforce challenges.

For more information please send an email to or visit the event website

marcus evans group - environment/utilities/ energy sector portal

The Energy Network – marcus evans Summits group delivers peer-to-peer information on strategic matters, professional trends and breakthrough innovations.


Please note that the Summit is a closed business event and the number of participants strictly limited.

About marcus evans Summits

marcus evans Summits are high level business forums for the world’s leading decision-makers to meet, learn and discuss strategies and solutions. Held at exclusive locations around the world, these events provide attendees with a unique opportunity to individually tailor their schedules of keynote presentations, case studies, roundtables and one-on-one business meetings. For more information, please visit

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