PG&E: The Opposite End of the Silicon Valley Spectrum

Deborah Affonsa of PG&EOn Thursday the Villanova in the Valley team visited Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), a private utility company that services over two-thirds of northern California. Deb Affonsa, VP of Corporate Strategy and a Villanova alumna was our speaker for the day. Walking into a PG&E conference room we were greeted with pastries, PG&E branded gifts, and a poster of Eagles head coach Chip Kelly with the quote, “We’re from Philadelphia and we fight.”

Deb certainly backed up her quote. She served as a fiery, entertaining, and informative spokeswoman for PG&E. While not as “sexy” a corporation as some of the others on our schedule this week, Deb did a fantastic job displaying what an interesting and dynamic company PG&E is. She covered PG&E’s relationship with the state of California, a complicated partnership that includes a fixed revenue and budget. This led to an insightful explanation of how the unique status as a public utility allows for stable investment returns and growth even in tough economies.

On the technical side, Deb explained the high-level details of producing energy and delivering it to customers. As an electrical engineer I followed this part quite well as she detailed the challenges of delivering energy that come with having to service such a large and geographically diverse area. PG&E draws from many resources to produce energy and Deb placed a strong emphasis on the amount of natural gas that they are able to use.

Overall, PG&E was a great company to visit on our trip. The strongest emphasis of the talk was the need to innovate, not for the sake of revenue, but to meet a certain budget. They had a more traditional corporate culture than the rest of the valley that Deb sold very well. While PG&E may not supply their employees with food and over-the-top work spaces, there is certainly something to be said for not blending your work and home life together.