Eugene Ayuyao is a strong advocate for helping those in need. It’s no surprise, then, that her professional title at Southern California Edison (SCE) is Senior Manager of Income Qualified and Disadvantaged Communities Programs.

When speaking with Ayuyao, it’s clear that her passion runs deeper than just a job title. She believes in the cause and will do anything in her power to help create equal opportunities for all the low-income, underserved, diverse and vulnerable communities in the utility’s service area.

Ayuyao’s mission is to help these disadvantaged communities, ensuring they have the same access to technologies and assistance. She has a team of 30 individuals who implement new programs and help these customers in various capacities. “I’m really proud of every single program we manage and the work my team does day in and day out to serve our low-income customers,” she says.

Headshot of Eugene Ayuyao interview for Energy Spotlight

Ayuyao and her team work with 20 to 30 programs on average that make a positive impact to customers in need. “These programs are not just about energy efficiency and energy savings — they were created to really look at the health, comfort and safety of our customers,” Ayuyao says. Some of these programs include:

  • Energy savings assistance program: Customers who qualify as low-income can receive energy efficient appliances at no cost to them 
  • Critical care back-up battery program: Qualifying customers who live in a high fire risk area can receive a portable battery at no cost in case of loss of electricity during wildfires
  • Energy assistance fund program: This initiative offers grants to customers in difficult financial situations to help them pay their bills

As the utility industry continues to push forward with new technologies, Ayuyao is keen to remind the industry that there are still low-income customers who may not have access to such innovations. “As such, we partner with community based organizations who are typically well positioned to engage with the hardest to reach customers in our service area,” she notes. “Whenever we introduce new technologies, new initiatives…it is our responsibility that no one gets left behind.”

To assist in this endeavor, SCE currently offers its communications in 16 different languages. “There’s such a diverse community that we serve and we want to make sure every single one gets the help they need,” says Ayuyao.

Interestingly, if Ayuyao wasn’t in the energy industry, she would be following her family’s footsteps in the medical field. She laughs, saying that her parents, two brothers and sister-in-law are all physicians and boast about making a difference in people’s lives. Although she doesn’t disagree with that, she says, “They save lives, but being in this field of energy efficiency, I get to brag about saving the world.”

Outside of Ayuyao’s work, she likes to stay active and travel with her wife and two Pomeranians, Ash and Andi.

Questline Digital connected with Ayuyao to get her thoughts on changes in the industry, the evolution of energy and advice for those entering the utility space.

How did you get started in the energy utility industry?

Prior to joining SCE, I was involved in designing and developing new LED fixtures. This was the time when the technology was fairly new and most products in the market were either incandescent or CFLs. With this experience, I successfully landed a manager role at SCE and became responsible for implementation and oversight of their residential lighting programs.

Since then, my team’s coverage has expanded to other residential programs such as Energy Upgrade California Home Upgrades, Plug Load, Multifamily, New Construction and Behavioral Programs.

In 2016, I was given the opportunity to handle Commercial and Industrial Energy Efficiency contracts that focused on generating efficiency in various industries within our service area. In 2019, I was given another opportunity to manage SCE’s income-qualified programs, where I continued to deliver energy efficiency and bill assistance programs to the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach customers.

What has changed the most about your job working in the utility industry over the course of your career?

Technology has definitely played a big role in the change. We are seeing an increase in smart technologies with greater emphasis in addressing behavioral changes and more sustainable approaches to energy efficiency.

The social media evolution has also paved the way to reach more customers and get them engaged in learning about energy efficiency. Lastly, regulatory changes and the focus on clean energy is certainly redefining our strategy as an organization.

What campaign or initiative are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of our current income-qualified programs where we provide benefits to SCE’s long-term growth strategy and corporate responsibility through: 

  • Healthier and more resilient communities, saving energy and lowering bills for income-qualified customers, disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.
  • Ensuring access and deployment of electrification and modernized technologies to income-qualified customers, disadvantaged and vulnerable communities in support of achieving SCE’s and California’s aggressive clean energy goals in an equitable manner.
  • Developing strategic partnerships and supporting job creation that benefit income-qualified customers, disadvantaged and vulnerable communities. 

What’s a marketing campaign you wish you’d thought of and why (inside or outside the energy industry)?

I don’t think this is original at all, but I would have wanted to have a referral base lead generation incentive program within the energy efficiency space. For example, campaigns focused on “Earn While Your Neighbor Saves” or “Earn a Buck to be Green.”

What is the hardest part of working in the energy industry today?

Government policies, political, environmental and social pressures all contribute to the challenges we face in the energy industry today.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t working in program management, I would be…

I would probably be a doctor.

How do you anticipate the world of energy evolving in the coming years? What are you looking forward to?

There will definitely be a shift in the use of cleaner energy options to address the rising impact of climate change. Examples of these efforts include building and transportation electrification.

What advice would you give to those entering the utility space?

I highly recommend using a customer lens when making operational decisions.

Participation in Questline Digital’s Energy Spotlight series does not indicate an endorsement from utility partners.

Matthew Allen is the Senior Key Accounts & Business Analyst for ElectriCities of NC and acts as a guide for their municipal utilities. ElectriCities of NC provides administrative, technical, legal and legislative services to municipal electric utilities throughout North Carolina, as well as some in South Carolina and Virginia. Working with 32 member utilities, Allen helps their commercial and industrial (C&I) customers become more energy efficient and save on utility costs.

Headshot of Matthew Allen Senior Key Accounts and Business Analyst at Electricities of NC

Between performing energy audits, encouraging C&I customers to participate in load management programs and helping other member utilities establish or improve their Key Accounts programs, one could say Allen keeps busy.

Allen is a homegrown advocate of ElectriCities, starting his career as an intern during college. He was born and raised in Lexington, North Carolina, and graduated from the University of North Carolina. After college, he applied for a full-time role with ElectriCities and has been with the company ever since. Outside of work, Allen enjoys golf and spending time with family, including his Golden Retriever, Summit.

For Allen, focusing on customer service and the customer experience is always top-of-mind. “In general, a lot of utilities focus on keeping the lights on,” he says. “While this has been the main priority for years, improving the overall customer experience should be an important consideration as we move into the future. All customers have different needs. It’s important for us to listen and identify ways that we can provide value beyond simply keeping the lights on.”

Questline Digital connected with Allen to get his thoughts on changes in the industry, the evolution of energy and advice for those entering the utility space.

How did you get started in the energy utility industry?

I began working at ElectriCities as an intern my sophomore year at UNC Charlotte. My role was year-round and I averaged working about 20 hours per week while in school full-time studying industrial engineering. Once I graduated, a position opened that I was interested in, so I applied. I have been in my current role for almost four years.

What has changed the most about your job working in the utility industry over the course of your career?

In my role, I work closely with our business customers advising them on energy efficiency opportunities. Over the past seven years, I would say newer technologies are allowing customers to reduce electric costs and become more energy efficient more easily than before. And the price of some of these technologies is continuing to decline. LED lighting is a good example of this. I also think the utility industry is beginning to focus more on customer service and the overall customer experience due to more competition. It is fun being a part of this transition.

What excites you the most about the energy utility space?

Electricity is something that impacts everyone. Most everyone uses electricity daily. I enjoy helping folks gain a better understanding of how they use energy and ways they can become more efficient and reduce electric costs. The entire process from energy generation to getting it to the end use customer intrigues me, so it is fun learning more and more about the industry beyond my specific role.

Tell me about the campaign or initiative you’re most proud of.

Over the previous year, we have begun working on some short videos that our members can share with their customers. These videos are targeted toward a variety of different business customers to help them better understand different aspects of electricity usage and utility billing. One of these was a five-minute video that explains energy consumption and peak demand for billing. While we have currently only produced three videos, we have plans for more in the queue.

What’s a marketing campaign you wish you’d thought of, inside or outside the energy industry?

This is not something that I have put a ton of thought into, but I’d say any campaign that can simply explain complex issues and topics to help customers better understand aspects of the industry, such as why utilities charge for peak demand and why conserving energy during peak periods is important. In addition to financial incentives, if customers better understand why certain programs are offered, they can participate more effectively.

What is the hardest part of working in the energy industry today?

I’d say competition is one challenge everyone in the energy industry faces. Municipal utilities, co-ops and investor-owned utilities all have different business models, although they all provide the same product, which is electricity to retail customers. So, it is important to highlight your strengths while also addressing your weaknesses and working to improve those.

Finish this sentence: If I weren’t working with energy key accounts, I would be…

That is a good question. I can’t really see myself working in a different industry. If I wasn’t in a key accounts role, I think I would enjoy working in the operations department or possibly project management.

What is your favorite eNewsletter?

Questline Digital has produced a lot of good content. In general, videos and articles with seasonal checklists tend to be my favorite. It’s easy to forget about everything you need to do to your HVAC system to prepare it for the cooling season during early spring when it has been months since it was regularly used. Seasonal checklists such as this also help me out by providing timely reminders when performing energy audits at different times throughout the year.

How do you anticipate the world of energy evolving in the coming years?

Over the coming years, I believe we are going to continue seeing more and more distributed generation from things like batteries, solar and other small generators as businesses continue to adopt green initiatives. From the utility perspective, it will be a challenge to determine how to best provide reliable power while also meeting the needs of customers. I look forward to helping solve the complex challenges.

What advice would you give to those entering the utility space?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t feel like you have to be an expert on everything. If a customer asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, tell them you will find out and follow up with them.

Participation in Questline Digital’s Energy Spotlight series does not indicate an endorsement from utility partners.