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posted: 1/21/2020 1:00 AM

Coffee Break: Joe Dominguez, CEO of ComEd

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Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the new year?

A: One of our biggest challenges will be continuing to deliver highly reliable service while dealing with evolving weather challenges like the polar vortex last year. The climate crisis is very clearly affecting our region. This past year our people were in the field keeping the lights on through a negative 50-degree windchill in the winter and 110-degree heat index in the summer. This takes amazing dedication and skill.

Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?

A: In the communities we serve, we see substantial growth in solar energy and a strong push toward electric vehicles and public transportation. We play an important role in this clean energy transformation, creating a smarter grid that allows customer to produce their own power and sell excess to their neighbors, and new capabilities to help customers and communities charge the new wave of electric vehicles that are coming. We think these grid innovations will create over $30 billion of value for our communities and will help to improve the lives of customers that presently are impacted by some of the worst vehicular air pollution in the nation.

Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company this year?

A: We invest year in, year out to make sure that the smart grid is reliable through all sorts of weather and that we've got the right talent to run it. We will make infrastructure investments next year that continue to modernize and strengthen the grid. Besides making sure we maintain record levels of reliability, these investments help make energy more resilient for customers.

Q: Do you have a business mantra?

A; I often think of the quote by Henry Kissinger: "Each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem." It reminds me that our work to provide reliable, affordable and clean energy is never done. People rely on our service to live their best lives, and businesses depend on us to grow and thrive. With that kind of responsibility, we have to strive for higher levels of performance and service.

Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie CEO, what would it be?

A: Spend more time getting to know and understand your people and culture than you do trying to learn the technicalities of the business. Having smart people around you helps with the strategy and execution.

Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?

A: Many people don't know that our smart grid investments have improved ComEd's overall reliability for customers by more than 60 percent since 2012 and that over 90 percent of the energy we deliver comes from clean energy sources that don't produce air pollution. At the same time, they're surprised to learn that the average ComEd bill for homeowners is essentially the same as it was a decade ago.

Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?

A: I look up to my parents, who moved to this country from Cuba and gave me every opportunity they never had.

Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?

A: I would be a teacher.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I spend just about any free time I can find with my family. When the weather in Chicago allows, I also enjoy gardening.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

A: I worry a lot about the most vulnerable members of our communities, such as people with limited incomes and opportunity, and the elderly. Everyone should benefit from new and clean energy resources and the jobs they create.

We need to work to make sure no community gets left behind. One thing's clear: The old incremental ideas are not going to solve this problem. If we're going to make the investments to battle climate change and transform transportation, then we need to be intentional upfront to ensure that opportunities and jobs are created where they're needed.

Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?

A: I'd rather invest that money in the power grid so we can grow clean energy, improve reliability and create jobs.

And besides, I'm a NY Giants fan, and I'm not sure that would be the best investment this year.

Q: What was your first paying job?

A: I worked in a small welding shop sweeping the floors and greasing equipment.

Q: What book is on your nightstand?

A: The Awakening of Latin America by Che Guevara

Q: What is one funny thing that has happened to you in your career?

A: When I was a young trial lawyer, I was so excited to get up and address the jury in my first trial that I tripped over a trial exhibit and nearly fell into the jury box.

Q: Two people to follow on Twitter and why. (besides your company)

A: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, @ChicagosMayor, and the The U.S. Energy Information Administration, @EIAgov