Making A Difference

Energy Efficiency as a Common Purpose

Duane Highley (AMP 177, 2009)

Duane Highley (AMP 177, 2009) is president and CEO for the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation. In this interview, he explains how the organization is united behind a common purpose—the concept of energy efficiency as a benefit to its customer-members.

“For me, the beginning of interest in electrical systems went all the way back to my childhood. I think I bumped my knee one time, and my grandfather used an ohmmeter as a faux healing tool and said, ‘see when that needle moves, that’s going to make you feel better.’ And, of course, I thought it did, and I immediately wanted to learn more about this electrical phenomenon. I’ve been engrossed with it ever since.

“As president and CEO for Arkansas Electric Cooperative, one of the greatest learnings for me from AMP was to focus on our purpose and to relentlessly drive the purpose throughout the organization. I’ve learned that if you can have an entire organization united behind a common sense of purpose, there’s almost nothing that you cannot achieve.

“The electric business has been around for a really long time, and it’s been the same for a really long time. One of the focuses of our training here at AMP was to learn to be an ambidextrous organization that can embrace both exploiting the existing business while at the same time exploring new business opportunities.

“There’s lots of change going on in the utility world today. Energy efficiency; we want to help our members use less electricity—actually want to help them buy less of our product. And we do that through innovative billing strategies that allow them to repay investments in their own household that make it more efficient on their utility bill.

“The AMP program for me was a real life-changing event. It gave me exposure to another way of thinking about the business enterprise. As an engineer by training, I tended to look at things pretty limited and pretty linear. The AMP program has helped me look at this from an enterprise-wide perspective, and has really helped me, as CEO of an organization, to better manage the entire enterprise.”

(Published March 2017)

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