Energy Companies & Open Innovation  

To address the monumental task of moving the world towards a zero-emission, safe, resilient, and affordable energy system, all hands must be on deck.

Just back from a long vacation I attended an interesting event. On July 25 in San Ramon, California PG&E presented their newest R&D Strategy to a group of more than 1,500 participants (many remote). 

PG&E refreshingly admitted that they need all the help they can get from the outside innovation ecosystem to reach their goal of a zero-emission grid for their 16 million customers. This will involve increasing energy by 70% from today, electrifying everything, and preventing wildfires caused by their grid.

They focus on 5 key areas (electricity part of the business):

1.     Supply and Load Management 
2.     Integrated Grid Planning
3.     Electric Vehicles (incl. V2G)
4.     Wildfires
5.     Undergrounding

Opening statement by Quinn Nakayama, Senior Director, Grid Research, Innovation and Development, and PG&E CEO Patti Poppe who stated that:

“We cannot build this system alone. We need solutions and ideas from a broad spectrum of sources. That’s why we are sharing our new, 2023 Research and Development Strategy, outlining our nearly 70 highest priority challenges in building the next generation of California’s energy infrastructure (

We need breakthrough thinking, radical collaboration, and swift execution to act on these challenges. We openly share them because we want to partner with the best and the brightest as we work to serve people, the planet, and the prosperity of our hometowns.

We encourage all thinkers, creators, dreamers, and doers anywhere in the world to help us overcome these challenges. We want to hear from everyone—private industry, academia, government agencies, or startups working on the next big thing in a garage.”


The event included a session with Elon Musk and his take on the energy transformation and Tesla’s activities in the PG&E grid (megawatt batteries, EVs, PowerWalls..). One of his main takes was, “In the future, we will always need much more energy than we think”.

Indeed an interesting event to kick-off an exciting journey to help California meet its ambitious climate goals.

Other Open Innovation activities:

Enel Group – the large Italian energy company – some years ago also implemented an Open Innovation strategy( with Innovation Hubs spread internationally (one in California). They were advised by Henry Chesbrough and headed by Ernesto Ciorra,  Chief Innovability® Officer (

More utilities/energy companies should tap into the great innovation potential outside their own companies to adopt an Open Innovation strategy. Let’s hope that this idea of Open Innovation catches on so we can accelerate the journey to a zero-carbon emission.

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