When three dozen LCLD Fellows signed up for a two-day Learning Experience at Exelon Corporation in Baltimore, they expected to get an inside look into the energy company's business and legal department.
What they didn't bargain for was the learning adventure Exelon arranged for them the day before. Traveling by bus, the Fellows spent the day on expert-led tours of a regional nuclear power station and a hydroelectric plant before disembarking at Baltimore's famed Camden Yards stadium, where they dined on Maryland cuisine, met the Oriole's mascot, and saw the hometown O's play
the Yankees from a VIP box co-hosted by LCLD Member law firm McGuireWoods and Tom O'Neill, LCLD Member and Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Exelon (photo, at top).
All that was just a warmup for Day 2, when O'Neill welcomed the Fellows to Exelon's corporate complex in Baltimore. He began by describing how Exelon, one of the nation's largest electric utilities, adapts to the changing business and regulatory environment by embracing innovation. He also highlighted the company's commitment to diversity and inclusion as a business imperative, citing LCLD and the Fellows Program as integral to the effort. Of the 11 Fellows that Exelon has sent to the program, six have since moved into executive positions.
O'Neill was followed by James McHugh, CEO of Constellation Energy, a division of Exelon, who also serves as Executive Vice President of Exelon. McHugh provided an overview of Constellation's business, including challenges such as the company's push for energy conservation, which results in customers using less of the product Constellation provides. McHugh was also passionate about his company's focus on inclusion, and described a series of ongoing initiatives designed to foster respect and accountability at all levels of the organization.
Chris Gould, Exelon's Senior VP for Corporate Strategy and Chief Innovation and Sustainability Officer, spoke on the importance of innovation and how evolving customer expectations drive disruptions in the marketplace, including today's push toward digitalization, decarbonization, and decentralization. He outlined how Aerolabs, a new Exelon company, uses new technologies such as drones and robotics to inspect power lines and diagnose problems.
Gould fielded questions from the Fellows on topics such as external disruptors, regulatory challenges, and energy storage. He also described Exelon's annual Innovation Expo, a gathering of thousands, that enables employees to showcase new ideas to industry experts, engineers, scientists, and company leaders.
To give the Fellows a glimpse of those ideas, Gould ushered them to a mini-Innovation Expo, where Exelon employees had set up booths to present ideas they'd pitched at previous Expos (below). Fellows learned about Constellation Connect (technology created to connect all your smart devices in one app), new materials to make power lines safer, tools for virtual inspection of power stations, and other homegrown innovations.
The mini-Expo was a highlight of the day for many Fellows. "The opportunity to learn and see how a company is addressing the challenges of innovating in a highly-regulated industry does not come often," said Kady von Schoeler, a 2019 Fellow from Mass Mutual. It was "an unparalleled experience."
Returning from the Expo, Fellows heard from Christopher Crane, President and CEO of Exelon, who reiterated the importance of adapting to change and new technologies. Crane also stressed the importance of serving the community, by actively supporting civic organizations and education. Exelon, he said, is "only as strong as the communities we serve." This includes cities such as Baltimore, Chicago (where Exelon is headquartered), and Washington, DC, where Exelon works to educate underprivileged youth and create opportunities for careers within the company. Crane also answered questions from the Fellows on mentoring, sponsorship, and culture.
Calvin Butler, CEO of Baltimore Gas and Electric, gave an overview of the utilities portion of the company, including the rise of electric cars and buses, the ownership of charging stations, and how the company is working to include those that may be left out of new technologies because of financial challenges. Like Crane, Butler also stressed the importance of empowering and investing in the communities the company serves. This led to a lively discussion with Fellows about Baltimore politics and the role the political landscape can play in the day-to-day operation of the business.
Funmi Williamson, Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Risk Officer, briefed the Fellows on how Exelon manages risk and sets business priorities, including the role of legal and the company's commitment to diversity and inclusion.
She was followed by Kathleen Barron, Senior Vice President, Government and Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy, who described the political landscape both at the federal level and all 48 states where Exelon does business. She talked about the climate crisis, the politics of nuclear power, and the revenue model for nuclear power plants. She also gave an overview of Exelon's commitment to clean energy and its role in the national dialogue.
A panel discussion on the company's efforts to restore power to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria (below) featured several attorneys from the legal department—Jack Garfinkle, Associate General Counsel; Anne Gwal, Assistant General Counsel; and Jeff Simcox, Assistant General Counsel. It was moderated by Romulo Diaz, Jr., Vice President and General Counsel, PEPCO.
The group discussed the use of Regional Mutual Assistance Groups (RMAGs) among utility companies, noting that Puerto Rico in 2017 was the first time that RMAGs were deployed outside the US, which posed a unique set of legal challenges. The panel also discussed the use of drones to pull downed power lines in Puerto Rico that would have taken crews days to access. It took a massive effort to restore power to thousands of Puerto Ricans, and the pride Exelon employees took in that effort was evident.
The day ended with an interview of Tom O'Neill by LCLD President Robert Grey, who explored O'Neill's deep personal commitment to diversity and inclusion. During the Q&A, O'Neill addressed issues such as imposter syndrome, the importance of curiosity, self-advocacy, organizational change, and sponsorship.
The Fellows responded with warm and extended applause, expressing gratitude for the effort O'Neill and his company had put into giving them two extraordinary days.
"This Learning Experience truly exceeded all my expectations," said Melody Cross, a 2018 Fellow from Prudential Financial. "We were treated to a view of the business of electric power, from generation to transmission and trading, and at each stage learned how Exelon advocates for diversity at all levels of its organization."
"The employees of Exelon welcomed us warmly—and showed us everything that they love about their jobs."
LCLD agrees, and would like to thank Melissa Lauderdale-Ward (2017 Fellow) and other members of the Exelon Learning Experience planning team:
Anuradha (Anne) Gwal, Assistant General Counsel
Anne Bancroft, 2011 Fellow
Traci Braun, 2012 Fellow
Tamra Domeyer, 2017 Fellow
Jeanne Dworetzky, 2015 Fellow
Anthony Gay, 2012 Fellow
Ryan Harding, 2016 Fellow
Shaila Ohri, 2018 Fellow
Amy Tarr, 2014 Fellow
Michelle Marquez, Billing/Administrative Assistant
Marge Odom, Manager, Legal Operations & Administration