Dr. Robert (Bob) Koger has announced that he will be retiring on December 3, 2018, and stepping down as president and executive director of Advanced Energy, a position he has held for the last 30 years. Throughout his career, Dr. Koger has made a large and lasting impact on both Advanced Energy and the energy industry as a whole. Please join us as we congratulate him on an incredibly successful career and wish him the very best in his retirement!
Dr. Koger’s journey began with the Rural Electrification Administration in the 1960s, a governmental agency that helped bring electric and telephone services to rural communities. He trained in Washington, D.C., and was then assigned to Greensboro, North Carolina, to work as a field engineer for the state. Following a presentation he delivered in 1967 to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Dr. Koger was invited to join its staff, and he would go on to become a major staff leader for the next 10 years.
“Bob Koger combines the qualities of keen intelligence, perception, resilience, fair mindedness, consideration, and kindness to a degree rarely observed.” – Robert Wells, Former Chairman and Commissioner, North Carolina Utilities Commission
North Carolina Utilities Commission
Dr. Koger held a number of roles at the Commission while a staff leader. As director of its engineering and economics departments, he and his staff helped to examine and then propose actions concerning the regulation of North Carolina’s large privately owned electric, natural gas, telephone and water utilities. On a national level, he led a taskforce (under the direction of the National Association of Regulatory Utilities Commissions, or NARUC) that produced the first national study of electric time-of-use rates. He was also an author on the NARUC Electric Allocation Manual that helped utility commissions establish proper cost-based electric rates between industrial, commercial and residential customers. During Dr. Koger’s tenure on the staff, its ranking on expertise and capability rose to fifth in the country according to a national study.
“The Public Staff has enjoyed working with Dr. Koger over the past four decades, first in his capacity as chair of the Utilities Commission and later as President of Advanced Energy and NC GreenPower. Dr. Koger is an innovative leader who is not afraid to lead in times of change. Dr. Koger helped guide the formation of the Public Staff out of the Utilities Commission in 1977, which changed the regulatory landscape in North Carolina and ensured an independent consumer advocate voice on all utility matters. Dr. Koger has always exhibited a desire for making decisions in the best interest of North Carolina utility customers.” – Chris Ayers, Executive Director, North Carolina Utilities Commission Public Staff
In 1977, under the leadership of former Commissioner Hugh Wells and the newly elected Gov. Jim Hunt, the North Carolina Legislature agreed to give the Commission staff more independence. It passed legislation to divide the staff into an independent Public Staff and a smaller staff to assist the Commission. Although Dr. Koger thought he would be part of the Public Staff, Gov. Hunt appointed him chairman of the Commission. Dr. Koger went on to serve as chairman for eight years and then as a commissioner for four years. In all, he worked 22 years with the Commission and staff, including returning twice to serve as an interim commissioner in 1999 and 2005.
Managing Electricity Rates
Starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s, North Carolina (similar to many other states) was experiencing large year-to-year increases in electricity consumption, primarily driven by the rise of air conditioning and a rapidly growing population. The heavy increase in electricity demand meant that utilities had to continuously build new generating plants.
“What a great colleague and friend Bob has been over the years! We were all so grateful to him for stepping in to fill interim vacancies for us at the Commission from time to time. It was a pleasure to serve with him and his insight – developed over many years of experience – was enormously valuable to us.” – Jo Anne Sanford, Sanford Law Office
In the past (prior to the widespread use of air conditioning), utilities had been a “decreasing” cost industry. In other words, as they grew, they were able to build larger and larger generating plants and take advantage of economies of scale, with each plant being less costly to build on a per unit or kilowatt basis. However, they soon reached the point of maximum size and savings, and consequently, became an “increasing” cost industry. This transition resulted in yearly rate hikes given the growing demand for air conditioning.
Following a public hearing in 1979 involving yet another electric rate case hearing, Dr. Koger – then chairman of the Commission – wondered whether the heavy growth in demand could be slowed without hindering the state’s economic vitality. He was serving on the national Electric Power Research Institute’s Advisory Council, and although energy efficiency was being discussed, little was happening at the state level. He proposed to his fellow commissioners that the Commission send out an order to set a hearing on the possibility of establishing a statewide nonprofit entity focused on promoting energy efficiency and renewable generation. The goal of this entity would be to alleviate, to the degree possible, the yearly increases in electric rates that North Carolinians were experiencing.
“I joined the old Commission Staff, just three years out of law school. Bob Koger was in the electric section and spent countless hours teaching me about the nuances of the industry and regulation in general. Over the years, we talked frequently and he was never too busy to listen, offer advice and continue to mentor. He certainly left his mark on the AEC and the Utilities Commission. However, his greatest legacy may be in his mentoring to the many young people that he has advised over the years and who continue to seek his advice now.” – Dwight Allen, Allen Law Offices
A majority of Dr. Koger’s fellow commissioners agreed that the Commission should issue such an order, and the hearing was set for January of 1980. To the Commission’s surprise, Gov. Hunt called Dr. Koger and said that he was in favor of the idea and would like to be the first witness to testify. In addition, he gathered industrial groups together to have Dr. Koger explain the concept to them before the hearing. As a result, the majority of individuals and entities testified in favor of it at the hearing.
Alternative Energy Corporation Beginnings
As the organization was set up, the Commissioners would be its legal “owners,” but it would have a separate board of directors. Each electric utility in North Carolina (including North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives and ElectriCities) would have one member on the board, and the governor would name eight public members to staggered three-year terms.
“It has been my pleasure to work with Bob Koger over many years, beginning when he was a Utilities Commissioner, Chairman of the Commission and Executive Director of Advanced Energy. Advanced Energy’s success in large measure is attributable to Bob’s leadership and wisdom. Bob’s retirement will be the electric industry’s loss.” – Edward S. Finley, Jr., Chairman, North Carolina Utilities Commission
After a year of service by an interim president in 1980, Dr. Jon Veigel, a physicist who had worked at one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Labs, was selected to lead what was initially known as the Alternative Energy Corporation (now Advanced Energy). Dr. Veigel left in 1988 to join Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Dr. Koger, still at the Commission, was invited by the board of directors to fill that role. He stepped down as a commissioner and accepted the position. Nearly a decade after he came up with the idea, Dr. Koger would become Advanced Energy’s president.
When Dr. Koger first arrived at Advanced Energy, the site of the organization was primarily office space. A few years later, he helped launch the Industrial Electrotechnology Laboratory (IEL) as a way to extend the company’s efforts and capabilities. The IEL opened doors to many new offerings, including technical assistance, technology demonstrations, workshops and publications. It primarily acted as a problem-solving center for industries, and focused on promoting electrotechnologies and motors. Industry members could try out the equipment and receive in-plant testing.
Under Dr. Koger, Advanced Energy went through significant positive change while maintaining its original mission and values. It more than doubled its staff, expanded its operations nationally and internationally, added major research and testing laboratories, and won numerous federal grants to study energy-related issues.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with Bob for more than a decade and his deep understanding and passion for the energy sector, realized through his leadership both at the North Carolina Utilities Commission and at Advanced Energy, helped put North Carolina on the map as an energy leader. Whether it’s energy efficiency, renewable energy, plug-in-electric vehicles, or the recently launched Solar Schools program, his vision and commitment to energy research and innovation has helped businesses, communities and leaders across the state make advancements in this field that will be felt for many years to come.” – Rob Caldwell, President, Duke Energy Renewables and Distributed Energy Technology and Advanced Energy’s Vice Chair
The company was frequently ahead of the curve, examining technologies that had not yet fully caught on in the market. For example, Advanced Energy began researching the potential of electric transportation long before the current revival and helped promote awareness and understanding of solar power in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
An especially big milestone for Dr. Koger and Advanced Energy’s work in renewable energy was the founding of NC GreenPower. In the early 2000s, the N.C. Legislature and Environmental Review Commission conducted a study on the future of electric service in North Carolina and the potential for a “green” power or pricing program. They asked the Commission to consider whether a checkoff program on utility bills would be effective, and the Commission requested that Advanced Energy investigate which options would be best for developing a green pricing program. After two years of discussions and stakeholder meetings, NC GreenPower officially launched in 2003 as a nonprofit subsidiary of Advanced Energy – with Dr. Koger as its president – to promote renewable energy sources in North Carolina. It was the first independent, statewide, multi-utility green pricing program in the U.S. Today, it seeks to improve North Carolina’s environment by supporting renewable energy, carbon offset projects and solar installations at K-12 schools.
With Dr. Koger in charge, Advanced Energy made a beneficial impact on both North Carolina and the nation at large by promoting energy efficiency for all types of users and bettering our understanding and outcomes in low-income housing, electric motors and drives, solar technology, electric vehicles, industrial energy efficiency and lots more. His leadership has greatly influenced the energy world, and he is leaving a legacy that will help guide Advanced Energy and the broader industry for years to come. We are thankful to have had such a dedicated and visionary director for the past three decades.
Advanced Energy’s Future
The Advanced Energy board of directors has named Robert (Bob) Goodson as Dr. Koger’s successor. Mr. Goodson will begin his role as president on December 3, 2018. For the previous 19 years, he has held executive positions with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, first with their market research and energy services subsidiary, TSE Services, and then with the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives. Mr. Goodson is excited to be joining Advanced Energy as its new president, and we are looking forward to learning from his years of professional experience.
“I am a big believer in how Dr. Koger developed and led Advanced Energy, and I am honored to be able to continue to make it an organization of excellence, strategically aligned with the evolving utility and energy industries. Dr. Koger’s leadership has greatly influenced the energy world, and he is leaving a legacy that will help guide Advanced Energy and the larger industry for years to come.” – Bob Goodson, Former Chief Operating Officer for the North Carolina Association of Electric Cooperatives and Advanced Energy’s President Elect