For Immediate Release: November 6, 2019

SMUD CEO Arlen Orchard announces 2020 retirement

SMUD Chief Executive Officer Arlen Orchard is retiring after almost 30 years at SMUD. He announced his intention to retire in August 2020 on Tuesday. 

During Orchard’s tenure, SMUD’s electric rates were among the lowest in California while ensuring high service reliability for its customers. SMUD advanced its globally recognized leadership as an innovator in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric transportation while maintaining customer satisfaction at levels that are among the best in the nation. Orchard is considered a visionary in the utility industry as he embraces the speed of change that’s occurring, dramatically enabled by technology advancements, the availability of big data, and evolving customer expectations. Orchard pushed SMUD to rethink its business model to ensure the community-owned electric company meets customers’ expectations and delivers value to the community while ensuring financial viability in the long run. 

On Orchard’s watch, environmental leadership around climate change has been a high priority. The company’s $7 billion integrated resources plan lays out an aggressive path to dramatically reduce both SMUD’s and the region’s carbon footprint over the next 20 years, including nearly $2 billion of local investments in transportation and building electrification, and almost $3 billion of local investments in renewable energy and battery storage.  

A hallmark of the plan is its focus on maximizing the local benefits associated with the investments SMUD is making from a carbon reduction, air quality, economic development and social equity standpoint. “As a community-owned business we have a special obligation to improve the quality of life of all our communities and customers,” said Orchard. “As CEO, I’ve been focused on SMUD taking a much more proactive leadership role in supporting economic development, the environment, education and inclusivity. Economic inclusivity and prosperity drove SMUD to completely reconsider our approach to program delivery, community engagement and economic development to ensure a holistic focus on addressing inequality and supporting more sustainable neighborhoods across our region.”

The SMUD Board of Directors appointed Orchard CEO in April 2014 after a national search. Orchard joined SMUD in 1990 as a staff attorney and served as General Counsel from 2003 until his appointment as CEO. 

“I’ve been very privileged to serve our community for three decades,” said Orchard. “We have made some bold changes and reset priorities which have informed our investment and operational decisions for the next several years, and we are starting to see dividends with this new, more holistic approach to sustainability, economic development and community engagement. We have a strong electric company that is focused on the needs of the customer, the community and the company’s role in our region. With a strong board of directors and dedicated, smart and passionate employees, SMUD is well positioned for the future,” said Orchard. 

While serving as SMUD CEO, Orchard served on the board of numerous industry organizations, including the American Public Power Association, the Large Public Power Council, the Northwest Public Power Association and the California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA). He’s currently serving as the CMUA Board President.

He also serves on the boards of directors of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Greater Sacramento Area Economic Council, Valley Vision and Align Capital Region. Orchard frequently speaks on issues and innovation impacting the electric utility industry. 
“Arlen is a dynamic and forward-thinking executive and has provided excellent leadership in his tenure as SMUD’s chief executive,” said SMUD Board President Dave Tamayo. “Finding someone to fill his shoes will be a huge undertaking, and the Board of Directors will engage in a very comprehensive and deliberative process to select SMUD’s next CEO. Arlen’s vision has transformed SMUD so that it is not only a great community-owned utility, but also a trusted partner for enhancing the quality of life of our region. His leadership will certainly be missed.” 

About SMUD
As the nation’s sixth-largest community-owned electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for more than 70 years to Sacramento County (and small adjoining portions of Placer and Yolo Counties). SMUD is a recognized industry leader and award winner for its innovative energy efficiency programs, renewable power technologies, and for its sustainable solutions for a healthier environment. SMUD’s power mix is about 50 percent non-carbon emitting. For more information, visit