Paul Lau chosen as new SMUD CEO & general manager
Paul Lau, a 38-year SMUD veteran, has been named to succeed Arlen Orchard as the utility’s chief executive officer and general manager.
Lau currently serves as chief grid strategy and operations officer and has been a member of the SMUD executive team for more than 12 years. Lau’s appointment, which comes after a national search, will be finalized at the SMUD Board of Directors’ September 10 meeting. Lau would assume his new position October 3. Orchard’s last day as CEO is October 2. Orchard announced his retirement last fall after working at SMUD for more than 30 years.
“I’m honored and humbled to be chosen by the Board of Directors to lead this great organization and continue SMUD’s reputation for community leadership and excellence,” said Lau.
Lau says SMUD’s focus on its customers and community, and pursuit of aggressive carbon reduction goals, will continue to power SMUD forward. “Living SMUD’s community values – providing the best possible service and reliability at the lowest possible rates while pursuing aggressive carbon reduction goals, will continue to make SMUD a key community and industry leader,” said Lau.
“SMUD attracted many strong candidates, each eager to lead one of the most progressive and respected utilities in the world,” said Rob Kerth, president of SMUD’s Board of Directors. “That the Board chose from among the internal candidates speaks volumes of the tremendous work SMUD staff does day-in and day-out to serve our customers and community.”
“After a nationwide search, many interviews and thorough deliberation, it was clear Paul was the best choice to navigate SMUD through a pivotal time for the electric utility industry as customers seek clean energy sources and expect utilities to reduce their carbon footprint while ensuring service remains reliable and rates affordable,” Kerth said. “His vision to meet the urgent challenges of climate change through collaboration and partnership will help take SMUD’s reputation for environmental leadership to the next level. Paul’s expertise as SMUD’s chief grid strategy and operations officer, where he developed one of the most aggressive utility clean energy plans in the nation, will serve SMUD, our customers and communities very well.”
A nationally and internationally recognized expert in emerging energy technologies, Lau moves to SMUD’s top post after serving as chief grid strategy and operations officer since 2015. In that capacity, he had responsibility for SMUD’s power supply and distributed energy resources strategies, including the operating strategies of SMUD’s generation, transmission and distribution systems. Lau has been a member of SMUD’s executive leadership team since 2008 and has held a variety of c-suite roles, including overseeing customer, technology and energy delivery.
Lau joined SMUD in 1982 as an electrical engineering student while completing his Bachelor of Science in Engineering at California State University, Sacramento and joined SMUD permanently as an assistant electrical engineer after he graduated in 1984.
He serves as Vice Chair of the Large Public Power Council Emerging Trends Task Force, on the Board of Directors of the Smart Electric Power Alliance, as a Board Member of the Electric Transportation Community Development Corporation and as an Alternate Commissioner of the Balancing Authority of Northern California. Lau is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Sacramento State University Foundation, where he also serves as Treasurer, and Los Rios Colleges Foundation. He serves as Director-at-Large and is a Past Chair of the Sacramento Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce.
As the nation’s sixth-largest community-owned, not-for-profit, electric service provider, SMUD has been providing low-cost, reliable electricity for almost 75 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.