I grew up in the musical era of Bob Dylan, and still enjoy his unique style and sound. He was an iconic spokesman for my generation, penning thought-provoking lyrics that became anthems during a very politically and socially volatile time.

Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin” was released in 1964, and the lyrics have remained relevant for many and varied reasons over the years. I believe the title is especially fitting for this next chapter in the life of your cooperative as we cast a vision for the future.

Your board of directors and senior leadership team are holing up for a few days this month to look at the major changes facing our industry and how we prepare for them. Lots of unknowns, but what we do know is that “the times they are a-changin.”

There are a lot of layers to what’s coming, but the nutshell version is the fundamental shift away from the bulk grid, which is the transmission and distribution systems that have powered our lives for decades, to what industry pundits have coined the grid edge. It’s basically moving away from a centralized energy system to a next-generation distributed energy system, and it’s the future of grid modernization.

Up to this point, the “smarts” behind the smart grid were on the transmission side. The smarts are now moving downstream and closer to consumers in the form of new hardware and software applications. The grid edge includes things like solar panels, advanced metering infrastructure, smart inverters, energy storage systems, smart thermostats and other automations. It’s the beautiful marriage between the grid and the internet of things, and will give the consumer new levels of control and convenience, and the utility the real-time ability to impact reliability and seamlessly manage load.

Some utilities will not be ready for this, but yours is. We initiated a project two years ago to install a robust, two-way fiber communications system across our distribution grid. We’re investing in the infrastructure so that we’re ready, and you’re ready, for these changes as they come.

We have a rich history as your locally-owned cooperative, and that’s not changing. But we’re preparing for and embracing a future of significant change, and your experience will look and feel very different as we take these huge and innovative leaps. 2017 will be a transformational year in many ways as we continue to invest in our members and build your utility of the future.