SMUD names Lau chief executive officer and general manager

Paul Lau, a 38-year veteran of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, has been named to succeed Arlen Orchard as chief executive officer and general manager.

Lau has been chief grid strategy and operations officer since 2015 and has been a member of the SMUD executive team for more than 12 years. Lau’s appointment, which comes after a national search, was finalized at the SMUD Board of Directors’ Sept. 10 meeting. Orchard’s last day as CEO is Oct. 2. Lau assumes his new position Oct. 3. 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.

He 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.”

“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,” said Rob Kerth, president of SMUD’s Board of Directors. “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.”

In his previous position, Lau 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 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.

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’s power mix is about 50% non-carbon emitting.


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