Get Big Pivots

Denver-based electrical supplier now has 14 utilities under contract — and is looking for more

by Allen Best

Guzman Energy has been expanding. It now has contracts with 14 utilities in Colorado and New Mexico to which it is providing electricity or will be in the future. It’s becoming a big player.

That expansion was evident during an open house held by the company on May 21 at its headquarters on the eighth floor of an office building on 17th Street in downtown Denver.

The previous time I had been there, Guzman occupied half the floor or maybe less. Now, it has the full floor to itself. For those who like high places and plenty of windows, which I do, it’s an impressive place.

While others sipped refreshments, I talked with chief executives of two Colorado cooperatives, Delta-Montrose and Mountain Parks, one already a Guzman customer since 2020 and the second scheduled to be so in 2025.

And I also listened to the thoughts shared by Chris Miller, the chief executive of Guzman.

“We’ve been doing this business for 11 years, and over the past six months I think I’ve seen more change and more conversations and innovative things that are happening in the marketplace than we saw in the previous 11.”

Tantalized by that remark, I reached out later for elaboration. He responded with this:

  • The desire for change and self-determination within communities who want a greater say on their power supply. They want to influence choices that can drive price certainty and predictability. And they want a say in the mix of power generation they are served as well as the strategy for where they will get that power in the years to come.
  • The incredible and sustained power load growth we are seeing across the country. Grid planners forecast electricity demand to grow 4.7% over the next five years. This only further validates Guzman’s role in empowering communities for the next generation power grid.https://www.utilitydive.com/news/electricity-load-growing-twice-as-fast-as-expected-Grid-Strategies-report/702366/
  • Market evolution. Organized market development will bring change and opportunity to the West. And the Guzman Energy team has demonstrated that we thrive on being nimble and adaptable. I’ll bet on our team in times of change and adaptation every time.

No doubt about it, this company is moving forward. It took awhile. Formed in 2014, Guzman Energy began delivering power in 2016 to Aztec, New Mexico, a town of 6,500 people, and to Kit Carson Electric, which has 33,000 members/customers.

In his remarks, Miller credited the two New Mexico utilities for their willingness to take ”a very significant risk on a couple of Navy guys and a Cuban-America.

The Cuban-American is Leopoldo Guzman, the chief executive of an investment bank Guzman & Company.

One of the two Navy veterans was Chris Riley, who had grown up in central Utah in a coal-mining town. It made for a tantalizing storyline, this son of a coal miner a thousand miles from the ocean who had enlisted in the Navy, got an education at Annapolis and now saw renewables as the path forward. He was originally at the helm of Guzman but has left.

Miller now occupies the sole corner office and, to make life easier, decided that the commute from Florida was too onerous. He moved his family to Denver’s Washington Park neighborhood several years ago.

Guzman has been picking off disaffected members of Tri-State as well as some coops and municipal providers currently getting their electricity from Xcel Energy.

The question I have is whether Guzman will continue to be unregulated by state governments, a freedom it has so far enjoyed. A closely related question is whether it will have the “resource adequacy,” to use the buzz-phrase of the last four months, if the grid strains and creaks and comes close to breaking. CEOs of two electrical coops, one an existing customer and the other one scheduled to become so next year, told me that they’re confident of Guzman’s capabilities.

In his comments, Miller also had this to say:

 

Energy transition without end

“You hear ‘energy transition,’ and people say it like it’s a singular event that‘s going to end. It’s never going to end. The goal posts will perpetually move. There’s not a finish line. It’s not tied to a particular administration, a particular time period. Since Edison and New York City fired up the light bulb, the energy transition started and it will go through the end of civilization, of mankind. The energy transition is here to stay.

And so, for us, we wake up every day knowing that the goal post will move, knowing that you have to change and adapt, and knowing that you need to lean your shoulder  into that and continue to be creative.”

 

Capitalism

“What we’ve done here is tried to bring competition where it previously didn’t exist and try to make markets more efficient where they were inefficient. It’s not a zero-sum game. I don’t have to take from Russ to give to Art to be able to create value. A for-profit company can earn a return, which is what we all want in a capitalist environment, as long as you’re conscientious about the customers that you’re working with.

When those things get out balance, businesses go out of business, people lose faith in institutions. If you keep that somewhat symbiotic and you manage yourself, you try to approach that with integrity, you can really transform and change marketplaces, people and individuals.

And that is what we’re trying to do. We don’t nail it every day, but we try to have more good days than bad.”

Allen Best
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