20 for the Next 20 2015
VP, System Operation, Hawaiian Electric Co.
Since his start in HECO’s environmental department 21 years ago, Scott Seu has held many jobs within the company and always taken advantage of learning opportunities as the utility modernizes and shifts to cleaner, renewable energy.
Seu says he was able to work with people in the community and from other electric providers in the Islands, while also learning about project development, types of renewable energy and new technologies. “I’m trying to soak up as much as I can,” he says.
Robbie Alm, who left as HECO’s executive VP in 2013, says, “If you look at his resume, he’s moved around a lot inside the company. The future demands agility and willingness to treat things as opportunities and learning experiences.” Both men agree: As HECO transitions to clean and renewable energies, the models most electrical engineers are familiar with won’t help them moving forward.
“How do you get yourself to envision a future that’s not very grounded in your past?” Alm asks. He says Seu’s ability to do that helps him stand out.
The Kamehameha Schools graduate studied engineering at Stanford on an Air Force scholarship, although he never served active duty. Before returning to Hawaii he taught English in China, where polluted cities inspired his career goals. “After living there for some time, I thought, ‘When I get back to the U.S., and certainly when I get back to Hawaii, I feel I can make a difference in terms of an environmental protection,’ ” he recalls.
He’s been making a difference across Oahu as he engages with customers, politicians, environmentalists and others interested in reshaping the utility to offer cleaner, cheaper alternatives to fossil fuel. It’s not something that can be accomplished by ignoring criticism of the utility. “We also need to be looking at ourselves in that mirror,” he says. “We all need to just keep focused on the greater good and the right pathway.”
NextEra Energy’s intention to acquire Hawaiian Electric Industries leaves many things up in the air, but Seu says he’ll stay as long as he’s wanted and able to help other employees. “A huge part of the enjoyment in what I do is not tech specific, but it’s all about building the relationships and helping people try to be the best they can be – myself included.”