Public Utilities Fortnightly Magazine annually recognizes the next generation of leaders in the utilities industry – people who could be responsible for the operations of the electric grid and regulatory systems. The magazine, which is read by top managers in the energy industry, presented Smola with the Fortnightly Forty award during a program online.
“We are excited John has been recognized among future leaders in our industry by Public Utilities Fortnightly,” said Jeff Peoples, Alabama Power’s executive vice president of Employee and Customer Services. “His visionary leadership is a tremendous asset for both the company and our state as innovation and technology play an important role in how we evolve to meet customers’ needs of the future.”
For the past two years, Smola has been Alabama Power’s director of Business Transformation, focused on business growth development, innovation and new ventures. He leads a team focused on expanding innovation, infrastructure and market position to support and enhance core electric needs. The group is vital to improving Alabama’s economic development potential, increasing the profitability of existing revenue streams and generating new revenue.
Smola and his team partnered with Birmingham and Montgomery on smart city initiatives, resulting in Smart Cities Readiness Challenge Grants awarded in 2018 and 2019 by the Smart Cities Council. They provided the “jump-start” to smart cities solutions, facilitating the installation of LED lighting, high-speed internet and public safety infrastructure in Birmingham and Montgomery. The initiative has improved the safety and quality of life for residents while delivering efficiencies to municipal partners.
With the goal of attracting to Alabama leading edge energy startups from around the world, Smola and his team played a crucial role in Alabama Power’s work to form the Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator in Birmingham in 2019. Alabama Power teamed with state leaders and Techstars – a worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs – and is Techstars’ first electric utility partner.
The Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator will attract startups that are building technologies and business models to enhance the future of energy. Focus areas include smart cities, utility operations, industrial electrification, connectivity, customer engagement and electric transportation. The inaugural cohort will begin in late 2020.
Additional project’s Smola and the Business Transformation group have led include Alabama Power’s strategic partnership with Mississippi-based C Spire to support high-speed internet, energy services contracts with commercial customers including hospitals and military facilities, and the conversion of more than 100,000 lights to efficient LEDs in communities across Alabama.
Smola began his career at Alabama Power in 2008 and has held roles of increasing responsibility in Marketing, Regulatory and External Affairs. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Auburn University in 2007 and a master’s degree from UAB in 2011.
He is actively engaged in the local entrepreneurial community and how Alabama can further develop a technology-driven economy. Smola is on the boards of Alabama Capital Network and Birmingham Venture Club, is a Catalyst Fellow for the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham and member of the Rotary Club of Birmingham.