Behind the List with R. Scott Helm of American PowerNet

Providing energy services throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley and beyond

R. Scott Helm, founder and president of American PowerNet in Wyomissing, says an important part of the company's success is listening to clients and understanding their position. - (Photo / Christopher Holland)

Energy distribution companies keep the lights on in homes and businesses around the Greater Lehigh Valley.

Here to answer this week’s “Behind the List” questions on energy services is R. Scott Helm, founder and president of American PowerNet in Wyomissing.
LVB: The energy sector is continually evolving? What are some strategies and/or products that American PowerNet provides? 
R. Scott Helm: Over these past 25 years, American PowerNet has built an infrastructure of wholesale grid memberships and licenses that enable our customers in deregulated states to move power from electric generators, many now sustainable, directly to their retail meters. The latest challenge we have taken on is developing a smart contract platform, called Verde Blocks, which enables customers to buy electricity directly from sustainable generators such as wind, hydro, solar and biomass. Verde Blocks is peer-to-peer trading for large businesses. Companies and institutions will know where their power is coming from and can obtain it via a competitive process. American PowerNet assists large retail electric users obtain and have delivered sustainable power from sustainable resources at commercially competitive prices.
LVB: What is your guiding philosophy as a business leader?
Helm: One guide that comes into play often in the energy industry is to never accept the status quo. As soon as I hear someone respond, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it,” or “That’s our standard policy,” I’m thinking, “Game on!” 
Another key guide is to really listen to clients and really understand their position from their perspective.
LVB: What is the best piece of career advice that you’ve ever received?
Helm: Well, the first premise to address is “career.” I guess if you keep showing up every day, at some point it’s long enough to be viewed as a career. I’ve never looked at the business we’ve built as a career, so the advice I gravitate to usually has more to do with how to be successful at what you are trying to achieve. One reminder that I’ve picked up along the way is, “I need to work on tomorrow’s business while the rest of the company works on today’s business.” Putting your head down and grinding out work is a good entrepreneurial trait, but it’s very important that you lift your head up every once in a while and make the effort to understand where your industry is going so you don’t wake up one day and realize your business has become obsolete.
LVB: If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be?
Helm: I would take away the ability of monopoly utilities to include lobbyists in their rate base. Monopolies generally do not embrace change, so innovation could happen much quicker if they did not have outsized influence on the rulemaking process.
LVB: What motivates you to get out of bed every morning to go to work?
Helm: The challenge of creating something successful and sustainable. It’s fun to work around multi-billion dollar businesses and get to a new space first. When you get there first you have an opportunity to write the rules. 
LVB: What are some of your personal interests outside of the workplace?
Helm: Mountain biking in scenic parts of the world, new technologies, coaching lacrosse and family time.

Christopher Holland
Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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