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Pung Speaker Series: Navigating the power grid

By Taylor Hindman, student writer
Monday, December 4, 2023

The latest installment in the Roy S. Pung Executive Speaker Series featured an engaging conversation led by Simon Whitelocke (MBA Finance ’02), who currently serves as president of ITC Michigan. Whitelocke was born in Jamaica, moved to Canada as a child and then moved to the United States in 1996 after graduating from the University of Toronto with a bachelor of commerce degree. Whitelocke initially embarked on a public accounting career; however, he soon discovered he had a passion for addressing and solving problems inside of companies. To build on that passion, he decided to become a Spartan.

After completing his master’s degree at Michigan State, Whitelocke entered the energy sector at DTE before making the move to ITC, where he has dedicated the past 20 years of his career. ITC currently operates in seven states and is headquartered in Novi, Michigan. He described his company’s role as “keeping the lights on, no excuses.”

ITC is focused solely on electricity transmission, moving electricity over high-voltage lines and interconnecting the energy infrastructure of today’s power grid. Whitelocke highlighted how major changes are happening across the energy industry today, emphasizing that “the landscape is changing, [and] we have to deal with all these changes, which often means we have to build new transmission lines and other infrastructure to modernize the grid.”

Due to these changes, Whitelocke and the ITC team have dedicated the past several years to ensuring that Michigan’s legislative and regulatory policies around transmission development allow ITC to construct what’s needed in a timely fashion to address rapid changes and maintain reliable electric service. These rapid changes include interconnecting new renewable generation, such as solar or wind, new energy-intensive businesses locating or expanding in the state and hardening the grid for more severe weather events.

“This has been the nature of my job: it swings from legislation to regulation and capital projects to financials. Any number of things could happen on a daily basis, which makes it a very interesting and rewarding job,” he said.

“The landscape is changing, [and] we have to deal with all these changes, which often means we have to build new transmission lines and other infrastructure to modernize the grid.”

Major projects in Michigan were approved by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) in 2022 for ITC to construct. Approximately 100 miles of high-voltage lines will be constructed from the Indiana border to mid-Michigan, marking the first time since 1983 that new power lines will be built within the state that connect outside of the state. These projects are part of a broader plan to build additional high-voltage transmission infrastructure across the Midwest region, to maintain the long-term reliability and stability of the electric grid.

When Full-Time MBA students asked Whitelocke for words that he lives by, he responded, “Plans are useless, but planning is essential,” providing students with a piece of advice that defines the business world today. Embracing a strategic and forward-thinking approach while also ensuring you are adaptable is key.

Whitelocke also shared that he actively engages in many outside organizations and in the local community, seamlessly integrating his professional life and personal life. His involvement spans organizations such as the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Detroit Public TV, Reliability First, Food Gatherers, New Community Transformation Fund and Legacy Land Conservancy.

More information on the upcoming 2023–24 Pung Speaker Series, as well as information on past events, is available via the Full-Time MBA program.

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