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Alumni Profile: Paul Lau


Paul Lau

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District is determined to modernize the region’s antiquated electrical grid and achieve a 15 percent decline in usage by 2017, an amount that far exceeds the state-mandated reduction. 

And Sacramento State alumnus Paul Lau is the point man for this bold project. Paring Sacramento’s energy usage by 15 percent won’t be easy. As SMUD’s assistant general manager he thrives on such challenges.

Lau has compiled quite a record at the public utility during the last quarter century. He’s directed substation design and construction, line design and construction, energy efficiency planning and evaluation and new product and service development. 

Lau is also responsible for SMUD’s smart meter implementation that includes the installation of 620,000 new meters that will enable customers to make informed decisions about their energy use. These advanced meters feature two-way communication with SMUD so the utility can restore power more rapidly when there is an outage.

Once the smart meters are installed customers will be able to get a daily read on their energy usage rather than a monthly total. SMUD is working with community groups to reduce neighborhood usage, notifying individual homeowners how their usage compares with their neighbors, bundling rebate programs for consumers, and promoting lighting change-out and loan programs for small businesses.

The surest way to reduce consumer costs is to become more energy efficient, he says  That means upgrading the smart grid with new technology while persuading consumers to change their behavior in ways that will save them money.

These proactive steps, Lau believes, have already helped make the region more energy efficient. SMUD’s target reductions are on track, which helps explain why utility companies throughout the state often look to Sacramento for guidance. He’s thoroughly committed to sustainable energy for Sacramento and the region.

Lau’s successful career with SMUD began as a student engineer. He started at Sac State as a pre-dental major and discovered that specialty wasn’t for him. Once he switched to the Power Engineering Program, however, the young man had found his calling. The professors were great, he says, adding that Sac State’s program was so good, all of the graduates had job offers. He could have made more money in Southern California, but Lau, who moved to Sacramento with his family from Hong Kong at the age of 12, chose to remain with SMUD.