Corporate Feature

Daniella Piper: Leading New York’s Transformation to Clean Energy With Digitization and Diversity

The future of the electric power industry and New York’s clean energy economy lies in part in the capable hands of Daniella Piper, Regional Manager of the New York Power Authority’s (NYPA) Western Region and Chief Transformation Officer.

A Haitian immigrant who started at the Authority as an intern in 2007, Piper now leads the operation of NYPA’s Niagara Power Project, the largest hydroelectric facility in the northeast. She is among the executives making key decisions regarding clean energy solutions including solar, storage and energy efficiency initiatives for an organization that also owns a third of New York State’s transmission backbone. The current and future energy needs of NYPA’s government and commercial customers in the northeast rely on her leadership.

Having held a number of progressive positions during her career at NYPA, including Chief of Staff and Vice President of Digital Transformation where she became a trusted advisor to NYPA’s President and CEO, Piper is also responsible for many of NYPA’s innovations connected to the Authority’s forward thinking VISION2030 strategic plan. VISION2030 has five pillars: digitization, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), enterprise resilience, resource alignment, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) that support its strategic priorities.

One of Piper’s main responsibilities is implementing the pillar of digitization across the organization, which involves leveraging connectivity and technology to optimize assets, improve processes and enable employees to meet their objectives as they pertain to the VISION2030 priorities. These digitization efforts are focused on getting more value out of NYPA’s assets by lowering costs and reducing the number of equipment failures and disruptions. Piper is installing sensors that collect data on the Authority’s electrical generation assets, which can be used to gain more insight into the health of those assets. The data can also be used for more predictive analytics around when those assets should be taken out of service and whether they are trending towards a failure.

Digitization has also helped with workforce efficiency. Under Piper’s leadership, NYPA was able to quickly move from a traditional workforce to a hybrid workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic. She credits the organization’s investments in digitization in the years prior to the pandemic for the smooth transition to a largely remote operation and the implementation of effective supports for those that had to be on site to keep the lights on statewide.

“What it comes down to is competitive advantage,” Piper says. “[Digitization] allows you to make better, more informed decisions around your assets.”

NYPA is also deploying drones in transmission line inspections and in operations to increase visibility and security at infrastructure assets throughout the state. Additionally, the Power Authority has invested resources in its own dedicated communications network. These innovations, among others, are aimed at bolstering the Power Authority’s efforts to bring applicable technologies to employees in the field.

Piper is also a champion of NYPA’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. She led the development of NYPA’s 10 Point Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) plan. As a result of this plan, NYPA provided 10 scholarships to diverse and traditionally underrepresented students, became a P-TECH Industry Coalition partner and is enhancing the Authority’s supplier diversity programs—aimed at building the capacity of diverse suppliers through training, mentoring, networking and reducing barriers for supplier entry into the energy industry. Piper also serves as a mentor in the Authority’s Pathways program. The Pathways program provides meaningful peer coaching and mentoring relationships to historically underrepresented groups and opportunities for them to build their network as they prepare for future career opportunities.

With all that she has accomplished, Piper acknowledges that she has had great help over the span of her career, especially from people who don’t look like her. Partly because of that, she has chosen to be what she calls a “servant leader,” committed to empowering her team by ensuring they have the resources and support they need to get the job done. Some might consider that an innovative approach to leadership.

“As long as I feel that my team is equipped to address challenges and that we're continuously improving our processes, our culture, and our community, to me that is success,” she says. “And of course, we must meet all of our VISION2030 clean energy transformation targets for the benefit of all New Yorkers.”