At just 36 years old, Hawai’i Gas president and CEO Alicia Moy gives the 110-year-old company a fresh outlook.
It’s almost pau hana time on a friday, and Alicia Moy isn’t even close to winding down. Hawai’i gas’ newly appointed president and chief executive officer deftly fits a magazine interview and a photo shoot between several strategic planning sessions. Then like many working-women in Hawai’i, the 36-year-old business powerhouse is off to her second shift as newlywed wife to Jake and new mom to Kai, who was born in October. The task would be too much for some professionals, but based on Moy’s track record when she says that she is up to the challenge, it’s hard not to believe her.
“This is a dream job for me to be living in Hawai’i and to be a key part of the energy transformation movement,” Moy says. “Gas I believe is a driver to accelerate Hawai’i ‘s alternate energy future. I’m working so much and having to make sacrifices. I don’t get to see Kai as often as I would like, but I keep going because I know I’m doing this for him and his future.”
Since taking the top reigns at Hawai’i Gas in May of 2013, Moy’s vision for the company has focused on fuel sourcing, diversification, strategic growth and improving operational performance. The 110-year-old company has a plan underway to boost its reserve of propane, which it provides to about 40,000 residential and business customers statewide. However, Moy and other company leaders also are determined to get state regulators to approve a progressive plan to bring liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the isles thereby reducing the state’s oil dependency as well as costs for local residents and businesses.
According to a recent report from the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute the cost savings of a well-executed LNG plan could be as much as 40 to 50 percent for Hawai’i Gas customers.
“Can you imagine how that would change the economy? If they can be successful it’s life changing, Hawai’i would never be the same,” says Alan Tang, chairman, CEO and president of Olomana Loomis ISC, which represents Hawai’i Gas.
Moy says there’s no question of the importance of her current undertaking. “Energy is one area that affects everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor or if you are from Kahala, Waiâ€˜anae or a neighbor island. If you can move the needle, it’s pretty significant. That’s what keeps me going.”
Of course, Moy’s also got the added benefit of having the right skills, a positive attitude and boundless energy, says Wesley K. Yamamoto, who is the Senior Vice President of Investments for UBS Financial Services Inc. and was Moy’s sponsor for membership in the prestigious Young Presidents’
Organization, an organization that connects young chief executives to a global network.
“I told her with a new baby and all she could wait to join YPO because she was so young that she had plenty of time before she turned 40, but she says no way, I can handle it,” Yamamoto says. “She’s the kind of person that won’t let anything stand in her way. She’s got high energy, but more importantly, she’s got open ears. She’s listening and paying attention and learning. She’s dynamite. I don’t know how she does it.”
Moy says balance is never easy, but she starts each day with a list, which she constantly reprioritizes. When times get tough, she says that she falls back on a saying that her mother Ann Moy taught her.
“She would always tell me, ‘You are where you need to be,'” Moy says. “I take that to mean that if I take things one step at a time, I can break down challenging situations and move them without getting paralyzed.”
For Moy, the secret also has been managing to be at the right place at the right time. She gained exposure to this job and experience for the role in her former job as senior vice president of Macquarie Infrastructure Company, a $2.7 billion corporation that owns, operates and invests in a diversified group of infrastructure businesses in the United States. In that role, she oversaw several Macquarie-managed utility companies. Moy worked on the acquisition of Hawai’i Gas in 2005 and 2006, and has served as a member of the Hawai’i Gas Board of Directors since 2011.
Appointing the then 35-year-old female outsider to run a Hawai’i company in the throes of transformation may have been a non-starter for some local boards. However, Moy’s quiet confidence, solid analytics and vast knowledge of the gas industry were strong selling points, says Hawai’i Gas Board Member Ian C. Woodward, who also knew Moy when she got her masters of finance at the Singapore branch of Insead, The Business School for the World.
“She was one of our top students. Highly diligent, highly motivated and purposefully determined… she exemplified the very qualities that I now see her bringing to her leadership of Hawai’i Gas,” Woodward says.
“She brings a huge depth of knowledge to the organization and a youthful energy combined with tremendous management experience and fresh perspective, all of which are very important to a company like Hawai’i Gas that is in transition.”
It would be easy to pass off the story of Moy’s rise to the top as a smart young woman writing her own modern day fairy tale. However, her life reads more like a women’s studies biography, where the subject makes history only by overcoming signi~ cant personal challenges. A painful past taught Moy the value of planning for the future-something that she’s passionately preserving for her family and for the community through her role at Hawai’i Gas.
“When I was 16, my 45-year-old dad (William Moy) was killed in a sudden accident,” Moy says. “It was tragic for my whole family.”
In addition to the deep sadness that followed the accident, Moy says that her family had to contend with the ~ nancial pressures of losing the breadwinner, the one that had paid the bills and balanced the checkbook.
“When I saw my mom (Ann Moy) struggling to raise three kids and put them through college, I knew that I wanted to be financially independent and in control of my destiny,” Moy says. “I buckled down in school and ended up getting straight A’s and earned a scholarship to the University of Miami.”
Moy put herself through college working as a hostess at the Cheesecake Factory. She studied environmental engineering before settling on a degree in finance and marketing because she thought it would have a broader range of applications. Landing an internship between her junior and senior year led to her first job in the investment banking division of Morgan Stanley in New York. She worked there for two years before joining the Macquarie Group in 2001 because she was attracted to its focus on infrastructure and long-term stable investments that serve the community. That move is what put her on the path to her current leadership role as an agent of change for Hawai’i’s energy industry.
“We have been working on our strategic plan as a company for a few years now. We’re at the stage now where we have honed in on what the future looks like for the company. Where we are today, we receive a lot of our gas from two local refineries and we can import gas. Where we want to get is lowering our cost of energy to our customers through LNG (liquid natural gas) and bringing in renewable natural gas as well. We are really clear that this needs to be part of our long-term vision for the company,” Moy says.
As an eight-year veteran in Hawai’i’s energy industry, Moy is passionate about the role that gas can play in the state’s energy plan.
“We can accelerate a lot of the renewables coming on line and smooth out the intermittency of solar and wind. I know the electric company is having a hard time integrating it into their system. I’m speaking to the state and other stakeholders and of course (Hawaiian Electric Company) to develop plans so that gas can be part of the solution,” she says.
Moy’s been in Hawai’i long enough to understand that transformation takes time and community involvement. She’s undeterred by the wait to get approval from the Hawai’i Public Utilities Commission to start a backup enhancement project for a planned LNG plant facility.
“We had hoped our docket would have been approved by the end of last year; however, we’ve been able to continue to make progress on other projects,” Moy says. “We can have the best technical plan and if we don’t have the community behind us we won’t succeed. It’s really about getting all of the stakeholders in the same room and aligning ourselves around what’s best for the state.”
Moy says she’s working to make that happen so that Kai and all the other young people in Hawai’i will have better tools to build themselves a brighter future.