With an engineering degree, alumnus shows you have the power to do anything

Filsinger and linemen
Todd Filsinger (‘85), left, with linemen from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority.

Since graduating from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, alumnus Todd Filsinger (’85) has pursued a career in business consulting. He credits his time at CSU for providing him with a well-rounded education.

“With an engineering degree as a starting point, you can go down any path,” said Filsinger. “You can be an engineer, a CEO of a business, or even a doctor.”

The September 2017 hurricanes knocked out 100% of the power in Puerto Rico, leaving people to live without roofs and amidst dangerous downed power lines, and ripping photovoltaic panels off their frames at solar farms.

His engineering education led him from working at the CSU Solar Research Center into a career in power company restructurings. Helping to transform some of the largest U.S. power companies, Filsinger became the chief operating officer of Calpine Corporation, chief executive officer of Hawkeye Growth, and founder and chief executive officer of Filsinger Energy Partners. His company specializes in management consulting services for electric utilities, and is well known for its turnaround work with Energy Future Holdings, Luminant, TXU Energy, and others.

Now Filsinger’s in Puerto Rico, where he’s working as the chief financial advisor to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), helping rebuild the country’s infrastructure and restructure the utility system. The summer before two September 2017 hurricanes, PREPA went into bankruptcy, and when Hurricane Maria hit it took out 100 percent of the power system – no one on the grid had electricity. Filsinger and his company were called upon to take on a critically significant job: rebuilding PREPA from the ground up.

Filsinger & PR Governor
Todd Filsinger (‘85), right, discusses the island’s electric transformation plan with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello´, center, and Christian Sobrino, Chief Adviser for Economic Development to the Governor of Puerto Rico, left, in January 2017.

“PREPA needed someone to run with the restoration, manage the bankruptcy issues, and help with the transformation of the utility,” said Filsinger.

Getting the power back on was no easy feat, nor was it an inexpensive one. It has taken billions of dollars to restore the basic functionality of the Puerto Rico electric grid, and it could cost billions more to rebuild it to modern standards.

“When you’re doing a restoration you do whatever it takes to get it done,” said Filsinger. “The second phase is to build the system with resiliency.”

Filsinger testifying on PREPA plan
Todd Filsinger, left, testifies before the Federal Oversight Management Board on the PREPA fiscal plan in April 2018.

Filsinger Energy Partners is also helping PREPA take a more sustainable approach to the rebuilding, with plans to integrate renewables, solar energy, and natural gas to save consumers money. There’s still a lot of work to be done; getting the utility up to speed could easily take three years or more.

Going the extra 5,000 miles

Traveling over 5,000 miles roundtrip from Denver to pursue the PREPA restructure and move closer to the cause fulfills a purpose close to Filsinger’s heart: helping others in critical need.

The people of Puerto Rico have suffered immensely through this hurricane-related disasters, and Filsinger is honored to be part of the recovery team.

“I saw I could help, and that’s why I took this job,” said Filsinger. “My education and work experience allowed me to do that; it’s what gets me up in the morning.”

Guided by a heart for helping, Filsinger’s career brought him to Puerto Rico. The road to recovery is long, but PREPA is in good hands.

The desire to help others carries over into different parts of Filsinger’s life, and giving back is part of his company’s mission. Another way he pays it forward is by supporting engineering students through the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering First-Generation Initiative. As a former first-generation student himself, Filsinger understands the need for support in an academic setting and aims to help students forge an opportunity-laden path – similar to his own – with an engineering education.

His advice to CSU engineering students: “Understand there are no limits to what you can do.”