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From the Desk of Richard Putnicki, Executive Director, RMEL


Join your electric energy peers in Phoenix, AZ, May 20-22, to learn more about the latest trends in technology, best practices and solutions for our electric power industry. The RMEL membership has been working diligently to finalize speakers and logistics while preparing to bring you 25 relevant and timely presentations centered around the industry''s most urgent needs. It all started last September, when our executive participants at RMEL''s Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention discussed the future of electric energy. RMEL members drew from that Vital Issues Forum to begin identifying content for the upcoming Spring Conference to address the industry’s biggest technical challenges. The "tone” will be set for the 2019 Spring Conference by Keynote Speaker Merril Hoge! As a former athlete, I appreciate the FIND A WAY message Merril will share! It is so appropriate to the challenges we face in our industry today!


From going after his dreams to play in the NFL to using that same tenacity and determination to beat cancer, Merril gives credit to three simple words: Find. A. Way. He has proven that these can be the most powerful words in the English language. A retired NFL running back and former ESPN analyst, Merril inspires audiences with his story of prevailing over life''s hurdles through strength and determination while achieving success through hard work and perseverance. He began his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, eventually joining the Chicago Bears before retiring due to post-concussion syndrome. During his tenure as an ESPN analyst and host, he was well-known for his sharp insights and knowledge of the game. In 2003, Merril was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin''s Lymphoma, which he fought – and beat – using the same tenacity he demonstrated on the field. He shares his moving story in his memoir Find a Way: Three Words That Changed My Life.

Merril’s empowering message provides people with strategies to "find a way” as they pursue their own goals.

As a graduate of Idaho State University with a degree in education and a minor in health and fitness, Merril was a four-year football starter who set 44 school and conference records and two NCAA football records, one for most receptions by a back in a season and the other for most receptions by a back for a career and stood until recently when they were broken. In 1987, Merril made his childhood dream a reality when he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he played until 1993 and led the team in rushing and receiving in four of his first five years, setting a record in his third year for receptions by a running back. Along with Franco Harris, he is one of only two Steelers players to rush for more than 100 yards in back-to-back playoff games. He was the Steelers Iron Man of the Year two years in a row (1989 and 1990) and was named to the All-Madden team in 1989. In 1993, Merril went to the Chicago Bears as a free agent, where he played for one year until he was forced to retire early due to post-concussion syndrome. At the time of his retirement, Merril had the longest consecutive playing streak in the NFL.


The education sessions, coupled with Merril’s message will continue with the theme of Find a Way to Making it Happen! Presenters will discuss these topics and share those experiences that are moving our industry. 

Preliminary Topics Spring Conference Topics Include (topics are subject to change):

  • Generation Planning Panel
  • Aging Infrastructure Panel
  • IT/OT Panel 
  • DER
  • 5G, Micro Cells & Wireless Company Leasing
  • Renewables
  • Expanding PV Value: Lessons Learned From Utility-Led Distributed Energy Resource Aggregating in the U.S.     
  • Project Delivery Methods
  • Cycling - Colorado Springs Utilities
  • SPP Challenges Going Forward            
  • Facilitative Leadership
  • Decommissioning & Plant Shutdown
  • Evolving Grid
  • Human Performance
  • Electric Utility Executive Leadership Panel
  • Battery Storage - Shell Microgrid Battery Storage Technology
  • EV Programs & Impacts
  • Technical Considerations for Optimizing Steam Turbine Startups
  • Non-Wire Alternatives/Solutions Using Rates to Drive Customer Behavior
  • Trends in Customer Management          
  • Early Career Development

Keep up with the latest details at www.RMEL.org/spring as we get closer to finalizing the event content!

Safety, Generation, Transmission, Distribution and Security Events for Your Consideration

February was a phenomenal time for member collaboration on some of the industry’s biggest challenges: coal plant cycling and safety. The Steam Generation Cycling Symposium brought together nearly 100 generation experts representing 19 different utilities to Overland Park, Kansas. Special thanks and appreciation to Black & Veatch for serving as the member host for our event. The attendees strategically addressed the operational environment and the resulting impacts of increased cyclic operation of coal generation facilities. Everyone walked away with those shared experiences and perspectives that dealt with the increasing challenge of the current impact renewables add to the system. Here’s what some of the attendees had to say:

  • "Excellent detailed content with specific recommendations for the plants to address”
  • "The presenters and discussions were excellent.”
  • "Experiences from other plants, including problem solving and potential issues. Great Job!”
  • "This was my first conference of this kind. I was very impressed with the information gathered and presented in the 12 hours allotted.”
  • "I learned what other utilities are doing to combat the changing energy market and how others are increasing ramp rates and lowering min load.”

We also had a great crowd at the Safety Roundtable at Tri-State Generation & Transmission Association. Once again, an excellent venue for this event. Thank you, Tri-State for being such a gracious host!  Christopher Ukowich, Region Safety Officer, CDOT-Region 4, kicked the discussion off with a look at Work Zone Traffic Control Safety, and from there members brought in questions about their biggest safety challenges, discussed near misses and also discussed safety successes. If your company isn’t taking advantage of these FREE safety roundtables, I suggest you encourage members of your company to jump on this opportunity to exchange ideas with other RMEL members on the most paramount issue in our industry - SAFETY! Check out our next free Safety Roundtable on August 23 at Western Area Power Administration.

Many of you know that we like to refer to this month as "RMEL’s March Madness” because of our busy Spring schedule. All of the planning that started one year ago takes shape for our hard-working RMEL Section Committees, and it’s always a great time to see those professional relationships from past events, as well as the opportunity to meet many new members. What is also exciting and new this year, is that 3 of our March and April Committee events will be held at member companies in Utah, Missouri and Arizona. The Transmission Planning and Operations Conference, covering new technology, asset management and data analytics, will take place March 6-7 in Denver. Then we’ll look at engineering, operations and design best practices during the Distribution Conference March 26-27, hosted by Rocky Mountain Power in Salt Lake City, Utah. To round out RMEL’s "March Madness,” the Safety and Training Conference will be held March 28-29, 2019 hosted by Evergy, at the Cedar Point Safety & Training Center in Kansas City, MO. Stay tuned for more information on the RMEL Security Symposium scheduled for Phoenix, AZ, April 16-17. 

This truly is one of my favorite times of the year with so many upcoming opportunities for RMEL members to share and learn from each other to hopefully make the mounting challenges ahead easier. Please check out our upcoming events. I can’t wait to see y’all!


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