RMEL eNews
RMEL Report

From the Desk of Richard Putnicki, Executive Director, RMEL

RMEL’s Olympic-Size Offerings – There’s Something for You
There’s “snow” doubt about it…RMEL members are off to a gold-medal start! Sorry!  I couldn’t resist the Winter Olympics pun. It is great to see our events get off to such a solid start. A true gold medal performance with 162 attendees converging in January at the Introduction to the Electric Utility Workshop and Physical and Cyber Security Conference. By the way, special thanks to SRP for helping us host the security event in Phoenix! We always enjoy the opportunity to take our events to our member regions.  Please keep that in mind as you look at your training needs for the rest of 2018 and years to come.   

RMEL Power Play Events Continue This Spring
Next on the calendar, we have our first Safety Roundtable of the year. Thank you Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association for hosting the event on February 23rd. Will Schnyer and Kevin Ripplinger from Western Area Power Administration will kick off the roundtable with a discussion on safety during the Hurricane Irma restoration efforts in St. Thomas. Following the presentation, we will start our roundtable in an open forum discussing the challenges associated with emergency response, followed by the attendees sharing best practices and new programs. Our forum also provides the opportunity to inquire with our attendees on various safety challenges we are faced with in our industry. A former colleague used to tell me, “All of us are better than any one of us!” Please take this opportunity to put our heads together to help find solutions to the challenges we face.

March is when we really get technical, starting with the Power Supply Planning and Projects Conference and Roundtable, March 7-8, to explore current trends, relevant projects and market perspectives of our changing industry. The following week we have the Transmission Planning and Operations Conference, covering planning and project management best practices for operations, reliability and regulatory compliance, March 14-15. Then we’ll look at industry best practices for emerging technologies during the Distribution Overhead and Underground Operations and Maintenance Conference, March 21-22. Safety is paramount in the power industry. It holds no boundaries. No rank. It is not a sometime thing. Safety must be at the forefront in everything we do. Everyone's a Leader, and the 2018 RMEL Safety Conference, March 28-29, will dive into the challenges we face today and safety best practices. I would encourage you to click on the links to get a more detailed summary of our events. The RMEL Section Education Committees, comprised of our membership, keep the content relevant and current. Hats off to them for the work and contribution they provide. Please keep up the good work, everyone! 

First-of-its-Kind RMEL Collaboration to Bring You the Distribution Line Design Workshop You’ve Been Looking For
Look for more details soon on a brand-new RMEL offering…the Best Practices in Overhead Distribution Line Design Workshop is coming to Colorado April 23-26. The Association for Utility Line Design Professionals, also known as UtilityLDPros, in collaboration with RMEL and Collaborative Learning, Inc., is offering a comprehensive, 4-day line design training program that you won’t want to miss. Space is limited to ensure a quality learning experience. We will make sure to keep you all posted as we firm up exact details, and you can sign up for updates about this class here.

Nominate Your First-Place Emerging Leader for an Award - Help Them Reach the Peak of Their Potential
RMEL’s Emerging Leader Award nomination deadline is February 28, 2018. This industry is not short on challenges, and as your team stays nimble and gets the job done – who is the person that really takes it to the next level? The RMEL Awards Program is not just about the award – this program provides an important acknowledgement for your staff as you build your leadership pipeline. The esteemed group of Emerging Leader Award recipients are a valued and respected group at RMEL, and we look for opportunities to engage current and past winners every year to help them meet their potential. For example, 2018 winners, along with past winners, will be invited to a strategy session with 2018 keynote speaker, Kirk Lippold, Former Commander of the USS Cole. This has been an exciting benefit for Emerging Leader Award winners with 2016 keynote speaker Mark Eaton, former NBA All Star, and 2017 keynote speaker Tom Osborne, Former Head Football Coach and Athletic Director, University of Nebraska. Make sure your organization and your best emerging leaders are part of this group.

Keynote Presentations to Give You an Edge at RMEL’s Spring and Fall Signature Events
As RMEL members complete a dynamic line-up of 25+ presentations for the Spring Management, Engineering and Operations Conference, we are excited to announce that Kirk Lippold, Former Commander of the USS Cole, will set a focused and inspirational tone as the 2018 Spring Conference Keynote Speaker. He was in command of the USS Cole when it was targeted by a deadly al Qaeda terrorist attack in 2000, 11 months before 9/11. His team training prior to the attack and unflappable leadership after galvanized his crew to action, resulting in lives and the ship being saved.

The Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention gives senior leaders a unique opportunity to strategize about industry vital issues of today and what the power industry will look like in 5, 10 and maybe even 30 years from now. Futurist Jim Carroll is going to help you ride critical fast-paced trends in order to achieve dramatic market success. Carroll is one of the world’s leading global futurism, trends and innovation experts, with a massive global blue chip client list that ranges from NASA to the PGA, Disney to Johnson & Johnson, the Swiss Innovation Forum to the National Australia Bank. Over the last 20 years, more than 2 million people have shared his insight with his events on stage, taking in his ability to inspire audiences through a combination of deep insight, on-stage humor and motivational guidance, all grounded in deep observations on future trends.

Special Thanks to a Couple of RMEL Friends
And finally, I wish to express my most sincere appreciation to two Board Directors that have retired.  Anthony Montoya, WAPA,  and Jon Hansen, OPPD, retired from their respective utilities at the end of December, leaving the RMEL Board.  I had the opportunity to work closely with each, as both served as RMEL President (Montoya in 2015-16; Hansen in 2016-17). Tony served the RMEL membership as a Board Director since 2009, and Jon since 2010, over sixteen years of collective RMEL Board experience. On behalf of the RMEL Board, the RMEL staff, and our membership, thank you both for the dedication and commitment to the industry and RMEL. Your contributions will be forever felt! We only wish you the best as you embark on the new chapter of your life! Thank you for a job well done!

With the loss, comes a new beginning. On behalf of the RMEL membership, I wish to welcome Dawn Roth Lindell (Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer, WAPA), and Lisa Olson (VP, Public Affairs, OPPD) to fill the terms of the departing Directors. We are excited to have you on board and look forward to future continued success. 

Go Team USA, and Thank You for Powering Athletes and all Americans
As the 2018 Winter Olympic Opening Ceremonies are igniting exciting competition on the world stage in South Korea, I hope you all take pride in the electric grid that stands solid behind the powerhouse that is Team USA.

Thank you for the service you all provide! We are very privileged to host this forum for your continued sharing with each other as you drive excellence at your company and for the entire industry.

WEBINAR: How to Address Your Aging URD Cable
Circuit owners across the region are faced with increased electrical faults in their aging, underground XLPE cable. Utilities often ask, “What is the best approach to address the problem?” Learn how to implement a balanced, cost effective, asset management strategy to solve the issue.
Education and Upcoming Events

Safety Roundtable - February 2018 --- February 23, 2018 (Westminster, CO)
Power Supply Planning and Projects Conference --- March 7-8, 2018 (Lone Tree, CO)
Transmission Planning and Operations Conference --- March 14-15, 2018 (Lone Tree, CO)
Distribution Operations and Maintenance Conference --- March 21-22, 2018 (Lone Tree, CO)
Safety Conference --- March 28-29, 2018 (Lone Tree, CO)
Best Practices in Overhead Distribution Line Design Workshop --- April 23-26, 2018 (Lone Tree, CO)

Spring Management, Engineering and Operations Conference --- May 20-22, 2018 (Keystone, CO)
Steam Generation Cycling Symposium --- May 20-22, 2018 (Omaha, NE)
Transmission Resiliency, Response and Restoration Symposium --- June 6-7, 2018 (Austin, TX)
Effective Teams and Myers Briggs Workshop --- June 20-21, 2018 (Lone Tree, CO)
2018 RMEL Foundation Golf Tournament --- June 27, 2018 (Littleton, CO)
Plant Management, Engineering Operations Conference --- August 1-2, 2018
Leaders Developing Future Leaders Workshop --- August 15-16, 2018
Safety Roundtable - August 2018 --- August 24, 2018 (Golden, CO)
Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention --- September 16-18, 2018 (San Antonio, TX)
Planning Session: 2019 Spring Conference --- October 4, 2018 (Lone Tree, CO)
Distribution Engineers Workshop --- October 10-11, 2018 (Lone Tree, CO)
Renewable Planning and Operations Conference --- October 18, 2018 (Lone Tree, CO)
Safety Roundtable - November 2018 --- November 2, 2018 (Fort Collins, CO)

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RMEL Member Information

RMEL’s trusted network is now accessible on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. These are forums intended for RMEL members only. Working side by side in a cooperative manner, RMEL members band together for the common goal of bettering the industry and improving service for utility customers. For more than 100 years, these key principles have proven successful and more importantly are tried and true methods for building strong business relationships.

Austin Energy customers used more electric power Wednesday morning than they have ever used on a winter day. With temperatures in the teens on Wednesday morning, Austin Energy set a new winter peak load of 2,377 megawatts of electric power. This was roughly 28 percent more than was used on the Friday before the storm hit. Producing power for the Texas grid, the utility’s power plants performed reliably through the winter weather event. The utility’s employees who operate and maintain generation, transmission and distribution systems worked throughout the icy weather to make sure that power was flowing to customers. Only a few customer outages occurred.

Electric vehicle owners, and those considering the purchase of an electric vehicle, stand to benefit from APS’s Energy Efficiency proposal currently before the Arizona Corporation Commission. Customers drawing energy from APS will have the added satisfaction of knowing that half of the energy produced by APS is already carbon-free. A study by Edison Electric Institute predicts the number of electric vehicles on U.S. roads will reach seven million by 2025. Five million charging stations will be required to support those vehicles.  As more Arizonans choose electric vehicles, APS’s proposal is to begin installing the infrastructure required for electric vehicles to become commonplace in Arizona.

North Dakota’s first urea fertilizer production facility, located at Dakota Gasification Company’s Great Plains Synfuels Plant near Beulah, North Dakota, is successfully making product. (Update: The facility was declared commercial Feb. 1.) Urea is a dry, granular fertilizer commonly used in agricultural applications, and has the highest nitrogen content of all solid fertilizers. The facility produced urea for the first time Jan. 19. Employees are currently working toward the goal of producing up to 1,100 tons of product per day.


The CPS Energy Board of Trustees nominated Ms. Terri Williams, a Certified Economic Developer, to serve as the new Southeast Quadrant board member to replace outgoing trustee Derrick Howard. Ms. Williams will be presented to the San Antonio City Council at a future council meeting for final ratification to join the Board of Trustees. “The response to our need for a replacement for Derrick Howard was tremendous, and the Board is appreciative of all of the candidates who applied,” said newly appointed Board Chair John Steen. “Based on our rigorous interview process, Ms. Williams presented the strongest set of diverse experiences that will balance well with CPS Energy’s diverse business and strategic needs. We are excited about Ms. Williams joining us, and believe she will bring added value to our Board through her solid background, inquisitive spirit, and collaborative approach.”

Electricity is an important service in our daily lives and it needs to be used wisely. The efficient use of energy assists in reducing oil imports, conserves natural resources and preserves the environment.  Energy efficiency in your home or business can be increased by implementing energy efficiency and energy conservation measures. By using and implementing the information contained in this website, you can change the way energy is used in your home and business.

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) presented KCP&L with the association's "Emergency Assistance Award” for its outstanding work assisting customers impacted by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 and Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The award is presented to EEI member companies to recognize an outstanding response in assisting other electric companies in power restoration efforts after service has been disrupted by severe weather conditions or other natural events. The winners were chosen by a panel of judges following an international nomination process, and the awards were presented during EEI’s Winter Board and CEO Meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Robotic competitions for high schools and middle schools have become nearly a weekly event as Nebraska schools square up in these types of competitions on a regular basis throughout the school year. But Saturday’s Aurora CREATE Open robotics competition is expected to go international for the first time. Several teams from China are expected to take part in this event for the first time and will be among the 37 competing teams. The Aurora Open is sponsored by Nebraska Public Power District with the CREATE Foundation, an Omaha organization, facilitating competition. Youth Engaged in Technology & Innovation non-profit (Y.E.T.I.) from Aurora, is the local host of the event.


All fifth grade classrooms in Omaha Public Power District’s service territory are invited to think tall and work as a team, through the Marshmallow Challenge. The contest, now underway, coincides with National Engineering Week, Feb. 18-24. OPPD’s Society of Engineers has sponsored the challenge locally for the past five years. The Marshmallow Challenge is a contest designed to promote problem-solving, teamwork and innovation. It is part of OPPD’s ongoing commitment to Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math (STEAM) education.


Officials from Rocky Mountain Power, Summit County and Salt Lake City joined the Lieutenant Governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, to celebrate the installation of new electric vehicle fast-charging stations in Kimball Junction with a ribbon cutting event Wednesday, January 17, 2018. The installation is part of the Live Electric campaign to improve air quality between Salt Lake City and Park City.

Platte River Power Authority Tuesday signed a power purchase agreement (PPA) for 150 megawatts of new wind power capacity to serve its four owner municipalities – Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont and Loveland. The additional wind power will come from a new wind farm located less than 20 miles north of Platte River’s Rawhide Energy Station. Enyo Renewable Energy’s subsidiary, Roundhouse Renewable Energy LLC, will construct the Roundhouse project with up to 75 wind turbines across 14,000 acres of land as well as the additional transmission capacity needed to bring the carbon-free energy to Platte River’s four municipalities. The new transmission line will connect the wind power directly to Platte River’s transmission system at the Rawhide Station and will nearly triple Platte River’s existing output from wind.

SRP is sponsoring a FREE Electric Safety Workshop to educate tree workers, landscapers, roofers, painters, scaffold workers and excavators on the potential hazards of working near overhead and underground electrical power lines and other utilities. Any individuals who work around utility lines are encouraged to attend the workshop, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, for their personal safety. The event will include safety presentations on overhead and underground electrical, gas and other utilities including: Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, Blue Stake procedures, trenching and underground safety demonstrations, and live electrical demonstrations of what can happen when contact is made with power lines. 

Brent Baker has been named Vice President of Customer Experience for Liberty Utilities. In this position, Mr. Baker will oversee the Customer Experience teams in the East, West, and Central Regions of the U.S., as well as Oakville, Ontario. Mr. Baker became Vice President of Customer Experience – Central Region in January 2017. He began his career at Empire District in 2002. Positions he has held include Senior Structural Engineer, Manager of Construction Design, Director of Customer Service, and Vice President of Customer Service, Transmission and Engineering.

Tucson Electric Power (TEP) plans to issue a request for proposals (RFP) this week for the design and construction of new wind energy resources that could power up to 31,000 homes annually. TEP plans to seek cost-competitive bids for 100-150 megawatts (MW) of wind energy from resources that interconnect with TEP’s system or deliver power through a third-party firm transmission service. The energy will help TEP work toward its goal of delivering at least 30 percent of its power from renewable resources by 2030, doubling the state’s 2025 goal. TEP anticipates adding 800 MW of new renewable capacity by the end of 2030, boosting its total renewable energy portfolio to approximately 1,200 MW.

Consistent with its recent statements, Westar Energy (NYSE: WR) asked the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) to update its prices for the new lower federal tax rate, which will save customers about $74 million per year. Westar’s request also included $11 million of initial savings in contemplation of its proposed merger with Great Plains Energy and $29 million in savings achieved from refinancing debt. These $114 million in savings offset costs related to the recently added Western Plains wind farm, depreciation and other expenses. All told, these adjustments will reduce prices by about $2 million in September, when the KCC’s decision is due. In early 2019, credits that reduced customer prices for about 10 years will expire, and Westar has asked to adjust prices for those changes at that time.

Western Area Power Administration's Desert Southwest Region and Southline Transmission, L.L.C., signed a participation agreement, Jan. 31, committing both parties to developing the Southline Transmission Project—a new critical energy infrastructure effort that will support grid reliability and facilitate renewable energy development in the region. The Southline Transmission Project combines upgrades to WAPA's existing electrical infrastructure and construction of new transmission lines to provide about 1,000 megawatts of transmission capacity along a 360-mile path between southern New Mexico and Arizona. ​The project will interconnect with numerous existing substations, improving reliability, relieving transmission congestion, meeting increased energy demand and facilitating construction of new sources of generation.

Industry Information

For linemen, there is no ordinary day at the office. From one day to the next, they may be suspended from a helicopter, working on a high-voltage transmission line or restoring power following a natural disaster. Lineman Life, our enewsletter that celebrates the line trade, wants to capture these moments with our new photography contest. The first place winner will be awarded the Tail Tamer, a temporary hot line clamp from Utility Solutions. The tool, which was originally invented by a lineman, won the 2017 Best of the Best contest at the International Lineman's Expo. The top 10 photos will be featured in an online photo gallery, and a few of the best vertical photos may even appear in future Parting Shot departments within the Electric Utility Operations section of Transmission and Distribution World magazine. 


The California Public Utilities Commission moved to require Calpine to replace three natural gas plants in the state with energy storage. The move requires energy storage facilities to be in place by 2019 “if feasible and at a reasonable Cost to ratepayers,” Greentech Mediareported. Calpine had sought to maintain “must-run” status on the three facilities, which include two 47-MW peaking plants in Feather River and Yuba and a 605-MW plant in Metcalf. None of the three have long-term contracts with utilities.


Hopis and Navajos who work at a coal mine near the Arizona-Utah border said Tuesday their family lives and earning power will suffer greatly if the power plant fed by the mine is shuttered as planned. The Navajo Generating Station in Page is set to close at the end of 2019 unless a new owner can be found. That's considered a long-shot, but the company that owns the supply mine says it has identified investors interested in one of the largest coal plants in the West. More than 200 workers, their family members and supporters in blue T-shirts, holding up signs that said "Yes to NGS," rallied outside the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix to call for the power plant's life to be extended. The coal industry is a major source of revenue for the Navajo and Hopi tribes, with hundreds of jobs held by tribe members.

The sixth-month process for competitive proposals began Tuesday on the $130 million Hartburg-Sabine Junction high-voltage transmission project in east Texas, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) confirmed. Earlier this month, the MISO board of directors approved the 500-kV Hartburg-Sabine Junction as a market efficiency project and eligible for the system’s competitive selection process. MISO issued the RFP Tuesday and qualified developers have until July 20 to make bids.

EIA estimates that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions declined by 861 million metric tons (14%) from 2005 to 2017. In the latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, EIA projects that CO2 emissions will rise 1.8%, from 5,143 million metric tons in 2017 to 5,237 million metric tons in 2018, then remain virtually unchanged in 2019. In 2019, energy-related CO2 emissions will be about 13% lower than 2005 levels. From 2005 to 2017, coal-related CO2 emissions declined by 835 million metric tons (39%), and petroleum-related CO2 emissions declined by 289 million metric tons (11%). Natural gas emissions, however, increased by 285 million metric tons (24%) over that period. The underlying energy consumption trends that resulted in these changes—mainly because more electricity has been generated from natural gas than from other fossil fuels—have helped to lower the U.S. emissions level since 2005 because natural gas is a less carbon-intensive fuel than either coal or petroleum.

The Public Utilities Commission has approved a comprehensive new portfolio of programs that will reward customers of the Hawaiian Electric Companies who can use their own equipment to participate in the management of the electricity grid. The Jan. 25 approval comes after more than two years of technical and financial analysis and participation by dozens of stakeholders who helped shape the companies' proposed programs, which are collectively known as demand response. "We appreciate the commission's approval of the program and their advocacy for demand response, which has the potential to be a cost-effective tool to help us reach our renewable energy goals," said Richard Barone, manager of demand response for Hawaiian Electric. "We see this program creating a more flexible and reliable grid while at the same time empowering customers with expanded energy options and economic opportunity."

2018 got off to a frosty start in the United States, with temperatures plunging into the single digits—and well below zero—in some areas. In New York’s Times Square, revelers watched the ball drop with a wind chill of -4˚F—the second-coldest New Year’s Eve celebration on record. In the Midwest, cities like Indianapolis broke records with negative temperatures, and in New England, the summit of Mt. Washington experienced wind chills of -89˚F. Even the Deep South couldn’t escape the bitter cold, with Atlanta’s temperatures reaching an icy 13˚F during the cold weather’s peak.

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Caltech researchers have made a discovery that they say could lead to the economically viable production of solar fuels in the next few years. For years, solar-fuel research has focused on developing catalysts that can split water into hydrogen and oxygen using only sunlight. The resulting hydrogen fuel could be used to power motor vehicles, electrical plants, and fuel cells. Since the only thing produced by burning hydrogen is water, no carbon pollution is added to the atmosphere. In 2014, researchers in the lab of Harry Gray, Caltech's Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry, developed a water-splitting catalyst made of layers of nickel and iron. However, no one was entirely sure how it worked. Many researchers hypothesized that the nickel layers, and not the iron atoms, were responsible for the water-splitting ability of the catalyst (and others like it).