From the Desk of Richard Putnicki, Executive Director, RMEL
2018 RMEL SPRING MANANGEMENT, ENGINEERING AND OPERATIONS CONFERENCE
Leading to New Heights: Charting the Course for Tomorrow’s Energy Innovations
While the industry around us is changing, what has specifically changed for you? Can you use the same strategies that worked 5 years ago? How are you keeping up with innovation while staying efficient? What upgrades are you trying to make right now? I hope RMEL and the wealth of knowledge from RMEL members are a part of your strategy. RMEL events, publications and resources are designed to facilitate sharing among RMEL members so you can feel confident that your daily processes have the right balance of efficiency and innovation.
The 2018 Spring Management, Engineering and Operations Conference theme is Leading to New Heights: Charting the Course for Tomorrow’s Energy Innovations. During the conference, May 20-22, in Keystone, CO, sessions and discussion will focus on strategies, best practices and solutions that electric utilities are using and adapting with an eye on the future. At every RMEL event, I hear questions like, “Has anyone else tried this? Did it work? What are your lessons learned?” You’ll get solid answers back from your RMEL contacts.
The Spring Conference program of 25+ sessions is designed from the very start by RMEL members collectively discussing the biggest engineering and operations questions and struggles they are facing at all levels of their utility. The best ideas make the cut, and from there members find the people who have the answers. When everyone arrives in Keystone on May 20 and then leaves on May 22, they will have something new in their toolbox to help address those big struggles. We are bringing in a renowned authority on leadership, the Former Commander of the USS Cole, to help us all steer our course for invention.
Kirk Lippold will set the tone of the conference 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.
Day 2’s General Session is the popular Electric Utility Executive Leadership Panel. Leaders from several utilities will share their strategies for moving forward with today’s biggest industry challenges during this panel, while sharing insight on emerging issues and future planning. The panel will feature: Alice Jackson, VP, Strategic Revenue Initiatives, Xcel Energy; Bruce Rew, VP, Operations, Southwest Power Pool; Dawn Roth Lindell, Acting Executive VP & Chief Operating Officer, Western Area Power Administration; and Mindy Tagler, Sr. VP & CFO, Holy Cross Energy. Tom Kent, VP & COO, Nebraska Public Power District, & 2018 President, RMEL, will moderate the panel. You won’t want to miss this important discussion.
I hope to see you in Keystone May 20-22!
UPCOMING JUNE EVENTS
Take a look at the educational offerings our committees have prepared for you in June. We will be taking two important regional symposiums to Austin and Omaha. We also have a leadership workshop on the schedule, and close out the month with our annual scholarship fundraiser, the RMEL Foundation Golf Tournament.
Transmission Resiliency, Response and Restoration Symposium
June 6-7, 2018 – Austin, Texas
This symposium will explore different aspects of preparing for and responding to natural disasters from the perspectives of resiliency (examples: California wildfires, southeast hurricanes, Nebraska tornadoes and ice storms), response (examples: U.S. Virgin Islands lessons learned, Hurricane Harvey air response and staging, mutual assistance programs) and restoration (example: transformer relocation during restoration efforts).
Effective Teams and Myers Briggs Workshop
June 13-14, 2018 – Lone Tree, Colorado
Utilizing the work of Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, you will learn about and experience specific tools and approaches to building high-functioning teams. You will also gain insights to your own style and its impact on your leadership. By the end of the session you will have an action plan for moving from teamwork pain to organizational gain in your own workgroup.
Steam Generation Cycling Symposium
June 14, 2018 – Omaha, Nebraska
The RMEL Steam Generation Cycling Symposium will provide an interactive forum for presentations and discussion surrounding the operational environment and the resulting impacts of increased cyclic operation of coal generation facilities. The increased penetration of intermittent and low fuel cost generation in today’s integrated energy marketplace has influenced the demand for flexible generation from coal generators with increased cycling conditions including low load operation, starts/stops, and ramping. This one-day symposium will cover information pertaining to energy market conditions, and the associated impacts on plant condition and maintenance, operation and solutions to these challenges.
RMEL Foundation Golf Tournament
June 27, 2018 – Littleton, Colorado
The 2018 Golf Tournament benefits the RMEL Foundation scholarship program. The RMEL Foundation provides scholarships to deserving and qualified university/college students focused on engineering or curriculum related to the electric energy industry with the intent of encouraging students to pursue a career in the electric energy industry. The Foundation also provides scholarships to those pursuing an electric industry position certificate or associate degree at a college (community college, two-year college or a four-year university).
It’s going to be an exciting couple of months, and there’s more great events coming in 2018! Always feel free to contact me with your ideas and let us know how we can better address the challenges you’re facing.
RMEL BOARD NOTES
I want to extend my gratitude to Diane Johnson, former General Manager, Yampa Valley Electric Association. She recently left her position on the RMEL Board of Directors, and I thank you, Diane, for your insights and contributions to RMEL, along with your participation on the Electric Energy Executive Panel at RMEL’s 2017 Spring Conference. We wish you all the best!
With Diane's departure, we welcome two new board members: Susan Kidd, GM, T&D Engineering & Technology, Arizona Public Service; and Khalil Shalabi, VP, Strategy, Technology & Markets, Austin Energy. We are excited to have these two executives on board and look forward to future continued success.
Thank you to everyone for your engagement and RMEL membership! I look forward to seeing you soon!
Don't Miss These Upcoming RMEL Events
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)
Transmission Resiliency, Response and Restoration Symposium — June 6-7, 2018 (Austin, TX)
Effective Teams and Myers Briggs Workshop — June 13-14, 2018 (Lone Tree, CO)
Steam Generation Cycling Symposium — June 14, 2018 (Omaha, NE)
2018 RMEL Foundation Golf Tournament — June 27, 2018 (Littleton, CO)
Plant Management, Engineering Operations Conference — August 1-2, 2018 (Location TBD)
Leaders Developing Future Leaders Workshop — August 15-16, 2018 (Lone Tree, CO)
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)
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.
CenterPoint Energy, Inc.'s electric utility has announced that the Brazos Valley Connection project (BVC) was energized on March 29, 2018. The 60-mile, 345-kV electric transmission line is the southern portion of the Houston Import Project. Completed ahead of schedule, the BVC transmission line runs from Grimes County through Waller County, ending in Harris County, Texas. "We appreciate the collaboration among many individuals with whom we have worked on this project," said Kenny Mercado, senior vice president of Electric Operations, CenterPoint Energy. "Without the support of landowners, county officials, local and state agencies and environmental agencies, this project would not be the success that it is today."
Kyocera Corporation and Tokyo Century Corporation announced Kyocera TCL Solar has started operation of Japan’s largest 13.7 MW floating solar plant this month. Located on the Yamakura Dam reservoir in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, the company held a completion ceremony on March 20 with Kensaku Morita, the Governor of Chiba Prefecture. Kyocera TCL Solar is a joint venture of Kyocera and Tokyo Century established in 2012 to promote large-scale solar projects. The plant was constructed over the surface of the reservoir, which is managed by the waterworks bureau of Chiba Prefecture for its industrial use. With over 44 acres of surface area, 50,904 Kyocera solar modules were installed to generate an estimated 16,170 MWh per year. All power generated is sold to TEPCO Energy Partner, Incorporated. The project was originally initiated by the Public Enterprises Agency of Chiba Prefecture seeking companies to help reduce its burden on the environment.
Imagine you and your neighbors have solar panels on your roofs. You want to create a mini-power grid so that your neighborhood can operate solely on your panels’ electricity, even sending excess power from one home to another. And if there’s a storm that affects the main power grid, your homes can disconnect and stay powered. This is the vision that microgrid proponents have promised for the past decade: small sections of the broader grid that incorporate rooftop solar and batteries, and can isolate from the grid as a whole when needed. Yet, this promise faces a major hurdle: The utility owns the wires that connect your homes and has an exclusive monopoly on that electrical infrastructure. This has driven most microgrid projects in the U.S. to either be completely “behind the meter” of a single customer, or owned and managed by the utility itself.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has announced up to $9 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development projects under the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) DE-FOA-0001829, Developing Technologies for Advancement of Associated Geologic Storage in Basinal Geo-Laboratories. The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage the selected projects. These projects will address technical research needs and key challenges in advancing associated storage within DOE’s Carbon Storage program. Projects will advance technologies—through computational, analytical, bench-scale, and field laboratory studies—in storage complexes in diverse geologic settings.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced up to $105.5 million to support America's continued leadership in energy innovation through solar technology. Under the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), DOE will fund about 70 projects to advance both solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) technologies, as well as facilitate the secure integration of those technologies into the nation's electricity grid. Funding will also support efforts that prepare the workforce for the solar industry's future needs. "American ingenuity is the engine of our energy economy," said Secretary Perry. "Investing in all of our abundant energy sources, including solar technologies, will help to drive down costs and ensure that the nation leads the world in energy production and innovation."
Austin Energy, the City of Austin’s electric utility, recently began receiving solar energy from its La Loma Community Solar Farm in East Austin. The project is the largest community solar farm in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the first in Texas to offer low-income customers a discounted rate on community solar. Austin Energy celebrated the Grand Opening of La Loma at a Community Solabration on March 24. Just northeast of Springdale Road and Airport Boulevard and adjacent to the Utility’s Kingsbery substation, La Loma boasts more than 9,000 panels. The 2.6 megawatt project will produce at least 4,400 megawatt-hours of electric power per year. Community solar allows multiple customers to share the output of a central facility rather than installing solar on their own roofs. Customers include renters, people with shaded roofs and residents who can’t afford the upfront costs of rooftop solar. More than half of Austin Energy customers are renters and have limited access to rooftop solar.
ECI is pleased to announce the addition of Mr. Larry Weis to our corporate staff as our new Vice President of Engineering and Construction. Larry brings with him over 36 years of experience in the electric and water utility industry with 28 consecutive years in the position of General Manager/CEO for four electric utilities, two of which also operate irrigation and drinking water businesses. Larry is an experienced leader and results-oriented executive who clearly and logically can communicate complex utility issues. He has a wealth of demonstrated strategic leadership as witnessed during his tenure at each of the electric utilities he managed, including two of the largest municipals in the country. Larry has direct experience financing, constructing and operating hydroelectric, gas, coal and nuclear generation projects. He has transitioned the utilities he has led to diversify their generation using renewable energy resources; leveraging his expertise in risk management and fuel supply strategies. Larry is known for his operational knowledge of the distribution and transmission business and the successful deployment of new technologies. Externally, he has provided strategic leadership in state and national government relations and regulatory affairs and has direct experience in numerous FERC licensing issues and regulatory matters.
On March 20, 2018, El Paso Electric (EPE) filed a request with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to expand its Texas Community Solar program to include additional solar energy to serve more customers and reduce the monthly capacity charge for all program participants. EPE is requesting approval of this expansion by May 1, 2018. EPE’s community solar program has been fully subscribed since its launch in April 2017 and has maintained a waiting list of more than 1,000 customers. If approved, the additional two megawatts (MW) of solar energy for the program expansion would allow for the immediate participation of the customers on the waiting list, bringing the total community solar participation to approximately 2,500 customers. Additionally, the expansion would also reduce the monthly capacity charge by 9.4 percent per kilowatt (kW) for all program participants, including those currently enrolled in the voluntary program. As filed, the proposed monthly capacity charge would decrease from $20.96 to $18.99 per kW subscribed and could be in place as early as May 2018.
Companies are often measured for their size, industry type and financial performance, but what about safety? In the category of safety culture, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) stands apart within its industry and the state. NPPD finished first in its peer group of the American Public Power Association’s 2017 Safety Awards of Excellence. The recognition is awarded based upon a company’s recordable incidence rate, and is measured by the number of new cases per employee who are at risk while working during a given time period. NPPD employs approximately 1,900 Nebraskans. Last year, NPPD achieved its best safety performance in more than 20 years, a true marker for the utility’s exceptional attention to safety.
There are nearly 100,000 streetlights throughout the Omaha Public Power District’s 13-county service territory. During this week’s committee meetings for the OPPD Board of Directors, the utility laid out plans to convert them to more energy-efficient LED technology over five years. OPPD owns and services streetlights through contracted agreements with cities and towns, the Nebraska Department of Transportation, counties and sanitary improvement districts. Most of the current streetlights use high-pressure sodium technology, evident by their amber glow. LED technology burns a little brighter and whiter, providing better visibility and using less than half the energy. The lights also have longer life spans, up to 20 years compared to about five years for the high-pressure sodium lights. This means increased reliability and fewer streetlight outages. Reduced streetlight maintenance also allows OPPD to reallocate resources for other work.
The Wyoming Public Service Commission on Thursday approved PacifiCorp moving ahead with a significant wind and transmission expansion plan that would add enough new wind energy to power more than 400,000 homes by 2020. In a bench decision, the Wyoming PSC approved a settlement agreement between PacifiCorp, the Wyoming Industrial Energy Consumers, the Wyoming Office of Consumer Advocate and the Interwest Energy Alliance on the new wind and transmission portions of PacifiCorp’s Energy Vision 2020 proposal. The commission also approved the Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCNs) that are needed for construction of the Wyoming-based projects.
Salt River Project has once again arranged for Nissan North America to offer SRP customers and employees the opportunity to purchase a 2018 Nissan LEAF from a participating Maricopa County dealership at a discounted rate. Through a group-purchase program, Nissan will provide a $3,000 instant rebate off MSRP to eligible SRP customers and employees who purchase the all-electric 2018 LEAF with the added potential for a $7,500 federal tax credit. “We worked with Nissan on a special incentive last year that resulted in record sales of the LEAF in the Valley, and we are excited to work with them once again. This deal offers even more customers and employees the opportunity to invest in an electric vehicle that will save them money while helping the environment,” said Kelly Barr, SRP senior director of environmental management and chief sustainability and compliance executive.
United Power recently asked elementary students in its service territory to help demonstrate electrical safety in its annual Electrical Safety Poster Contest. Kids in grades K-5 submitted creative and educational posters designed to teach family and friends how to stay safe around electricity. United Power will place winning poster designs on bus benches during the month of May, which is recognized as National Electrical Safety Month. Employees at the member-owned cooperative voted to select the following winners from each grade for the 2018 Electrical Safety Poster Contest: Zariah McPherson from Reunion Elementary, Joey Seymour from Platteville Elementary, Maddilyn Griffis from Bromley East Charter School, Sofie Archer from Landmark Academy, Troy Wymer from Hoff Elementary, and Kaydence States from Bromley East Charter School.
Streets and sidewalks around INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita are brighter under new LED streetlights installed ahead of the NCAA tournament. Westar Energy is replacing street lights throughout the Wichita metro area with new, energy efficient LEDs. The new lights will improve public safety and improve visibility for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. “We are thrilled to support Westar in this innovative shift toward LED technology. This extends the life of our lights and saves money, reduces crime and improves visibility for our streets,” Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell said. Thousands of lights will be upgraded to new LED street lights, bringing benefits that include: better visibility, which creates a safer environment for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists and makes colors easier to identify at night, aiding law enforcement.
Xcel Energy, a leader in using drone technology to inspect energy infrastructure, will be the first utility in the nation to routinely fly unmanned aircraft beyond the operator’s line of sight when it begins surveying transmission lines near Denver, Colorado. Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it authorized the flights. The FAA’s decision to allow these flights is unprecedented in the utility industry. “Xcel Energy is honored to be the first utility to conduct flights that will enhance grid reliability and safety for our employees and the public,” said Ben Fowke, chairman, president, and CEO, Xcel Energy. “With this groundbreaking decision, we are advancing the use of technology that improves our efficiency and provides cost savings for our customers.”
Of the four states of matter, gases are the hardest to pin down. Gas molecules move quickly and wildly and don't like to be confined. When confined, heat and pressure build in the container, and it doesn't take long before the gas blows the lid off the place — literally. Luckily, gases are superficial. Provide them with an attractive internal surface area, and they'll pin themselves down in no time. No, it's not love at first sight; it's adsorption. "Adsorption is the processes of gas pinning to the surface of another material — the inside walls of a container, for example," says Chris Wilmer, assistant professor in Pitt's Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. "When adsorption occurs, the gas molecules stop bumping into each other, reducing pressure. So, by increasing a container's internal surface area, we can store more gas in less space."