RMEL eNews
RMEL Report

From the Desk of Richard Putnicki, Executive Director, RMEL

I hope you all had a very Happy Independence Day! It was certainly a day of reflection for me, and I am so thankful to have this opportunity to be involved in the American Power industry. You all ensure the reliability, affordability and safety of this country’s electricity. Thank you for that!

I also want to thank those who took the time out of your busy schedules to complete the RMEL member surveys that went out over the last couple of weeks. We sincerely appreciate your thoughts and perspectives on how we can continue to improve your association. It has been a great experience working with WestGroup Research, and I am excited to share the results of this project and future initiatives stemming from this market research with you all in upcoming issues of RMEL’s eNewsletter. We are going to put your ideas to work immediately by using the research results as a cornerstone of our strategic discussion at the 2018 RMEL Board Retreat this summer. We’ve certainly got an exciting couple of months ahead leading up to our Fall Convention in September…

RMEL’s 115th Annual Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention is coming up September 16-18, 2018 at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio, in San Antonio, TX. Register and look for more details soon at www.rmel.org/fall. The theme for this year’s Convention is Building Our Future Toward the New Energy Paradigm. The electric utility industry is at a crossroads of change and moving towards a new paradigm. We will explore what’s happening in the energy world markets and take a peek at what our future might hold.

The Fall Convention is the venue for leadership to discuss new ways to leverage existing technology while delivering solutions that are more aligned with evolving customer expectations.

The Fall Convention is your opportunity to:

• Explore what’s happening in energy markets outside the U.S.
• Hear about innovative customer experience strategies
• Discover electric utility business model possibilities
• Get Price Formation/Market Structure Best Practices and Resources
• Gain strategies to respond quickly in a fast-paced environment
• Leverage the RMEL professional network with executive attendees
• Learn from CEOs sharing their insights and vision for the future

Fall Convention Day 1 keynote speaker is futurist Jim Carroll, who 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.

Fall Convention Day 2 keynote speaker is Dr. Michael Webber. As Deputy Director of the Energy Institute, Co-Director of the Clean Energy Incubator, Josey Centennial Professor in Energy Resources, Author, and Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Michael E. Webber trains the next generation of energy leaders at the University of Texas at Austin and beyond through research and education at the convergence of engineering, policy, and commercialization.  His recent book, “Thirst for Power: Energy, Water and Human Survival,” which addresses the connection between earth’s most valuable resources and offers a hopeful approach toward a sustainable future, is receiving wide praise. His television special, "Energy at the Movies," was in national syndication on PBS stations 2013-2015, and a suite of energy literacy tools titled Energy 101, including videos, online courses, and an interactive ebook, is available globally.  He was selected as a Fellow of ASME, has authored more than 300 publications, holds four patents, and serves on the advisory board for Scientific American.  Webber holds a B.S. and B.A. from UT Austin, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford.  He was honored as an American Fellow of the German Marshall Fund, an AT&T Industrial Ecology Fellow, and on four separate occasions by the University of Texas for exceptional teaching.

The Convention will also include the popular CEO Panel, featuring Mike Hummel, CEO & General Manager, SRP; Lisa Johnson, CEO and General Manager, Seminole Electric Cooperative; Mary Kipp, President & CEO, El Paso Electric; and Bill Magness, President & CEO, ERCOT. The CEO Panel will be held on Tuesday, September 18, and will be moderated by Scott Fry, Managing Director, Mycoff, Fry & Prouse LLC.

The road to the Fall Convention is paved with many other great topics and speakers at conferences, workshops and roundtables this summer, including:

Introduction to the Electric Utility Workshop
July 18, 2018 – Columbus, Nebraska
July 19, 2018 – Columbus, Nebraska

We value the opportunity to bring events to all RMEL member regions, and we’ve got an Introduction to the Electric Utility Workshop coming up this month in Nebraska, thanks to a request from RMEL member company representatives at Nebraska Public Power District. This is the same workshop on two different days. Choose the one day that works best for you to attend.

This course is designed to acquaint non-technical utility employees with the basics of their industry from the generation to the distribution of electricity. We have a few registration spots left, so call us at (303) 865-5544 to register.

Please also remember that you can always reach out to me at rickputnicki@rmel.org or (303) 865-5544 if you’d like RMEL to bring an event to your company or region. The content is completely up to you. Choose the content or topic for an event in your region and we will work with RMEL’s extensive network to find you the expert(s) who can help!

Plant Management, Engineering and Operations Conference
August 1-2, 2018 – Farmington, New Mexico

Get details on construction, operations, maintenance, emissions, water quality, plant personnel, fuels, planning, security, safety, technologies, regulatory and policy issues and strategies and procedures that plant personnel can use to optimize plant operations and performance. RMEL members will share best practices to improve efficiencies, reduce costs and extend the life of their existing plants. The conference will include a tour of the Navajo Coal Mine.

Project Management Workshop
August 8-9, 2018 – Golden, Colorado

The 2018 Project Management Workshop will review the basics, build on the methodologies, and share tools and apply them to new case studies to assist you with continuing down the path of successful project management. Regardless of the types of projects you work on, they all require you and your team to have sound project management skills and understanding in order to successfully plan, manage and control the projects. This workshop will further the in-depth discussions and applications to help you become a more disciplined, well-organized and highly effective project manager.

Future Utility Emerging Leaders (FUEL) Workshop
August 15-16, 2018 – Lone Tree, Colorado

This workshop will feature Keynote Speaker Mark Eaton, Former NBA All-Star & President, 7ft4.com LLC. He’ll discuss The Four Commitments of a Winning Team and Nine Steps to Winning Leadership. RMEL’s Future Utility Emerging Leaders Workshop is focused on those first time and early leaders who want to develop their leadership abilities, make career plans, and create their own development path. What are you doing to manage your career development and prepare yourself for future leadership opportunities?

Safety Roundtable – August 2018
August 24, 2018 – Golden, Colorado

RMEL’s August Safety Roundtable will kick off with a presentation by Matthew Hallowell, Presidential Teaching Scholar and Endowed Professor, University of Colorado at Boulder. He’ll introduce the topic of precursor analysis and field safety engagements. Based upon three years of research, this talk will cover: the objective and purpose of precursor analysis; definition of key terms; description of research conducted to identify and validate precursors; lessons learned from 100+ field engagements;  method to employ field safety engagements as a way to identify precursors and perform pre-accident root cause assessments; and a description of the present EEI research being conducted to customize precursor analysis and field safety engagements for electrical generation, transmission, and distribution.

We’ve got A LOT to look forward to this summer, all leading up to the Fall Convention in San Antonio. The Spring Conference in May was a really strong catalyst for all of the new events in June. From the full-house and innovative ideas at the Steam Generation Cycling Symposium in Omaha, to the life-saving best practices shared at the Transmission Resiliency, Response and Restoration Symposium in Austin, and back here to Colorado, where we explored self-awareness and team-building at the Effective Teams and Myers Briggs Workshop. We rounded off June with the annual RMEL Foundation Golf Tournament sponsored by the RMEL membership, with proceeds going to the RMEL Foundation Scholarships. Thank you to everyone for your continued participation, ideas and involvement.

I look forward to seeing you soon!

Education and Upcoming Events

Don't Miss These Upcoming RMEL Events
Plant Management, Engineering Operations Conference — August 1-2, 2018 (Farmington, NM)
Transmission Project Management Workshop --- August 8-9, 2018 (Golden, CO)
Future Utility Emerging 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)

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.
RMEL Member Information

RMEL’s trusted network is now accessible on FacebookLinkedIn 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.

Burns & McDonnell
Telcom Marketing Ltd.
Utility Workforce Survey Sponsored by Southwire
Southwire Company
This survey and report analyzes the state of the utility industry engineering workforce to help companies better prepare for impending shifts and attract new talent. Learn what companies are doing to appeal to millennial engineers, bridge the gap between established and new engineers, and motivate and retain young engineering talent.

Download the results!
Industry Information

Pruitt's departure will likely mean a less scandal-prone EPA that could be more effective at carrying out Trump's deregulatory agenda, former agency officials and energy lawyers said. "I don't think we'll see any big shifts in policy," said Jeffrey Holmstead, who served as a deputy EPA administrator under George W. Bush. "We'll see these regulatory reforms carried out in a more lowkey, thoughtful kind of way."


AVANGRID, Inc. is developing a comprehensive and robust resiliency plan – Transforming Energy – to address the impact severe storms have on infrastructure throughout AVANGRID’s utilities’ service territories. The plan includes measures that will harden the power grid to better withstand storms while also utilizing technology that will help customers better manage their energy consumption.


New major electric vehicle-related moves by National Grid and by Southern California Edison highlight how utilities are preparing for a new reality for our grid, where electric vehicles will not only enable more economical and environmentally friendly generating resources to be optimally deployed, but where consumers will become more directly involved in optimization of the grid itself.


A study paid for by the Montana Chamber of Commerce says the early closure of the Colstrip power plant would hurt Montana's economy beyond the loss of jobs at the plant and the coal mine that feeds it.
The study, prepared by University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research, says billions of dollars would be lost in economic output, tax revenue and wages if all four of Colstrip's units closed by 2027.


State regulators have approved NV Energy's plans to spend $295 million on renewable energy in Nevada in the coming year, including $5 million to build electric car charging stations. The annual budget the Nevada Public Utilities Commission approved Wednesday also provides grants to help consumers put solar panels in their homes. Commissioner Bruce Breslow says Gov. Brian Sandoval wants Nevada to be the first state in the West to have an entire electric charging system by 2020.

Data in the June 2018 Electric Power Monthly (EPM) are for April 2018, during which net generation in the United States rose 2.9 percent from the April 2017 level. Consumption of natural gas for power generation was up 13.1 percent compared to April 2017. The average residential retail price of electricity for April 2018 was up 1.6 percent from what it had been in April 2017.

ScottMadden, Inc., one of North America’s leading energy consulting firms, recently partnered with the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) to examine Massachusetts’ deployment of clean energy and how distributed energy resources (DERs) are evolving. The Commonwealth has been a leader in the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) and an early adopter of renewable portfolio standards, but how will it transform to accommodate DERs?

It was six years ago that a massive derecho storm pummeled West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee with heavy winds and pounding rain. In its wake, more than a half-million Appalachian Power customers were left without electric service. It took more than two weeks to get power back to affected customers. Since the derecho, customers have let Appalachian Power know of the need for real-time updates on outages and a faster method to report them. Responding to the customer requests, Appalachian Power launched a new mobile application last year, which enables customers to pay bills and report outages conveniently and quickly on the go.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected 15 projects to receive nearly $8.8 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development (R&D) projects to develop innovative technologies that enhance fossil energy power systems. The newly selected projects fall under DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy’s Crosscutting Technology Research Program, which advances technologies that have a broad range of fossil energy applications. Specifically, the program fosters innovative R&D in sensors and controls, modeling and simulation, high-performance materials, and water management.

The Institution of Civil Engineers in the UK has posted its ICE 200 – outstanding civil engineering projects chosen by its members from around the world – and dams, hydro and marine projects are on this list. Dinorwig Power Station was built in caverns inside a mountain in North Wales and was completed in 1984. It has a capacity of 1,728 MW and was built to provide rapid response to sudden demands for electricity: Dinorwig can stabilize demand on the National Grid within 12 seconds. The existing Lake Marchlyn was enlarged via construction of a 35-m-high dam and became the upper reservoir.


As nuclear and coal-based plant retirements continue, the Energy Department is growing concerned about the impacts of a “historic shift” in energy resources. “Today, America’s grid is reliable and resilient to disruption because of the diversity and security of fuels that supply it. But the most secure of these fuels are retiring at an alarming rate that if unchecked will threaten our ability to recover from intentional attacks and natural disasters,” Undersecretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes told the 2018 EIA Energy Conference earlier this month. Menezes said a “historic shift away from diverse, fuel-secure resources” is underway.

Naylor Association Solutions
Naylor Association Solutions
Member Announcements

The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) has named Austin Energy the 2018 SEPA Power Players Public Power Utility of the Year. Now in its 10th year, the SEPA Power Players Awards honor utilities making the transition to a clean, modern energy future. Chosen by an independent panel of judges with diverse experience in the electric power industry, Austin Energy and winners in six other categories will be honored Tuesday, July 10, at SEPA’s Grid Evolution Summit in Washington, D.C. “Innovation is part of the foundation upon which we are built,” said Jackie Sargent, Austin Energy General Manager. “We are always looking for creative solutions that deliver better service and make Austin a more livable city and we are proud to be recognized for that innovation.”

Arizona Public Service (APS) issued an RFP on June 29 to equip existing APS solar plants with battery storage. This RFP is an important part of APS’s plan to add up to 500 megawatts (MW) of energy storage to its system over the next 15 years. These batteries will bring more clean energy to APS customers when they need it most, by storing an abundance of mid-day solar and redistributing it at peak times of customer usage later in the day. Since 2011, customers have been benefitting from the clean energy produced by multiple grid-scale solar plants that APS operates as part of its AZ Sun program. The plants are located on sites across the state, including Gila Bend, Buckeye, Chino Valley, Hyder Valley, Yuma and Glendale. This RFP allows APS to take these solar facilities to the next level by helping provide clean energy to customers at peak energy use times.

Black Hills Corp. (NYSE: BKH) (the "Company") announced its Wyoming natural gas utility, Black Hills Gas Distribution, LLC, filed for a certificate of public convenience and necessity on May 18 with the Wyoming Public Service Commission to construct a new 35-mile natural gas pipeline to enhance reliability of supply for approximately 57,000 customers in its Casper Division in central Wyoming. If approved, the $54 million 12-inch steel pipeline will be constructed from an interconnection supply point near Douglas, Wyoming, to existing facilities near Casper, Wyoming. The pipeline, known as the Natural Bridge Pipeline, will connect with additional sources of supply and provide additional capacity to ensure reliability on the northern end of the 750-mile transmission pipeline system serving the Riverton and Casper areas in central Wyoming.

In preparation for the upcoming summer season, seven local area interns will be getting ready for the project of a lifetime. Every summer, El Paso Electric (EPE) selects seven college students to participate in a 12-week-long internship program that helps them gain valuable job experience while giving back to the community. Through this program, interns will work closely with EPE employees and local high school interns to develop and implement a project that will benefit the region. This year’s group is composed entirely of El Paso natives who attend prestigious schools outside the city, such as the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The interns are placed throughout the company, working in departments such as the Legal, Renewables & Emergent Technologies, and Economic Research departments.


Raul can’t see the office supplies he assembles at work, but it doesn’t prevent him from making quality products. The training and experience he’s gained at San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind & Vision Impaired have empowered him and fellow team members to assemble thousands of office supplies daily. Raul Gamez, a general assembler with 17 years of experience at San Antonio Lighthouse, has Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), a rare, genetic disorder. Over the years, he and other family members have been diagnosed with RP, but several of them were able to find good jobs at the local non-profit. “About three years ago, I paid off a house and it made me feel good to work here and do that,” said Raul. “My grandmother started here in the 60s and she was here until 1987. I had an aunt that worked here in the 80s and I have a couple of cousins that recently started. My family has been affiliated with Lighthouse for more than 50 years.”


Omaha Public Power District is taking its electric vehicle (EV) research further with the launch of a new pilot, designed to educate customers on the technology, while also providing incentives for the purchase of certain home charging stations and EVs. Only about 600 EVs are currently registered in Nebraska. Half of those are within OPPD’s service territory. With improving technology and pricing, the EV market is poised for growth. By educating customers, as well as connecting them with purchase incentives, the utility will gather more data to determine how best to integrate increased EV technology into OPPD’s electric system. OPPD is partnering with the Nebraska Community Energy Alliance (NCEA) in this effort. The pilot, now underway, consists of two main components – rebates and education.

Just in time for summer school, Salt River Project recently completed the installation of new inverters and updated equipment for rooftop photovoltaic systems donated to 15 Valley schools through the SRP Solar for Schools program started nearly a decade ago. In 2009, SRP provided these schools with systems to help offset their energy usage and save money on their utility bills. Engineers will be installing equipment to help school officials and students continue to track the solar energy output by the systems and its associated savings. The 12-kilowatt roof-mounted solar photovoltaic systems have saved the schools more than 2.3 million kilowatt hours of energy usage since 2009 at a savings of an estimated $230,000. SRP will also provide each of the selected schools with updated materials and training to educate students about solar energy.

Empire District held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Baxter Springs Service Center on Friday, June 29, 2018. The previous service center in Baxter Springs, Kansas, 905 Ottawa Road, was built in the early 1960s. Crossland Construction is set to begin work on the new service center on July 9, 2018. The new building will accommodate the length of new trucks, will meet all new code requirements, and will be more energy efficient. Additionally, the layout of the new structure will allow room for growth, storage, in-person customer service, and overall safer and more efficient operations.

Residents of the Town of Frederick have affirmed the purchase of the Town of Frederick’s municipal utility, which was agreed to earlier by the Town Council and United Power representatives. The Town’s website reported that the sale of the Town’s assets was affirmed by residents with a 1,716 to 236 count. Nearly 88% of all voters indicated their support for United Power to purchase the system. “We are excited about bringing the entire Town of Frederick into the United Power membership,” stated John Parker, United Power CEO. “We want to express our thanks to the citizens of Frederick for their support in this process, and we will be working hard to make this transition a seamless process for them.”

A flock of sheep chews away the weeds that grow underneath one of Tucson Electric Power’s solar arrays instead of lawn mowers, spray or weed trimmers, demonstrating one way TEP supports eco-friendly practices. “To make sure our large solar array gets plenty of sun, we can’t let the weeds grow too high. That’s where the sheep come in,” said Ericca Suarez, a Technical Specialist in Renewable Energy. “It really is more sustainable to use the sheep.” Roughly 100 sheep at any given time dwell at the Red Horse array near Willcox where they eat tumbleweeds, grass and other weeds under the photovoltaic panels, which automatically tilt throughout the day to follow the sun.


Two Westar Energy employees died from injuries sustained at Jeffrey Energy Center. Operations supervisors Craig Burchett of Overbrook and Jesse Henson of Manhattan were critically injured when a piece of equipment with high pressure steam behind it apparently failed. “Our Westar employees work very closely together and form strong bonds,” said John Bridson, Westar’s senior vice president of generation. “All of us who worked with Craig and Jesse are grieving and thinking of their families as we cope with this loss.” The incident at the energy center happened at about 11:30 a.m. Sunday, June 3. Burchett and Henson were transported by helicopter to the University of Kansas Medical Center, where they were treated for severe burns.

On June 11, Western Area Power Administration submitted a formal request to Southwest Power Pool for reliability coordinator services for two WAPA balancing authorities. WAPA’s Upper Great Plains West and Western Area Colorado Missouri BAs are evaluating receiving RC services from SPP beginning in early 2020. These BAs encompass WAPA’s Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program in the Western Interconnection, Loveland Area Projects and Colorado River Storage Project Management Center territories – an area that stretches from eastern Montana, through Wyoming and Colorado, and to the northern part of the Phoenix metro area in Arizona. 

Xcel Energy is joining a national initiative to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace, as part of its efforts to make sure the company is a welcoming place for employees with a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives. The company is part of the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, a coalition representing more than 450 CEOs and millions of employees committed to enhancing trust and improving employee engagement. “We are better when we embrace diversity. Our people are our strongest asset and this is an important way to recognize how much we value our employees and the customers and communities we serve,” said Ben Fowke, chairman, president, and CEO, Xcel Energy. “As we work to attract and retain the best talent, we are reaffirming our commitment to cultivating an environment where everyone’s voice is heard.”

White Paper

Bioprocessing, which uses living cells or their components to make products such as biofuels, plastics, medicines, and cosmetics, is time consuming and expensive. Now, Imperial scientists say they can break down plant-based biomass 30 times faster than currently possible. Dr Alex Brogan, of Imperial College London's Department of Chemical Engineering, and colleagues modified the glucosidase enzyme, which helps break down complex carbohydrates in biomass, like cellulose from plant cells, into its basic units, glucose. The glucose can then be fermented to make ethanol, a form of biofuel.