RMEL eNews
RMEL Report

From the Desk of Executive Director Richard Putnicki

Let’s start off our newsletter by sharing some good news! In my introduction letter in the Spring issue of Electric Energy Magazine, I shared that a long-time RMEL instructor was admitted into the ICU with COVID-19. We received word that he was released from the hospital and is now home recovering. In my communication with him, he indicated there is still a long road to recovery ahead. Please continue to think about him and all those impacted by this terrible virus. I know some of you have firsthand stories of these experiences that have truly hit close to home and made this pandemic nightmare “real.” I encourage everyone to continue to be mindful of the impact of this pandemic and follow the guidelines and recommendations set forth by our federal and state agencies. Stay SAFE! 

I remember it well! March 12th was the second-day of the Power Supply Planning for Modern Energy Solutions Conference here in Denver. This was just our second event of the year, and RMEL staff was excited about the quality of the programing our Education Committees had put together for the year. Then, the noise about some “coronavirus” started to become louder. That which was distant thunder became the fast approaching storm. In preparation for the event, staff had created classroom style “social distancing” by having the hotel set up for one participant to a table, not the two or three as normally set. Sanitizers were placed at the entrance of the room, microphones would not be passed around the room for questions and “elbow bumps” replaced handshakes. Thinking we had prepared accordingly, on the second and final day of the event, attendees were receiving communication that their organizations were suspending all travel. WOW! We went from travel that “must be approved” to “eliminated” in a what seemed like a heartbeat! The event cancellations followed. It became apparent at that time that our educational format, and life as we knew it, had changed! Where do we go from here?

We realized quickly that we needed something new for our members. Our traditional “face-to-face” conferences and workshops were no longer a viable option and we didn’t know when we would be able to bring them back. Through the direction and insight from our Board, along with input from our Education Committees, we began identifying those elements needed to implement an effective eLearning platform for our membership. 

Recognizing the direction we needed to go, but not experienced in the new required skillsets, we researched the various platforms and solicited our committees asking for their experiences and polling what their organizations are using. We will continue to flush that out as we become more familiar with each of them. During our discovery phase, the RMEL membership came through as they always do. Several RMEL member companies reached out to us at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to offer assistance, guidance and webinar content for our members. Taking them up on their offer would allow us to get to experience the events through an established program.   

A New Era Begins! 

With the disruption to the normal work routines, and the adjustment of working remotely caused by COVID-19, we felt it was important that our first program topic be one to address those challenges. Partnering with Cardigan, an RMEL member company, we hosted our first webinar on April 29, 2020: Effective Communication & Culture Strategies in Times of Uncertainty Webinar. The webinar, presented by Harold Hardaway and Shannon Hernandez, focused on building blocks for a best-in-class internal communications strategy, how to effectively communicate during a time of crisis, what employees are looking for from their employers, how managers can acknowledge the contribution of front-line workers and strategies and techniques to maintain engagement after times of uncertainty. With 150 registrants and timely, relevant content, the webinar was a great success. It is a great feeling to know that we’re helping members in this trying time, and we look forward to providing more resources in the very near future. Thank you to Harold and Shannon for sharing their knowledge, and thank you to everyone who joined the webinar!

RMEL’s Next Webinar: Where Are You on the COVID‐19 Learning Curve?

Look for more details soon on RMEL’s next webinar: Where are you on the COVID-19 Learning Curve? We’ll be presenting this in mid-May with John Miner, Betsy Aylin, Mike Renquist and Jillian Wolfe from Collaborative Learning, Inc. John is another RMEL member who reached out to us in March, and we think his webinar complements our first webinar perfectly. As your workforce has dramatically changed, and will continue to transition, how do you keep up your company’s professional development and eLearning in this new environment? As many of us are “stuck” at home and others may be “locked in place” at work, we may find we have unstructured time that creates a rare opportunity—an opportunity to engage in learning through the many venues of online or eLearning. This one‐hour webinar will explore the opportunities for learning and development created by forced changes in work schedules, locations, and methods, including increased reliance on virtual meetings and eLearning. We will provide tips on how to prepare for and support employee engagement in elearning. We will also describe criteria that will help you select quality eLearning resources that can be quickly and easily offered during this time.

Addressing Your Training and PDH Needs with Webinars - Tell Us Which Topics You’d Like to See

As the RMEL Board of Directors, Education Committees and Staff begin transitioning from the most urgent member needs to the most urgent training topics for Safety, Generation, Transmission, Distribution and Management, we welcome your input! Sadly, we have had to postpone or cancel many of our in-person events, but the great news is that most, if not all, presenters from those postponed events, said they are willing to present their topics to RMEL members. We will transition some of those into virtual presentations, and we will also find new topics that are bubbling up from the industry today. We are definitely all in this together, and I’m excited to share more elearning opportunities with you soon!

RMEL is Hiring and eLearning Program Administrator

RMEL is just at the very beginning “going virtual,” and we understand that a robust eLearning platform will become essential as we move forward. We are hiring an experienced eLearning Program Administrator to take RMEL to the next level! If you know of someone, please send them our way!

I’ll close today by saying THANK YOU to this unique community of members who continue to amaze me as you all help each other and help RMEL to be your best association possible. We are a part of a great industry! We don't know what lies ahead for us on this journey, as these are truly unchartered waters, it’s great to see how our industry has responded on a dime and accepted the challenge together. I’m looking forward to “seeing” you all at an RMEL virtual event soon. Please stay SAFE and healthy!

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Education and Upcoming Events

CANCELED - 2020 Spring Management, Engineering & Operations Conference --- May 11-13, 2020 (Austin, TX)
POSTPONED - Plant Cycling & Flexibility Symposium & Tour --- June 10-11, 2020 (Overland Park, KS)
POSTPONED - Transmission Resiliency, Response & Restoration Symposium --- June 17-18, 2020 (Denver, CO)
2020 RMEL Foundation Golf Tournament --- June 24, 2020 (Littleton, CO)
Project Management Workshop --- July 8-9, 2020 (Denver, CO)
POSTPONED - Grid-Scale Storage Workshop & Tour --- August 5-6, 2020 (Denver, CO)
Leadership Workshop --- August 12-13, 2020 (Denver, CO)
Safety Roundtable - August 2020 --- August 20, 2020 (Golden, CO)
2020 Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention --- September 14-16, 2020 (Denver, CO)
Planning Session: 2021 Spring Conference --- October 1, 2020 (Lone Tree, CO)
Renewable Planning and Operations Conference --- October 21-22, 2020 (Denver, CO)
Transmission & Distribution Asset Management Workshop --- November 4-5, 2020 (Denver, CO)
Safety Roundtable - November 2020 --- November 5, 2020 (Fort Collins, CO)

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.

RMEL Champions is a prestigious group of RMEL supporters with access to useful and beneficial promotional opportunities. Get more details, and see a list of 2019 RMEL Champions!

   
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Industry Information
Utilities had some good news to share on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day: customers are scoring them significantly higher on environmental stewardship. 
The North American Electric Reliability Corp.'s (NERC) special report, Pandemic Preparedness and Operational Assessment: Spring 2020, reviews reliability considerations and operational preparedness during COVID-19. 
  
A new study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows the value of resilience depends on too many factors to easily quantify and moves regulators back to human judgment.
  
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a proposal Wednesday that would require utilities to speed up the deployment of microgrids and other projects that could help customers during wildfire-related safety power shut-offs.
  
The COVID-19 pandemic is the “biggest shock to the global energy system in more than seven decades” according to a new report from the International Energy Agency.
  
The University of Utah and Utah Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) announced FORGE Solicitation 2020-1.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Fossil Energy announced up to $131 million for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) research and development (R&D) projects through one new funding opportunity announcement (FOA) and the winners of five project selections from a previous FOA. 
The Western Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), the real-time energy market operated by the California Independent System Operator (ISO), reports generating $57.9 million in first-quarter gross benefits, putting the total at $919.69 million since 2014.
More than 250 environmental groups recently petitioned House Democratic leaders to embrace the Green New Deal. They claim banning fossil fuels is the key to ending climate change.
More than 250 environmental groups recently petitioned House Democratic leaders to embrace the Green New Deal. They claim banning fossil fuels is the key to ending climate change.
The United States exported 96,000 barrels per day (b/d) of fuel ethanol in 2019, the first annual drop in U.S. ethanol exports since 2015.
 
Grant funding from National Grid and the Massachusetts Area Planning Council (MAPC) helped pay for the new project.
  
Sending everyone home from the office during a pandemic is unprecedented and problematic. Bringing them back may be an even bigger unknown.
   
CopperLeaf Technologies Inc.
      
Forbes Bros LTD.
   
Member Announcements
Walking into the WAPA Headquarters 2,555 days ago for the first time, I could never have envisioned the amazing changes, challenges and choices that have transpired or the phenomenal people, programs and progress that have led us to where we are today.
 
The City of Austin has taken steps to ensure customers experiencing hardships due to COVID-19 can get immediate utility bill relief. 
The University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources, Basin Electric and other partners are working to develop a site to store over 50 million metric tons of carbon dioxide underground.
CPS Energy has been identified as a top utility across the nation and named one of the “Easiest Utilities to Do Business With” based on customer feedback according to the Cogent Syndicated Utility Trusted Brand & Customer Engagement™: Residential study from Escalent, a top human behavior and analytics firm.
As a community-owned public power company, Lincoln Electric System will pay $20.9 million to local governments in 2020 through its annual payment in lieu of tax and city dividend for utility ownership.
  
Khalil Dia, a 24-year employee at Nebraska Public Power District’s Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville, has been named General Manager of Plant Operations (GMPO) effective May 1, replacing Joe Sullivan who has been named General Manager at Entergy’s Arkansas One Nuclear Power Station.
 
Dia has served as Engineering Director at CNS where he was responsible for the engineering department including reactor and fuel engineering since 2016.  After three years  working at Arizona Public Service’s Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station as a design engineer, Dia  joined NPPD in 1996 as a System Engineer at Cooper and later became System Engineering Supervisor in 2010 and System Engineering Manager in 2012, before his move to Engineering Director.
NextEra Energy announced coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency assistance has surpassed $4 million in just one month's time.
Omaha Public Power District knows our customers are facing challenges as our communities cope with COVID-19 and related issues. Whether working remotely, in quarantine, or helping children learn from home, we want to ensure power is there when you need it most.
In response to the COVID-19 public health emergency, PacifiCorp is modifying operations of its recreation sites in Wyoming until further notice.
SRP has earned a Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3)® designation from the American Public Power Association for providing  reliable and safe electric service.
Sunflower Electric Power Corp. and Lightsource BP have announced that the Johnson Corner Solar Project entered commercial operation on April 7.
Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. (“Algonquin” or “the Company”) (TSX/NYSE:AQN), parent company of Liberty Utilities and Liberty Power, is announcing a US$500,000 donation to support communities within its service territories during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tri-State achieved a significant milestone in its transition to be a more flexible and even cleaner power supplier through its transformative Responsible Energy Plan.
United Power is returning $5.5 million in Capital Credits to members beginning in May and nearly every member is getting a payment. 
With parents and teachers both looking for quality online content while students are out of school, Tucson Electric Power has begun converting our educational programs to online offerings.
 
Xcel Energy has named Amanda Rome executive vice president and general counsel, effective June 1, as Scott Wilensky who has held the position since 2011, announces his retirement. 
   
Wanzek Construction, Inc
   
White Paper
An international research collaboration has taken an important step toward the commercially viable manufacture of biobutanol, an alcohol whose strong potential as a fuel for gasoline-powered engines could pave the path away from fossil fuels.