RMEL e-Newsletter March 2016
From the Desk of Richard Putnicki, Executive Director, RMEL
It's RMEL's March Madness!
Welcome to March and RMEL's March Madness of events for Generation, Transmission and Distribution, which starts today at RMEL's Power Supply Planning and Projects Conference. The strategies being presented today are critical to navigating the volatile world of power generation, and tomorrow's Generation Vital Issues Roundtable will give everyone an opportunity put their worries and challenges out on the table for discussion. Next week, we'll be back here at the Denver Marriott South in Lone Tree, CO, March 8-9th for RMEL's Transmission Planning and Operations Conference, which will cover system reliability, asset management and protection strategies. The Distribution Overhead and Underground Operations and Maintenance Conference, March 15-16th
, will explore the latest distribution best practices and technologies.
Nominate Your Most Valuable Player for RMEL's Emerging Leader Award
If you'd like to recognize an MVP at your company, a future industry leader driving the industry forward, the RMEL Emerging Leader Award Nomination deadline is this Friday, March 4th! We've made the nomination process quick and easy, and we hope all RMEL member companies participate this year. It's so important to showcase people who are stepping up at such a critical time in our industry. Please take a few moments to nominate a colleague.
Basketball Great Mark Eaton to Keynote RMEL's 2016 Spring Conference
Keeping with the basketball theme, we recently announced that RMEL's 2016 Spring Conference Keynote Speaker is Former NBA All-star and 7-foot-4 power house, Mark Eaton! I remember Mark when he played for the Utah Jazz, and he was incredible to watch. Wow! I am thrilled to welcome Mark back to RMEL to share his unconventional journey to the NBA. His keynote address at our 2012 Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention was so compelling that we continually hear references of his message from attendees even today. We especially thought the Spring audience would value his story and gain from his teamwork message. Mark's speech also provided insight on the direction for the RMEL staff and myself as we work for the RMEL Board of Directors and the entire RMEL membership to deliver on RMEL's mission. And what a great time to bring Mark back. There are so many moving targets and challenges for electric energy utilities and services and supplier companies, it is going to take a "team" effort to make it happen. We all benefit from stepping back and taking another look at where we are in our individual careers, our companies and in the industry as a whole. Mark's perspective on working together to succeed is one you won't forget. The Spring Management, Engineering and Operations Conference also affords attendees an opportunity to take that keynote speaker inspiration and mix it in with practical applications from the three technical tracks of Generation, Transmission and Distribution. You won't want to miss it!
Let the Madness Begin!
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2016 is here, and with it comes another update from JD Power on utility customers' satisfaction. The good news is that this year, the trendline is up. Business customers' satisfaction is at an 8-year high. According to the survey, utilities are increasingly getting it right on the customer satisfaction front, but a rising tide leads to even more competition for the utility industry's top spots. Some industry frontrunners have seen their leads erode over time as their fellow utilities gain ground in the annual review. What can utilities do to stay ahead?
Representatives from the US. and Norway announced that the U.S. will lead the International Test Center Network (ITCN), a global consortium of facilities conducting research and development (R&D) on carbon capture technologies. The Department of Energy's (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, Christopher Smith, and director of Norway's Technology Centre Mongstad, Roy Vardheim, made the announcement during a ceremony in Houston, Texas. The ITCN was formed by the National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC) in Wilsonville, Alabama and the Technology Centre Mongstad in Mongstad, Norway to facilitate knowledge transfer from carbon capture test facilities around the world.
Shortly after it filed an application with Wisconsin regulators for a new $30 million, 115-kV project, American Transmission Co. (ATC) placed its Quad County Electric Reliability Project into service on Jan. 27, an ATC spokesperson told TransmissionHub Feb. 25. The Quad County project in Wisconsin was completed three weeks ahead of schedule, with a final cost of $44 million, which was 5 percent under budget, the ATC spokesperson said.
A critical milestone has been reached in cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar cell technology, helping pave the way for solar energy to directly compete with electricity generated by conventional energy sources. Scientists at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) collaborated with researchers at Washington State University and the University of Tennessee to improve the maximum voltage available from a CdTe solar cell, which is a key factor in improving solar cell efficiency.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission gave its unanimous approval for the proposed Great Northern Transmission Line last week, largely clearing the way for the 500 kV connector that will allow for the import of Canadian hydroelectric power into the United States. The 224-mile transmission line will help Minnesota Power augment its wind generation with hydropower purchased from Canada's Manitoba Hydro, per power purchase agreements approved by the utilities commission in 2012 and 2015.
The approved route represents the culmination of years' worth of agency reviews and stakeholder engagement by Minnesota Power given that the line generally requires a 200-foot-wide right-of-way with up to five structures per mile -- each of which will range from 100 to 170 feet in height depending on land type and use.
A consequential energy case that cuts to the heart of the delicate balance between state and federal regulation of electricity markets in the United States made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court last week.
This is the third high-profile legal battle within the last year to define the turf of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission , the agency empowered to oversee wholesale transactions on the U.S. electricity market. The combined opinions from the three cases are expected to help clarify the boundaries between FERC's authority and that of the states in a rapidly evolving energy sector where deregulation and a burst of new technologies and business models are revolutionizing the industry.
BNI Coal has started a new parent company, BNI Energy, to focus on solutions for energy production issues in North Dakota, including addressing carbon dioxide emissions. "The creation of BNI Energy reflects the long-term direction of our company and future growth opportunities," said Wade Boeshans, president and general manager of BNI Energy. Boeshans said the company's energy production is transforming rapidly and causing changes in the state. At the same time, there are real issues -- from flaring to more vehicles on the road to more homes in need of power.
Consol Energy has signed an agreement to divest its Buchanan mine located in southwestern Virginia, U.S. and other metallurgical coal reserves to Coronado IV for $420m, in order to strengthen balance sheet amid declining energy prices. Under the terms of the deal, the company will also divest its idled Amonate mine, greenfield Russell County coal reserves and greenfield Pangburn-Shaner-Fallowfield coal reserves in the U.S.
Jersey Central Power & Light, or JCP&L, has started construction on the final segment of a new 11.5-mile transmission line project designed to enhance service reliability and help meet the growing demand for electricity in Mercer, Middlesex and Monmouth counties. The overall cost of the project is $48 million, with $18.8 million expected to be spent this year.
Iowa has become the first state in the nation to derive more than 30 percent of its electricity from wind energy. The American Wind Energy Association says more than 31 percent of the state's electricity came from wind turbines last year. South Dakota was at 25.5 percent and Kansas at 23.9 percent. Gov. Terry Branstad says Iowa has the potential to jump above 40 percent in the next five years. In a report released Monday the association said wind produced more than 190 million megawatt-hours of power in the U.S. last year, enough electricity for about 17.5 million typical homes.
The Sacramento, California, Municipal Utility District Board of Directors has elected not to build the Iowa Hill pumped-storage project addition to its hydroelectric system due to cost and financial risks. The decision comes at a predetermined cost-based off ramp. The project was to be sited along the Upper American River Project (UARP) at Slab Creek Reservoir in El Dorado County, which is east of Sacramento County where SMUD serves more than 1.4 million people.
It might be time to hit the brakes on energy storage. Meaning, in this case, that public transit systems now have the technology to fully harness the power that goes into bringing a train to a full stop. In most urban transit systems, that massive amount of energy is expended and dissipates as heat, just like the energy created when you bring your bicycle to a skidding halt. As far as the train or the bike is concerned, that energy is gone.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Austin Energy Regional Science Festival. And for the first time in the science fair's history, females outnumber males among those who submitted science projects in the high school division.
Overall, 153 high school females are participating in the Austin Energy Regional Science Festival compared to 127 males. "This is a major milestone in the 60-year history of the science festival," said Elaina Ball, Interim Chief Operating Officer at Austin Energy, title sponsor for the event. "More and more young women are interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and math education and careers."
Applications for $1,000 scholarships from Black Hills Energy for continuing education are being accepted by the Kansas natural gas utility now through March 18. Fifteen of the scholarships are available to graduating high school seniors with a parent or guardian served by the company in Kansas. The company will accept completed applications at the address listed on the form until the postmark deadline of Friday, March 18, 2016. Applications are available for download at
CPS Energy is changing the delivery method for final disconnection notices to customers. Final disconnection notices - or pink door hangers - are no longer hand delivered. Customers will now receive the notice by U.S. mail. Mailing the notice lowers the costs of receiving a final disconnect notification. Customers will now be charged $4, which includes labor along with postage. The result is a savings of $8 from the previous fee of $12 for hand delivery. Customers also can expect greater privacy because it cuts out a visit to their home and keeps the bright pink notice out of public sight.
El Paso Electric Company (EPE) (NYSE: EE) announced that the City of El Paso approved in principle settlement terms for EPE's rate case pending before the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT). Attorneys for a majority of the parties in the case have indicated they intend to support or do not intend to oppose the proposed settlement. Four parties in the case have indicated they intend to oppose the settlement. If approved by the PUCT, the settlement would resolve all issues in the case except for the contested revenue requirement issue regarding the Four Corners Generating Station.
Low interest rates have the Omaha Public Power District looking to refinance Electric System Revenue Bonds, which could save several million dollars for the utility and its customer owners. At its regular monthly meeting today, the OPPD Board of Directors gave the district authorization to refund up to $275 million worth of bonds in order to obtain better interest rates as opportunities arise. A finance team will be monitoring market conditions, ready to take action when it's to OPPD's advantage. The district's previous bond refinancing efforts over the past couple of years have resulted in approximately $64 million in savings spread out over the next 27 years.
sPower and Salt River Project announced the opening of sPower Sandstone Solar, one of the Valley's largest photovoltaic facilities. SRP is purchasing all 45 megawatts of the solar energy produced at the facility, which is owned and operated by sPower, a Utah-based independent power producer. Sandstone Solar is located on more than 300 acres in Florence, Ariz., and utilizes more than 182,000 photovoltaic modules mounted on a single-axis tracking system that follows the sun, allowing the panels to more efficiently capture energy as the sun moves across the sky.
Mr. Fred Meyer has been promoted to Director of Transmission Policy and Compliance for The Empire District Electric Company. In this position, he is responsible for North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Compliance, System Operations, Energy Management System (EMS) and Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) Services.
Tucson Electric Power (TEP) is building a new 500-kV transmission line in Pinal County to ensure continued service reliability for customers in southern Arizona. The line will extend approximately 41 miles from the Pinal Central Substation east of Casa Grande to TEP's Tortolita Substation, located southeast of the Red Rock area. Field crews are installing high-capacity wires, new metal poles and additional substation equipment for the new line, which will expand access to renewable energy projects and help meet future energy demands in the Tucson metropolitan area and surrounding region.
On Feb. 9, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the applications of numerous parties, including Tri-State, to stay EPA's Clean Power Plan for the period of time the rule is being challenged in court. The court's unprecedented decision to stay the Clean Power Plan pending judicial review is a monumental step forward in the effort to stop the costly and legally-flawed regulation. Allowing the rule to move forward as these challenges are litigated would have caused immediate and irreparable harm to Tri-State, its member electric cooperatives and rural communities across the West.
A project that has been two years in the planning and development process is currently under construction in the City of Ft. Lupton. United Power has a dedicated contract crew completing the construction work on the project. Working along an existing power line route and easement, United Power is putting a more robust line in place to enhance service to the members in Ft. Lupton.
Xcel Energy and solar developers have announced an agreement that will continue to give Colorado customers the ability to access solar generation through the company's successful Solar*Rewards Community program. Xcel Energy, Clean Energy Collective, Community Energy Inc. and SunShare filed a settlement with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to add up to 60 MW of community solar in Colorado through a request for proposals in 2016. A community solar garden is a community-shared solar array, with grid-connected subscribers, which allows consumers to access the benefits of solar energy without needing to install rooftop systems.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) can reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions compared to their gas-only counterparts. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering have taken the technology one step further, demonstrating how to improve the efficiency of current PHEVs by almost 12 percent. Since plug-in hybrids combine gas or diesel engines with electric motors and large rechargeable batteries, a key component is an energy management system (EMS) that controls when they switch from 'all-electric' mode, during which stored energy from their batteries is used, to 'hybrid' mode, which utilizes both fuel and electricity. As new EMS devices are developed, an important consideration is combining the power streams from both sources in the most energy-efficient way.
They're making fuel from thin air at the USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute. For the first time, researchers there have directly converted carbon dioxide from the air into methanol at relatively low temperatures. The work, led by G.K. Surya Prakash and George Olah of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, is part of a broader effort to stabilize the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by using renewable energy to transform the greenhouse gas into its combustible cousin -- attacking global warming from two angles simultaneously. Methanol is a clean-burning fuel for internal combustion engines, a fuel for fuel cells and a raw material used to produce many petrochemical products.