RMEL e-Newsletter November 2016
From the Desk of Richard Putnicki, Executive Director, RMEL
Thank you RMEL members for all of your participation with RMEL in 2016! We closed out the 2016 event calendar with a productive October and early November full of conferences, roundtables and planning sessions. The final event of the year was the planning session for the 2017 Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention (set for September 17-19 in Tucson). This is one of the most important sessions where we put all of your feedback and the Vital Issues Forum results from September to work. Combined with what we now know (or don't know) from the election, members are continuing to put customers first in any political or regulatory scenario.
It was also customers that drove the discussion at the Vital Issues Forum at the Fall Convention on September 12. You can now read the recap article from the Forum here
. This executive-level discussion is a great pulse check of what leaders in our industry are focused on. As Neal Walker, VP, Vital Issues, RMEL, and President, Texas New Mexico Power, says in the introduction: please consider this summary of the discussion as just the beginning of the work we can all do to better the industry, our individual organizations and of course the professional development of you and your staff.
Speaking of your staff, now is a great time to start thinking about who you'd like to nominate for RMEL's Emerging Leader Award. The deadline to submit 2017 nominations is March 1, 2017
. 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 plaque - 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 these folks and help them meet their potential. For example, at the Spring Management, Engineering and Operations Conference last May, Emerging Leader Award winners had the unique opportunity to participate in a strategy session with keynote speaker, Mark Eaton, former NBA All Star. Make sure your organization and your best people are part of this group.
Thank you again for the great member engagement in RMEL events this year. We've listed RMEL Section plans for 2017 below, and we look forward to seeing you in 2017. Please have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving with your families and friends!
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. 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.
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Eight electric utilities and energy companies have announced an initiative to provide improved responses to major events affecting the electric transmission grid by giving transmission-owning entities access to domestically warehoused long lead-time critical equipment. Affiliates of American Electric Power, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Duke Energy, Edison International, Eversource Energy, Exelon, Great Plains Energy, and Southern Co. have signed a memorandum of understanding to pursue development of Grid Assurance™, a limited liability company that expects to offer subscribers cost-effective solutions for enhancing grid resiliency and protecting customers from prolonged transmission outages.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Canada's Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) today announced the opening of a new 1 Megawatt Thermal (MWth) facility to test an advanced process to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-fired power plants. The announcement was made during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility in Ottawa. The new
1 MWth facility
will test oxy-fired pressurized fluidized bed combustion (oxy-PFBC) as a means to more efficiently and economically capture CO2 and help advance the commercialization of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) in the U.S. as well as Canada. CCUS is seen as a critical tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. Successful results from this project will help scale up the oxy-PFBC process to commercial scale.
What's next for energy? That's what I was pondering the day before President Obama's first inauguration as I left my office at the U.S. Department of Energy for the last time-after serving for several years as head of public affairs during President Bush's Administration. The energy landscape changed under President Obama. And certainly, his legacy will include advancing renewable energy and climate change protections. There is, of course, another side to those policies: While the Obama Administration stated that it had an "all-of-the-above" energy strategy, in reality, his environmental policies were anti-fossil fuels. The President's Clean Power Plan and other regulations pushed many coal companies into bankruptcy; his onshore and offshore oil and gas restrictions hampered domestic development; and there has been virtually no support for nuclear energy. So with President-elect Trump already outlining his 100-day agenda, what might his Administration's energy policy look like? Expect change.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Israel's Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources (MIEW) along with the Israel Innovation Authority announced $4 million for five newly selected clean energy projects as part of the Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Energy program. Today's (11/11) announcement represents the eighth annual selection of BIRD Energy projects, which support President Obama's efforts to develop low-carbon alternatives to traditional energy resources. This announcement builds on the robust and ongoing cooperation between the Energy Department and MIEW under the U.S. Israel Energy Dialogue, which brings together experts from both nations to encourage the use of clean energy technologies, foster natural gas regulations that encourage sustainable development, explore the energy-water nexus, and enhance energy cybersecurity.
Donald Trump, who will become the 45th president of the United States in January, has strongly supported bringing back coal power plants to revitalize jobs throughout the Rust Belt. That has some individuals worrying over the climate implications of his presidency. But what may be less well-known is that he's also strongly in favor of expanding the footprint of the nation's largest single source of carbon-free energy: nuclear power.
The first microchannel gas-to-liquid (GTL) plant in the United States was completed in September. The new plant, built by ENVIA Energy, is located in Oklahoma and is expected to begin converting landfill gas into liquid petroleum products later this year. GTL plants convert natural gas to higher-valued petroleum products, including liquid fuels, waxes, and chemical feedstocks. The most common conversion method is the Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) process, which involves a series of chemical reactions that transform natural gas (or a gasified solid fuel, such as coal or biomass) into hydrocarbons and water. Six large-scale F-T GTL plants operate in the world today: two in South Africa, two in Qatar, and one each in Malaysia and Nigeria. These plants have output capacities ranging from 5,600 barrels per day (b/d) to 140,000 b/d. BP operated a smaller, 300 b/d pilot plant in Alaska from 2002 to 2009, but no commercial-scale GTL plants currently operate in the United States.
MidAmerican Energy said recently that construction has been completed on the new 345-kV transmission line in Franklin, Butler and Black Hawk counties in Iowa, known as Multi-Value Project (MVP) 4. The line spans 71 miles in northeast Iowa from Hampton to a location just east of Waterloo, the company said, adding that it also expanded a substation in Black Hawk County and upgraded the existing transmission lines along the same route. Construction crews replaced two- and three-pole wood structures with single-pole steel structures, meaning fewer poles per mile, less need for maintenance and more land available for farming, the company said. While the project is substantially complete, residents in Franklin, Butler and Black Hawk counties will still see crews in the area to remove materials, clean up and restore land affected by construction, the company said. MidAmerican Energy said that it is assisting with the construction of four of the 17 MVPs included in the Midcontinent ISO (MISO) Transmission Expansion Plan.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has successfully completed a technology demonstration project to explore the performance of battery storage systems participating in California's electricity markets. The project, funded by California's Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program, began in 2014 and utilized PG&E's 2 megawatt (MW) Vaca-Dixon and 4 MW Yerba Buena battery storage systems to provide energy and ancillary services in California Independent System Operator (CAISO) markets. The Vaca-Dixon system is the first battery storage resource in California to participate in the market. The Yerba Buena system is the first battery storage resource to both participate in the market and serve a reliability function supporting PG&E's distribution system in the event of a disturbance or outage.
The U.S. Departments of Energy and the Interior published a collaborative plan to continue accelerating the development of offshore wind energy in the U.S. The "National Offshore Wind Strategy: Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States," states the U.S. could develop 86 GW of offshore wind by 2050. The strategy details the current state of U.S. offshore wind, presents the actions and innovations needed to reduce deployment costs and timelines, and provides a roadmap to support the growth and success of the industry. The strategy was published just weeks after construction finished at the U.S.'s first commercial offshore wind farm off of Block Island, Rhode Island. The 30-MW wind farm was the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) first right-of-way grant and is expected to begin operating by the end of 2016.
By now, we all know what happened. We know that Donald J. Trump has been elected President of the United States, and we know that the Republican Party has won majorities in both the House and Senate. What we do not know are what implications the 2016 election might have for the hydroelectric power industry -- or, just as important, what it might mean for the climate change initiatives already set in motion by the Obama administration. Based entirely on planks delivered by Trump throughout his campaign, however, it's not impossible to form a legitimate view of the president-elect's yet-to-be-announced energy plan which, perhaps unsurprisingly, bears an uncanny similarity to that pushed by Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the 2012 election. The plan relies heavily on expanding petroleum and natural gas production as pillars of strategic and economic "American energy dominance", with the resurrection of the Keystone XL pipeline project also being considered a strong possibility.
Austin Energy General Manager Jackie Sargent has made some key appointments and realignments of the executive staff at the community-owned electric utility. Elaina Ball, Interim Chief Operating Officer, has been promoted to Deputy General Manager and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to being named Interim Chief Operating Officer in late 2015, Ball was the Vice President of Power Production at Austin Energy since October 2013. She joined Austin Energy in September 2012 as the Decker Creek Power Station manager. Before joining Austin Energy, Ball served in executive and leadership positions at CPS Energy in San Antonio. Deputy General Manager Kerry Overton's title was reclassified to Deputy General Manager and Chief Customer and Compliance Officer.
This past year challenged the cooperative on several fronts - depressed energy and commodity markets and mild weather across the entire membership. Basin Electric's strength is foundationally in the unity of its members, employees and communities. Strong and United. That was the theme of Basin Electric's 2016 Annual Meeting of the Membership. Basin Electric's 2016 annual meeting brought in more than 1,000 member co-op employees, directors, public officials and utility representatives, and featured several updates on complex issues and developments, but woven throughout the entire two-day meeting was a reminder to all member cooperatives that Basin Electric exists to serve them.
Black Hills Corp. announced that Black Hills Energy, its electric utility subsidiary serving southern Colorado, closed on the purchase of the $109 million, 60-megawatt Peak View Wind Project. Commercial operations will begin on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, nearly two months earlier than originally planned. The Peak View Wind Project, located about 40 miles south of Pueblo, Colorado, was constructed by Invenergy Wind Development Colorado, LLC, under a 2015 build-transfer agreement executed with Black Hills Energy through a competitive solicitation process. Black Hills Energy will recover its investment through customer billing adjustment clauses for the first 10 years of operation.
The United States Air Force and El Paso Electric (EPE) have entered into an agreement for the construction of a new five megawatt solar facility to be built on, and dedicated for use by, the Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB), located near Alamogordo, New Mexico. This solar facility will be the first solar resource project EPE will build that is dedicated to serve a military installation. "We look forward to this partnership with Holloman Air Force as we make strides in our shared goal of a cleaner, healthier environment and," said Mary Kipp, El Paso Electric CEO. "The Air Force, just like EPE, recognizes the need to continue improving the sustainability of our region through efforts of conservation and renewable energy.
Rocky Mountain Power reminds its customers and the public that while electricity makes our lives easier and more convenient, appropriate precautions increase safety when operating appliances. November ushers in a season of feasts and indoor entertainment. Thanksgiving starts things off, then a round of holiday parties takes us all the way through to the New Year. A family baking "Keeping safety in mind will avoid danger and ensure the wellbeing of family and friends," said Mike Felice, Rocky Mountain Power health and safety director. "Occasionally it may take a few extra minutes, but with a little extra thought we can ensure safe operation of equipment and still enjoy the comfort or convenience of our modern-day appliances." At this time of year a lot more food preparation is taking place in kitchens and more people are getting together.
Salt River Project began a three-week test burn at the end of October of more than 3,900 tons - or about 300 acres - of forest debris biomass at its Coronado Generating Station (CGS). The test was planned as part of the continued stewardship of Arizona's water and power resources by evaluating the viability of reducing fire risk to Arizona's fire-prone watersheds while creating renewable power from forest byproducts. The first test at CGS Unit 1 in St. Johns was a one-day, two-load burn to evaluate the power plant's coal-handling system's ability to integrate the biomass.
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association has announced that Rick Thompson will serve as transition team manager for the retirement of Nucla Station, New Horizon Mine and Craig Station Unit 1. Thompson will lead transition teams, support affected employees and local communities, and evaluate options for decommissioning the facilities. Thompson, who currently serves as Tri-State's senior manager for transmission land rights and permitting, has more than 25 years of experience in the utility industry and a long and successful track record of managing projects.
United Power and Silicon Ranch Corporation celebrated the dedication of the largest co-op solar farm in the state of Colorado during a Flip the Switch event on September 26th, 2016. The farm is now live and generating renewable energy for United Power members in northern Colorado. The solar farm, located approximately 4 miles east of Fort Lupton on Highway 52, occupies 90 acres and features a single-axis tracking system to allow 160,000 panels to follow the sun across its daily arc. The 13 megawatt project produces enough carbon-free electricity to help power more than 2,500 homes and businesses in Weld County. The project itself is the result of an initiative by United Power to incorporate cost-effective renewable energy sources to complement its generation portfolio.
As the nation honored its military veterans on Veterans Day, Xcel Energy thanks its employees who have served in the U.S. military. Xcel Energy is committed to hiring military veterans as part of its employment strategy. This year the company reached a new milestone as 15 percent of new hires have a military background, exceeding the company's goal of ten percent, while doubling results from two years ago. "We appreciate the sacrifice that our veterans and their families have made to ensure the safety and security of our nation, and we are honored that so many of these women and men are part of our workforce," said Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO, Xcel Energy. "Our military veterans bring leadership, teamwork, and dedication to the job, exactly the kind of skills we need to meet the energy needs of the future.
Many communities would be better off investing in electric vehicles that run on batteries instead of hydrogen fuel cells, in part because the hydrogen infrastructure provides few additional energy benefits for the community besides clean transportation. That's according to a study in the November issue of the journal Energy by scientists at Stanford University and the Technical University of Munich (TUM). They compared cars that run on batteries versus hydrogen fuel cells in a hypothetical future where the cost of electric vehicles is more affordable.