RMEL e-Newsletter April 2016
RMEL Report
From the Desk of Richard Putnicki, Executive Director, RMEL

Happy Spring!

This is always an exciting and busy time for RMEL as we have just jumped right into the year with so many great events planned by RMEL's Section Education Committees . You've probably now seen the phrase "RMEL's March Madness" quite a bit. Regardless of how many of us had our NCAA brackets busted with our poor picks, the RMEL Section Committees made our March Madness a huge success. From generation to the delivery - it was all covered in March. The
Power Supply Planning and Projects Conference was March 1-2 ; the Transmission Planning and Operations Conference was March 8-9 ; and the Distribution Overhead and Underground Operations and Maintenance Conference was March 15-16 .

I want to extend my gratitude and thanks again to RMEL's Section Committees for planning such a stellar March for RMEL and thank you to the awesome speakers as well. Wow! Attendees, we appreciate and thank you for listening and participating in these events. We put it in your hands at the roundtables on the 2  day of each conference, and you always take the ball and run with it! It's incredible to hear what you all are dealing with and how you're overcoming obstacles to keep this industry strong, safe, secure and successful. I really enjoy getting a glimpse into each of these areas and learning more about exactly what it takes to keep America's lights on today. And, as always, we and the Section Committees were actively listening to your needs as we continuously build programming for 2016 and 2017.

Listening is key for RMEL, as is communication. One of my major responsibilities is to keep the RMEL Board of Directors apprised of RMEL's activities and member needs through Executive Committee calls (at least once a month) along with face-to-face Board meetings. Of course, I also listen to the Board and put their vision and insight to work. We are all very lucky that RMEL has such an active and engaged Board of Directors - that is everything!    I am also very excited that we've added four new Directors in 2016. The four new Board members are Elaina Ball, Interim COO, Austin Energy; Susan Gray, VP, T&D Operations/Engineering, UNS Energy Corporation; Scott Heidtbrink, Executive VP & COO, Kansas City Power & Light; and Mike Kotara, VP, Business Development, Zachry Group. These fresh new perspectives along with the continued engagement of their respective organizations, and the high energy of the entire Board of Directors make for a very exciting 2016.

Up next in the lineup of 2016 events your company won't want to miss - RMEL's Distribution Overhead and Underground Staking and Design Workshop is back by popular demand and is taking place this week, April 5-7, in Lone Tree, CO. This is 3 days of intensive instruction where engineers, designers and operators get a highly valuable educational experience.  Then we're talking safety at RMEL's Safety Conference April 19-20. And I mean talking the talk of safety. This interactive new program is designed to facilitate a no-holds-barred discussion that cuts down to what it really takes to be safe so that everyone can go home to their families at the end of the day.  You seriously do not want your company to miss this event. Send safety folks, send linemen, send operators and managers - send everyone you can send.

Engineers, operators and managers, the Spring Management, Engineering and Operations Conference is coming up May 15-17, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center in Denver, CO. The speakers and topics are absolutely top notch. NBA Great Mark Eaton is the keynote speaker, the popular Executive Panel General Session is back and you can choose from nearly 30 sessions to build your perfect Spring Conference. You're going to see topics you haven't seen at an RMEL Spring Conference before and speakers from utilities that have never participated in RMEL's Spring Conference before. This is all part of growing RMEL's knowledge bank and network for you, the members. Register today !

It's been a great couple of months and we've got so much more in store for 2016. These are good times, people!

Don't Miss These Upcoming RMEL Events
Distribution Design and Staking Workshop  --- April 5-7, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
Safety and Technical Training Conference  --- April 19-20, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
RMEL Foundation Golf Tournament --- June 15, 2016 (Littleton, CO)
Transmission Operations and Maintenance Conference  --- June 23, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO) 
Field and Engineering Customer Service Conference --- July 14, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
Plant Management, Engineering and Operations Conference  --- July 26-27, 2016 (El Paso, TX)
Transmission Project Management Conference  --- August 3-4, 2016 (Golden, CO)
Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention  --- September 11-13, 2016 (Summerlin, NV)
Distribution Engineers Workshop  --- October 5-6, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
Renewable Planning and Operations Conference  --- October 13, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
Electric Energy Environmental Conference  --- November 2-3, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
Safety Roundtable - November 2016  --- November 4, 2016 (Fort Collins, CO)
Join RMEL's Groups on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook
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.

RMEL Champions is a prestigious group of RMEL supporters with access to useful and beneficial promotional opportunities. Click here to see a list of the 2016 RMEL Champions.
About 465 coal mine workers are being laid off from the two largest mines in northeast Wyoming as declining prices and demand for coal force mining companies to scale back their operations.
Peabody Energy announced it was laying off about 235 employees at its North Antelope Rochelle mine, and Arch Coal said it was reducing 230 positions at its Black Thunder mine. Both mines are in the coal-rich Powder River Basin in Campbell County, and each employs more than 1,000 workers. Together, they produce about 200 million tons of coal a year. The layoffs represent about 15 percent of their workforces at the mine.
Utilities have invested billions of dollars over the last five years in technologies designed to operate the electric grid more efficiently, reliably, safely, and cost-effectively. As deployment of smart grid infrastructure reaches an inflection point, utility executives are faced with the difficult task of determining how to best make use of the data generated by intelligent devices to drive business benefits. In many cases, utility analytics has been the key to unlocking this hidden value, there are examples of utilities recovering half the costs of their smart grid programs by detecting and preventing energy theft. Other companies are reporting improvements in service reliability of over 35 percent, enabled in part by the deployment of sophisticated analytical capabilities.
The U.S. Department of Energy will participate in the development of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Project, a major clean energy infrastructure project. The Clean Line project will tap abundant, low-cost wind generation resources in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandle regions to deliver up to 4000 MW of wind power via a 705-mile direct current transmission line - enough energy to power more than 1.5 million homes in the mid-South and Southeast United States.
Graduate students and early career professionals can gain hands-on field research experience in areas related to carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) by participating in the Research Experience in Carbon Sequestration (RECS) program. The initiative, supported by the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy (FE), is currently accepting applications for RECS 2016, scheduled for June 12-20, in Birmingham, AL. The deadline to apply is May 13. An intensive science and field-based program, RECS 2016 will be hosted by Southern Company and Department's Southeast Carbon Sequestration Partnership. The program combines classroom instruction with group exercises and nine different site, field and laboratory activities. Participants will gain hands-on experience designing a carbon storage pilot project, modeling CO2 injection and subsurface fluid flow and analyzing capture technologies. RECS faculty is comprised of globally recognized scientists and industry leaders.
Kentucky Power is reorganizing to streamline operations, improve reliability and better serve customers in eastern Kentucky. The changes are effective April 1, Kentucky Power President and COO Greg Pauley said. Under the new structure, two new positions, reliability manager and manager customer service, have been added to serve all of Kentucky Power, while distribution services will continue to operate from three service districts - Ashland, Hazard and Pikeville. Bob Shurtleff will continue to lead the Pikeville District, which includes offices in Paintsville and South Williamson, as manager distribution system. Delinda Borden, currently distribution and customer service manager in Ashland, has been named manager customer service. She will be based in Ashland where she will focus on addressing customer needs and enhancing the customer experience. Her replacement has not yet been named.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's Fort Worth District said it plans to spend about US$1 million to repair an earthen area of about 95 square feet that slid down the non-water side of Lake Grapevine Dam, an earthen-rolled dam in Grapevine, Texas. Located north of Dallas and Fort Worth, heavy rainfall in September and November caused flooding in north Texas and resulted in Lake Grapevine being 10 ft above capacity. The Corps said the slide took place during torrential November 2015 rains. Corps officials said there is no immediate risk of dam failure, but they have changed the dam's classification from low urgency to high urgency -- the second-most-serious category -- based on the effect a catastrophic dam failure would have on the population downstream.
With the next generation of the energy grid, customers will have more information to control their electric bills. More renewable energy will be integrated, producing and delivering power will be more cost-efficient, and power outages will be restored faster. That's the goal of the smart grid project ? a core part of the Hawaiian Electric Companies' overall modernization plans ? submitted to the Hawai'i Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today for its review. The project will consist of a modern wireless communication network, smart meters and enhanced technology that will upgrade the existing electric grid to be more automated and energy efficient.
Ongoing wind power research and development will help the industry harness more wind, more efficiently and at lower costs in the future. The biggest factors in boosting wind turbine productivity - longer blades and taller towers - are fueling much of the next-generation research and development push to build a more powerful, efficient, durable and cost-effective turbine. Other important innovations are emerging to make turbine manufacturing easier and cheaper; create intelligent turbines that collect and interpret real-time data; and model and adjust wind plant flows and turbine configurations to maximize wind harvest.
Tesla has removed all references to its 10-kWh residential battery from the Powerwall website. The company's smaller battery designed for daily cycling is all that remains. According to a report from Greentech Media, a Tesla representative confirmed the 10-kWh option had been discontinued. "We have seen enormous interest in the Daily Powerwall worldwide," according to an emailed statement to GTM. "The Daily Powerwall supports daily use applications like solar self-consumption plus backup power applications, and can offer backup simply by modifying the way it is installed in a home. Due to the interest, we have decided to focus entirely on building and deploying the 7-kWh Daily Powerwall at this time."
Researchers at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands have successfully engineered and installed a socket on a Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell that serves as an electrical outlet. In collaboration with Hyundai Motor and other commercial partners they converted the zero-emission fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) into a power plant on wheels - a European first. Professor Ad van Wijk's research group is called Future Energy Systems and belongs to the Process & Energy department at the faculty of mechanical, maritime and materials engineering (3mE).
A way to reduce to the damage caused to metal alloys used in cladding of the fuel in nuclear reactor from exposure to hydrogen has been found by a team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The researchers have conducted a study on the impact of hydrogen on zirconium alloys which are widely used in nuclear industry. Hydrogen, which is released when water molecules from a reactor's coolant break apart, can reduce the metal's ductility by entering it and reacting with it. The reaction could lead to premature cracking and failure of the metal. MIT Associate Professor Bilge Yildiz said that finding solutions to enhance the metal's longevity is of high importance in nuclear power plants.
Palo Alto is paying developers double the market value for locally generated renewable solar energy, and Monday's vote by the City Council will keep it that way. The city program, Palo Alto CLEAN (Clean Local Energy Accessible Now), allows customers to sell solar energy to the city at 16.5 cents per kilowatt hour.  The council's four-member Finance Committee suggested reducing the price the city pays to 8.9 cents for a 20-year contract period because of recent drops in wholesale prices for solar energy. The council declined to, however, despite some members' argument that solar prices are dropping. Last week, the council approved a contract with Hecate Energy at a price of 3.7 cents, or about 7 cents when factoring in transmission costs, for a Southern California plant that will come online in coming years.
Last year marked the first time on record that the average capacity factor of natural gas combined-cycle plants exceeded that of coal steam plants. The power industry has been running natural gas combined-cycle generating units at much higher rates than just 10 years ago, while the utilization of the capacity at coal steam power plants has declined. The capacity factor of the U.S. natural gas combined-cycle fleet averaged 56% in 2015, compared with 55% for coal steam power plants. The mix of energy sources used in U.S. electricity generation has changed dramatically over the past few years. This change is particularly evident in the shift from the use of coal to natural gas for power generation. The industry has been building new natural gas capacity and retiring coal plants, but another important factor behind the changing generation mix is the day-to-day pattern of how existing power plants are used.
A Massachusetts man accused of putting pipe bomb-like devices on high-voltage power lines left a note threatening to attack other utilities and to publish instructions on how to make similar devices on the Internet, according to an FBI affidavit released Monday. Danny Kelly, 61, of Chelmsford, was arrested Saturday, days after firefighters responded to a brush fire near National Grid electric power lines in Tyngsborough. Authorities said they found metallic, cylindrical devices hanging from the power lines. One of the devices was found on the ground and is believed to have started the brush fire. An FBI affidavit says Kelly was charged more than a decade ago with cutting about 18 telephone and cable lines and threatening to cut more unless he received payment. He pleaded guilty to extortion.
Arizona Public Service and Aligned Data Centers, a division of Aligned Energy, announced an unprecedented collaboration designed to meet the changing needs of the data center industry while delivering increased reliability and enhanced power delivery to its customers. Data centers represent large static loads on the grid which, because of the type of information they store, require higher levels of reliability and power quality than most other large users of electricity. Aligned's Phoenix data center, through its more robust design and unique cooperation with APS, will be able to isolate itself from the grid proactively at times of greater grid congestion. This allows APS to more effectively manage the grid and deliver greater reliability to its customers.
Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) began inspecting wood poles on its distribution, sub-transmission and transmission facilities in March. NPPD has contracted with Osmose Utilities Services, Inc. to inspect wood poles during the calendar year 2016.  Osmose crews will continue these inspections through June 1. This process involves ground line excavation, inspection and rehabilitation treatment. Crews will be dressed in high visibility vests that identify "Osmose" on them. The crews will be traveling from pole to pole in a utility task vehicle (UTV).
Pacific Power's parent company PacifiCorp filed its Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) update with the public utility commissions of the six states it serves. The IRP is the company's best current view of what resources, such as power generation plants, it will need to meet the future power needs of its customers. A full IRP is developed every two years, and an update is filed in the off years. The IRP update includes an assessment of the EPA Clean Power Plan, even though currently the plan is on hold pending litigation to which the company is not party. The full IRP for PacifiCorp, including this update, can be found at  pacificpower.net/irp .
Researchers at ASU and engineers at SRP are conducting joint research studies to find new ways to utilize algae in the desert, specifically in the operation of power plants. Dr. Tom Dempster is working on ways for algae to be used for carbon capture and sequestration. The research, still in its infancy, could be used to capture carbon dioxide at the coal fired power plant while growing algae for commercial purposes.
Tucson Electric Power (TEP) will meet customers' energy needs in the near future by expanding renewable energy resources and energy efficiency programs, evaluating new technologies to improve reliability and pursuing opportunities to reduce its use of coal. TEP's strategies for southern Arizona's energy future are outlined in its preliminary 2016 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which was filed yesterday with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). The IRP describes how TEP plans to meet customers' energy needs through 2030 while satisfying regulatory requirements and improving the environment.
United Power's Board of Directors approved the new rate restructure proposal they have been discussing for several months. Beginning on April 1 usage, members began seeing these changes on their statements. After several months of review of varied scenarios prepared by staff, the United Power Board of Directors voted to accept the proposal discussed in detail in last month's United Newsline. Based on the Cost of Service study conducted last fall, rate adjustments were necessary to make certain each rate class is paying their fair share of costs associated with the delivery of their electric service."Understanding the costs for providing service to each rate class is essential to fairly and equitably structuring rates that recover those costs," stated Ron Asche, United Power CEO. "The Board of Directors has elected the option that makes an adjustment to our facility charge, which recovers some of the fixed costs the cooperative incurs serving our members. We've also lowered our energy charge to more accurately reflect the cost of this component."
Patrick Woods was awarded the Kansas State High School Activities Association's 2016 Governor's Award. This award recognizes outstanding contributions in the field of secondary education in the state of Kansas. Mr. Woods's family and his colleagues at Westar Energy-where he is the director of Talent Management and Diversity-were on hand to help celebrate the honor.
Western is pleased to announce the launch of  The Source , a new website dedicated to displaying operational data and financial information in one convenient location. "We are continuing to evolve our services to best meet customer needs," said Western Administrator and CEO Mark A. Gabriel. "We recognize people's desire to have information at their fingertips. With that in mind, we created this site for stakeholders and the public to quickly find the information they need. When our customers have requests, we are well positioned to deliver.
Xcel Energy's leadership in reducing carbon dioxide emissions received national recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA, along with The Climate Registry and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, honored Xcel Energy with a 2016 Climate Leadership Award for its commitment to clean energy and excellence in greenhouse gas management. "We are honored to be recognized for our leadership in implementing clean energy solutions and for the significant emission reductions we are achieving across our system," said Ben Fowke, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. "Xcel Energy continues to improve the way we produce and deliver energy to secure a more sustainable energy future for our customers and our communities."
Most of the world's nations have agreed to make substantial reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions, but achieving these goals is still a considerable technological, economic, and political challenge. The International Energy Agency has projected that, even with the new agreements in place, global coal-fired power generation will increase over the next few decades. Finding a cleaner way of using that coal could be a significant step toward achieving carbon-emissions reductions while meeting the needs of a growing and increasingly industrialized world population.
An immensely powerful yet invisible force pulls water from Earth to the top of the tallest redwood and delivers snow to the tops of the Himalayas. Yet despite the power of evaporating water, its potential to propel self-sufficient devices or produce electricity has remained largely untapped -- until now. In the June 16 online issue of Nature Communications, Columbia University scientists report the development of two novel devices that derive power directly from evaporation -- a floating, piston-driven engine that generates electricity causing a light to flash, and a rotary engine that drives a miniature car.