RMEL e-Newsletter February 2017
RMEL Report
From the Desk of Richard Putnicki, Executive Director, RMEL
We've had a great start to 201 7, opening our calendar year with "an ol' reliable" program our membership continues to value. For 12 years, RMEL has partnered with Steve Sax, General Manager, Murfreesboro Electric Department, to present the Introduction to the Electric Utility Workshop This workshop promotes a better understanding of the overall electric system, from the generator to the meter. It is so valuable for employees to have a better comprehension of the system beyond their cubicle walls. Having a grasp of the system operations promotes a comprehension of how their respective work contributes to the big picture of the production, transmission and distribution of electric energy. A strong turnout by our membership once again!  Thank you, Steve! Next, we took RMEL on the road to San Antonio for the Physical and Cyber Security Conference . We greatly appreciated our host, CPS Energy, for  a great venue and the "Chamber of Commerce" weather they ordered for our the visitors. The conference received outstanding marks from the attendees. Thank you to all the great speakers, especially our keynote speaker Dawn Roth Lindell, Chief Information Officer, Western Area Power Administration, who set the tone for a great event. This is an important topic, and it's great to see members taking the opportunity of building a resource network and sharing best practices to keep the industry and our country secure.
Coming up next in February is ou Safety Roundtable  hosted by Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association on February 24. Richard J. Farley, Consultant, Human Performance (CAP/HP), Arizona Public Service Company, is going to kick-off the roundtable with a discussion on Human Performance and Accident Investigation. Make plans to join us to learn more about human performance and the critical link to our safety efforts. After the presentation, the attendees will have the opportunity to discuss best practices and tap the braintrust of those in attendance.  The Roundtables are fundamental to what RMEL is all about. If you are familiar with RMEL, you know March is when we really start to get technical, starting with th Power Supply Planning and Projects Conference and Roundtable March 1-2 - this is the place to discuss and navigate the changing generation landscape. The Transmission Planning and Operations Conference , covering new technology, asset management and data analytics, will be March 8-9. Then we'll look at engineering, operations and design best practices during the Distribution Overhead and Underground Operations and Maintenance Conference March 15-16.
Also in March, we've got RMEL's Emerging Leader Award  nomination deadline March 1, 2017. Nominees must have 5-10 years of experience in the industry, establishing significant contributions within their organization and have demonstrated the potential for leadership and continuing service in the electric utility industry. The person must be active in the field at the time of the award. 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 Operations Conference last May, Emerging Leader Award winners had the unique opportunity to participate in strategy session with keynote speaker, Mark Eaton, former NBA All Star. Make sure your organization and your best people are part of this group.
That's what it's all about - the great people in this industry. The RMEL Foundation is on a mission to grow the number of talented young folks joining us. Please help spread the word about RMEL Foundation scholarship opportunities! The online application must be completed by next Thursday, February 9, 2017. RMEL member companies are the primary avenue by which these scholarships are promoted. Applicants must complete the online scholarship application. Scholarship eligibility and general information are available here . Over the past 16 years, 230 scholarships have been awarded totaling more than $573,000. The RMEL Foundation is making a difference, and we thank you for your generous donations and promotion of the scholarship program, especially those who donated during the RMEL Foundation Auction at the 2016 Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention.
We hope to see you soon!

Don't Miss These Upcoming RMEL Events

Safety Roundtable - February 2017 --- February 24, 2017 (Westminster, CO)
Distribution Overhead and Underground Design Workshop --- April 11-13, 2017 (Austin, TX)
Safety Conference --- April 19-20, 2017 (Lone Tree, CO)
Transmission Operations and Maintenance Conference --- June 22, 2017 (Lone Tree, CO)                            
2017 RMEL Foundation Golf Tournament --- June 28, 2017 (Littleton, CO)
Transmission Project Management Workshop --- August 2-3, 2017                          
Safety Roundtable - August 2017 --- August 25, 2017 (Golden, CO)
2017 Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention --- September 17-19, 2017 (Tucson, AZ)
Planning Session: 2018 Spring Conference --- October 5, 2017 (Lone Tree, CO)
Distribution Engineers Workshop --- October 11-12, 2017 (Lone Tree, CO)
Renewable Planning and Operations & Environmental Conference --- October 18-19, 2017 (Lone Tree, CO)
Safety Roundtable - November 2017 --- November 3, 2017 (Fort Collins, CO)


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For the last five years, ComEd has updated and modernized its electrical grid to improve the reliability of its service to customers. The work has resulted in record setting performance that is also helping to power economic development and customer satisfaction. In 2016, ComEd customers experienced a 15 percent reduction in the frequency of outages compared to 2015. This was best among all utilities according to Electric Benchmarking.
Dominion Resources Chairman, President and CEO Thomas Farrell II on Feb. 1 said that $784 million worth of electric transmission projects were completed last year, and that the company plans "to invest $800 million in our electric transmission business this year." The company has a number of electric transmission projects at various stages of regulatory approvals and construction, he added during the company's 4Q16 and full-year 2016 earnings call.
Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) and Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) announced that they were awarded a $3.24 million grant by the Department of Energy (DOE) to demonstrate the use of advanced energy storage technologies to integrate high penetrations of solar energy into the electric grid in Texas. The project is a collaboration among leading-edge companies in the energy storage space including AMS, Opus One Solutions and GridBright in partnership with Pedernales Electric Cooperative.  Pedernales is the largest electric distribution cooperative in the United States, serving nearly 290,000 meters over more than 8,100 square miles in Texas.
The U.S. SunShot Initiative has announced $30m funding to new projects to support the integration of solar energy into the nation's electric grid. Managed by U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the SunShot Initiative aims to reduce solar electricity cost and accelerate solar adoption. Under Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy (ENERGISE) funding program, SunShot selected 13 projects which will develop next-generation grid planning and operation tools capable of helping in integration of more solar power to the grid.
Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions produced in the generation of electricity at power plants in the United States declined by 73% from 2006 to 2015, a much larger reduction than the 32% decrease in coal-fired electricity generation over that period. From 2014 to 2015, the most recent year with complete power plant emissions data, SO2 emissions fell 26%-the largest annual drop in percentage terms in the previous decade. Nearly all electricity-related SO2 emissions are associated with coal-fired generation.
Tesla will post its financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2016 after market close on Wednesday, February 22, 2017. At that time, Tesla will issue a brief advisory containing a link to the Q4 and full year 2016 Update Letter, which will be available on the Tesla IR website. Tesla management will hold a live question and answer webcast that day at 2:30pm Pacific Time (5:30pm Eastern Time) to discuss the Company's financial and business results and outlook.
Average wholesale electricity prices fell across the United States during 2016, mostly due to the sustained lower cost of natural gas. The U.S. Energy Information Administration's report indicated monthly prices ranged from $20 to $45 per MWh. Natural gas prices averaged $2.78 per million Btus, or 17 percent lower than 2015 for the first 10 months of 2016. Milder winter weather in early 2016 kept costs low during that period.
Utilities must transform fundamental elements of their traditional business model and "ways of working" in the face of a unique set of complex challenges.  Prominent examples of factors influencing utility planning and decision-making include aging infrastructure and the resulting requirement for large-scale capital investment, uncertainty regarding the future of various forms of regulation, growing cyber and physical security concerns, and resistance to rate increases. The utility sector is simultaneously undergoing a significant and unprecedented transformation facilitated by the introduction of new and disruptive technologies and the consideration of new and innovative business and revenue models.
Active Distribution Networks become a reality in the modern power systems. An Active Distribution Network consists of high penetration of Distributed Energy Resources (DER), including Energy Storage (ES) and Demand Response (DR). It may also include  Micro-grids (μG), Plug-in-Vehicles (PEV), Power Electronics (PE), distributed Remedial Action Schemes and Protection (RAS), and other devises and entities controllable by local energy management system and controllers, as well as by advanced Distribution Management Systems (DMS).
Julia Hamm, CEO of the Smart Electric Power Alliance, and Sharon Allan, CEO of SGIP, kicked off DistribuTECH 2017 with an announcement of the intent to merge the two organizations under the SEPA brand and organizational umbrella. Speaking at a breakfast briefing, Hamm and Allan said that given the increasing integration of distributed energy resources (DERs) and grid modernization, a merger of SGIP and SEPA just makes sense. A smart transition to a clean energy future is driving changes to business and regulatory models plus improved customer engagement, SEPA's particular areas of expertise for SEPA. It also means enhanced planning and grid operations plus technological advancement, the corresponding areas of expertise for SGIP.
Arizona Public Service customers have saved $5.98 million from the company's participation in the Energy Imbalance Market (EIM), according to a new report released from the California Independent System Operator. The report analyzed cost savings from October through December 2016, APS's first three months of participation in the western market. "One of the main reasons we decided to participate in the Energy Imbalance Market was because of the potential for savings through the innovative and flexible new tools it provides," said Tammy McLeod, Vice President of Resource Management for APS. "We are always looking for ways to save our customers money and, as anticipated, the EIM is providing us that opportunity."
The Campbell County School District Science Center - Adventurarium has a new display for students and adults alike. "Pathfinders: Coal and the future of energy" will be dedicated Feb. 1 at 11 a.m. at the Campbell County School District Science Center located at 525 W. Lakeway Road in Gillette, WY.  The exhibit gives visitors a look at the many ways Powder River Basin coal is vital to not only the economy of Gillette, but also to the nation's energy future. Features of the display include the history of coal in Wyoming, how coal powers the economy, how electricity is essential to everyday life, and how coal is a clean source of fuel to produce energy.
Black Hills Corp. announced that Robert A. Myers, senior vice president and chief human resources officer, will retire on April 1. Effective Feb. 1, Jennifer C. Landis, the company's vice president of human resources, was appointed senior vice president and chief human resources officer, reporting to David R. Emery, chairman and CEO. Myers will provide transition support until his retirement to ensure a smooth succession.
El Paso Electric (EPE) is now accepting applications for the 2017 Summer High School Internship Program. In its sixth year, this paid internship opportunity is open to all high school juniors in El Paso Electric's service area. The deadline to apply is March 24, 2017. Through the course of this summer internship, students obtain leadership and teamwork skills through various work assignments and group projects, and participate in a learning curriculum which includes lessons on the fundamentals of power generation, transmission, and distribution. Students will also participate in trainings that teach them about business, finance, and leadership and management skills.
If you were wondering when the new community solar project in Scottsbluff at the Nebraska Public Power District office was going to be installed . . . it's still coming. "We have had a delay in construction due to material shortages and delivery issues," said NPPD Retail General Manager Tim Arlt. "We will be making contact with Scottsbluff customers who have signed up for the program to explain the delay and keep them in the loop as to when the solar unit would begin operation."
The state's largest electric provider has teamed up with two local solar companies to help social media giant Facebook make good on its commitment to power the massive data center under construction in the New Mexico desert with 100 percent renewable energy. Gov. Susana Martinez, officials with Public Service Co. of New Mexico and economic development leaders gathered Wednesday at the headquarters of Affordable Solar in Albuquerque to announce a $45 million solar project. Most of the money will go to Affordable Solar for the installation. New Mexico-based Array Technologies will provide the tracking systems for the panels.
Construction of Rocky Mountain Power's new Westwood substation and associated power line upgrades have begun in Ririe, Idaho. All aspects of the project are expected to be completed by sometime in June.  The Westwood substation will be built on the northeast corner of the intersection at 65 East and County Line Road (145 North). The power line work will take place along the eastern portion of County Line Road then south along 115 East to 101 North and will connect with another line being constructed east and south along 101 North.
In a study issued by J.D. Power, Salt River Project ranks highest in customer satisfaction for business electric service among large electricity providers in the West Region for the fourth consecutive year - the seventh time in the last eight years SRP has been ranked highest in this segment. SRP's overall customer satisfaction index was 797 out of a possible 1,000 points in the 2016 Calendar-Year Electric Business Customer Satisfaction Study - a 50-point performance increase from last year. SRP scored highest among large electric providers in the West in four of the six customer satisfaction factors: Power Quality and Reliability, Corporate Citizenship, Billing and Payment and Communications.
Tucson Electric Power (TEP) is enhancing the resiliency of the local electric grid with three innovative energy storage facilities. A subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources of Juno Beach, Fla., recently completed construction of a 10-MW lithium nickel-manganese-cobalt energy storage system at a TEP substation near Interstate 10 and West Grant Road. The system is now helping to maintain reliable service for customers during periods of high energy demand by supporting stable voltage.

Chris DePuy is a community-oriented guy.  As a communications technician at Tri-State's Montrose Maintenance Center and a 25-year resident of Montrose, Chris has been involved in regional first responder activities for several years. Chris is also a volunteer with the Montrose Sheriff's Posse and keeps up with the latest issues involving the county. Those relationships came in handy in mid-January when the Hinsdale County communications tower located on top of Hill 71, a 12,305 foot mountain, went dark.
Western Area Power Administration announces a record of decision, or ROD, selecting the route for the TransWest Express Project. The TWE Project aims to strengthen the electric grid by providing reliable and cost-effective energy to the desert southwest region of the United States. WAPA's ROD aligns with the Bureau of Land Management's ROD, issued on December 13, 2016, which approved an approximately 725-mile route for the extra-high-voltage, direct-current transmission line between Sinclair, Wyoming, and Boulder City, Nevada, and concludes WAPA's environmental review of the TWE Project.
Xcel Energy is bringing the economic, environmental and aesthetic benefits of high-efficiency LED streetlights to its Minnesota communities. The upgrade of nearly 700 streetlights in Stillwater began this week. Following Stillwater, upgrades will begin in Lake Elmo and Oak Park Heights. Stillwater is one of the many Minnesota communities that will benefit from the conversion, which will take place in nearly 350 Minnesota communities over the next two and a half years. The effort focuses on converting about 90,000 Xcel Energy-owned streetlights from cobra head-style, high pressure sodium fixtures to new, more energy-efficient fixtures using LEDs.
In recent years, increasingly volatile and extreme weather events have significantly impacted the operations and bottom lines of many utilities. Contributing to the problem are obsolete grid assets and a lack of automation, both of which can make it difficult to predict and prepare for the impact of weather threats. Customers also have greater expectations in regard to operational resilience. Adding to the pressure, social media puts utilities at an increased risk for public scrutiny if unhappy customers complain openly about poor outage response times. In addition, there is greater regulatory and political scrutiny over outages.