RMEL e-Newsletter February 2016
RMEL Report
From the Desk of Richard Putnicki, Executive Director, RMEL
It's been almost five years since I became the Executive Director of RMEL and in that time I've had the pleasure to work with an outstanding group of industry leaders - the RMEL Board of Directors. Cheryl Mele has represented Austin Energy and Mike Morris has been the Board Director from Zachry Group. They joined the RMEL Board of Directors around the same time that I joined the staff. These are two people who have shown great contribution and are always engaged and passionate about this association.  They are both leaving the Board of Directors, and I just want to recognize their great work and thank them for everything. They have certainly worked RMEL's mission at their companies and throughout the industry.
RMEL's Mission: RMEL, through its diverse membership, educational events, and programs, facilitates the discovery of solutions and strategies for vital issues facing the electric utility industry.
Let's talk a little more about that mission. If you've been to an RMEL roundtable, you've heard us ask the question, "what's keeping you up at night?" What project are you working on? What issue are you and your team working through? What are the answers and solutions you're looking for? We ask because another RMEL member probably encountered that same challenge and has lessons learned they can share with you. You've also navigated through obstacles and have success stories to share with RMEL members, too.
Here's how you can be part of that mission to help others and yourself today (for best results, you'll want to log in to the RMEL web site - you can email info@rmel.org
to get your login information) :
  • Start with the Right Contacts
  • Get on the List(s)
  • Browse RMEL's Knowledge Bank of Presentations
  • Get the All-Inclusive RMEL Experience - Attend an Event
  • Drive Industry Leadership with RMEL Awards
  • Make a Presentation, Write an Article and Send Us Your Company News
Start with the Right Contacts
The 2016 RMEL Directory is being published now. Your RMEL company contacts (the RMEL representative and advocate) will receive a copy. You can also request a copy and login to the RMEL web site and access the RMEL eDirectory right now. In addition, you have access to registration lists from every single RMEL event. So if you didn't make it to the Physical and Cyber Security Conference last week, but you need to find a contact who can help with a CIP question, the registration list  is a great place to start.
Get on the List(s)
Update Your Profile . You're doing more with less, and your time is precious. Let us tell you what's coming up that relates to your interests. Make sure you're subscribed to RMEL's e-Newsletter, Electric Energy Magazine and the RMEL Newsletter. Together these publications will keep you up to date on the latest industry news, RMEL news and best practices articles from the experts.
Browse RMEL's Knowledge Bank of Presentations
RMEL hosts 30 events a year with 1-30 presentations at each event, so that's hundreds of presentations every year covering generation, transmission, distribution, safety and management topics. Find information you're looking for or a presenter who can help when you look through past presentations and event brochures.
Get the All-Inclusive RMEL Experience
Now is a great time to find an RMEL event or two that will serve as a one-stop-shop for meeting helpful contacts, hearing about the latest best practices and trends and discussing solutions. We've got something in every RMEL Section coming up over the next few months. The Electric Utility Financial Decision Making Workshop (February 9-10th) teaches electric energy financial skills to anyone looking to upgrade your business acumen. The February Safety Roundtable (February 26th) offers a unique experience to discuss safe work practices in a trusted environment and will feature a presentation on why to stretch and what kind of stretches are important. The Power Supply Planning and Projects Conference covers generation strategies to sustain future reliability and affordability. System reliability, asset management and Protection strategies can be found at the Transmission Planning and Operations Conference (March 8-9th). Distribution Overhead and Underground Operations and Maintenance Conference (March 15-16th) speakers will deliver the Latest Distribution best practices and technology updates. And that just takes us through March! Check out the full 2016 event calendar.
Drive Industry Leadership with RMEL's Awards Program
It is absolutely incredible to see what people can do when faced with the ever-increasing challenges in this industry. Whether you're looking to retire in the next few years or just joined the industry and are ready to hit the ground running, the RMEL Awards Program promotes leadership and success at all levels. Right now, you can nominate a colleague or be nominated for the Emerging Leader Award (deadline is March 4th), Distinguished Leadership Award (deadline is July 1st), Industry Leadership Award (deadline is July 1st) or Honorary Life Membership Award (deadline is July 1st ).
Make a Presentation, Write an Article and Send Us Your Company News
If you have a case study, success story, press release and/or lessons learned you'd like to share with RMEL members, let us know! Send your press releases to editor@rmel.org. Keep in touch with me and the RMEL staff about these and other ways you'd like to move the industry forward through the discovery of solutions!
As we roll into 2016, take the opportunity to leverage your membership! I will continue to update you on ways RMEL can help you as we continue to enhance the member experience. Thank you again to Cheryl and Mike for your service to the association!
Don't Miss These Upcoming RMEL Events
Utility Financing for Non-Financial Personnel Workshop  --- February 9-10, 2016 (Denver, CO)
Safety Roundtable - February 2016  --- February 26, 2016 (Westminster, CO)
Power Supply Planning and Projects Conference  --- March 1-2, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
Transmission Planning and Operations Conference  --- March 8-9, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
Distribution Operations and Maintenance Conference  --- March 15-16, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
Distribution Design and Staking Workshop  --- April 5-7, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
Safety and Technical Training Conference  --- April 19-20, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
Review of Industry Standards for Distribution Workshop  --- June 8, 2016 (Lone Tree, CO)
Transmission Operations and Maintenance Conference  --- June 23, 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.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $18 million in funding for six new solar energy storage projects. The integrated photovoltaic (PV) and energy storage projects will utilize internet capable inverters and will work in conjunction with utility communication and control systems, smart buildings and smart appliances. The projects are either led by a utility or include a utility as a key partner, and the teams will conduct at least a one-year field demonstration of their technologies. The projects are also part of the DOE's Grid Modernization Initiative.
SCE Receives CPUC Approval for 'Charge Ready' Pilot Program
Southern California Edison has received the green light from state regulators to begin a pilot project to support installation of as many as 1,500 electric vehicle charging stations within its service territory. The California Public Utilities Commission's approval clears the way for SCE to begin implementing its $22 million "Charge Ready" program to get more electric vehicle charging stations installed in locations where people park their cars for extended periods of time. For example, at workplaces, campuses, recreational areas and apartment and condominium complexes.
Appalachian Power has announced its preferred route for the first phase of planned transmission improvements that will benefit electric reliability for its customers in the Town of Abingdon, Va. and surrounding Washington County. Announced in September 2015, the Abingdon and Washington County Improvements Project is an approximately $50 million project that is divided into two phases: the South Abingdon Extension and the Washington County Improvements.
Meeting the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels will require increased use of renewable energy and reducing the CO2 intensity of fossil energy use. The intermittency of when the wind blows and when the sun shines is one of the biggest challenges impeding the widespread integration of renewable energy into electric grids, while the cost of capturing CO2 and storing it permanently underground is a big challenge for decarbonizing fossil energy.
Hurst Boiler is commissioning the first poultry litter-fueled boiler in the U.S. - the world's third such system - at a Clinton, North Carolina cogeneration facility. Commissioning is expected in mid-2016 at which time the system will support Prestage Farm's turkey operations. The 1600 HP is the first Hurst Boiler system in the country designed specifically to be fueled by poultry litter
A new report from the World Energy Council with lead authors from DNV GL forecasts strong growth in global adoption of electrical energy storage, citing dramatic reductions in the cost of electrical energy storage, yet finds that flaws in a common valuation methodology may be hindering growth. The report, E-Storage: Shifting from Cost to Value, by lead author Paul Gardner of DNV GL, reflects the work of 23 industry and academic experts from across the world who are in the World Energy Council Storage Knowledge Network, with significant contributions to cost analysis by PwC.
Enel Green Power last week began construction on its seventh Oklahoma wind project.
Drift Sand wind farm in Grady County will have a total installed capacity of 108 MW and be capable of generating more than 480 GWh of energy annually. The project is expected to cost about $180 million and be complete by the end of 2016.  The renewable energy credits from Drift Sand will be sold under a bundled, long-term power purchase agreement.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) acted last week to improve the cyber security of the bulk electric system by approving revisions to seven critical infrastructure protection (CIP) Reliability Standards, including requirements for personnel and training, physical security of the bulk electric system's cyber systems and information protection.
DTE Electric has filed a request with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to continue a multi-year grid modernization of southeast Michigan's electric distribution infrastructure. Average residential customer bills are expected to remain at 2012 levels or lower. The request was filed Monday, February 1, 2015. The requested rate adjustment of $344 million will enable the company to make significant improvements to the electric system's aging infrastructure and equipment. This aging equipment causes more frequent and longer power outages.
Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] has entered into a 17-year power purchase agreement for solar-generated electricity produced by Duke Energy Renewables. The renewable power purchase, which is expected to produce 30 megawatts (approximately 72,000 megawatt hours per year) of solar energy for the U.S. national grid, will provide clean energy across all Lockheed Martin domestic business segments. The new solar facility, operated by Duke Energy Renewables in Conetoe, North Carolina, is currently the largest solar power generating facility east of the Mississippi River producing 80 megawatts of total energy.
Apex Clean Energy Holdings, LLC, a renewable energy company, has agreed to invest $100 million in the construction and development of a wind and solar hybrid power project in Fort Hood, Texas. The combined installed capacity of the project will be 65.8 MW. The investment per MW will be USD1.51 million. The project is expected to become operational in 2017. The project will feature 50.4 MW of wind energy from the Cotton Plains Wind energy facility in Floyd County, Texas and 15.4 MW solar at Fort Hood, Texas.
Dominion Resources will spend about $4.4 billion to buy Questar in a big reach to the West for the East Coast energy company. Dominion is a power producer in the mid-Atlantic region. Questar is in the Rockies and a principal source of gas supply to Western states. There was a rush of deals last year among electric utility companies who are bulking up with demand weak and energy prices plunging. The combined business would serve about 4.8 million electric and gas customer accounts in seven states and would operate more than 15,500 miles of natural gas transmission, gathering and storage pipelines.
Buoyed by federal funds, Austin Energy will soon begin working on one of the world's toughest energy problems - how to integrate the reliable electric grid with solar energy, which is only created when the sun shines. Austin Energy is a recipient of a $4.3 million award announced today from the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative. Beginning February 1, 2016, Austin Energy will pilot a platform to enable and promote integrated distributed energy resources that include solar, battery storage, and smart inverter technologies. The effort will last several years and will enable two projects in East Austin to be part of an important innovation project.
For more than 125 years, APS has understood that - as one of the only large corporations headquartered in the state - the company has a responsibility to not only provide reliable energy service to its 1.2 million customers, but to strengthen and empower the communities it serves. This belief is embedded in the culture of the company, and starts at the top. APS announced today that its 2015 community investment in Arizona totaled more than $10 million. This amount includes grants, sponsorships, and in-kind donations from APS and the APS Foundation to nonprofit organizations and educators throughout the state. In addition, APS employees donated more than 123,000 hours in volunteer time to Arizona nonprofits, an economic impact of $2.8 million. 

Black Hills Corp. utility subsidiary Black Hills Utility Holdings, Inc. announced that on Jan. 15, 2016, it received approval from the Arkansas Public Service Commission to purchase SourceGas Holdings LLC. Black Hills and SourceGas filed the joint application on Aug. 10, 2015, with the Arkansas commission. "Today's announcement represents a significant milestone in our acquisition of SourceGas, and reaffirms our strategy that acquiring SourceGas will benefit both our shareholders and our customers," said Linn Evans, president and chief operating officer of Black Hills Corp. "As Arkansas is a new region for Black Hills, we look forward to serving and developing new relationships with these customers."
Feb. 1 marked Lincoln Electric System's 50th anniversary of powering Lincoln and surrounding communities. On Feb. 1, 1966, the not-for-profit electric utility was purchased by the city of Lincoln from Consumers Public Power District. "While much has changed over the 50 years LES has been providing service to our customer-owners, our principles have not," said Kevin Wailes, LES administrator & CEO. "We are still local people, serving local people with a commitment to high reliability, affordable rates, customer engagement and local control."
There will be nothing but net this Saturday at Sunrise Middle School. No, it's not a basketball game filled with the swish sound of a basketball going cleanly through the rim, but instead, robots will be front and center shooting for nothing but net. Beginning at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Kearney's Sunrise Middle School (4611 Ave. N), 32 teams of student robotic enthusiasts will compete in the Kearney VEX Robotics Competition, with the theme this year being "Nothing But Net." The competition is expected to run into the afternoon, with the finals tentatively scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. The event is co-sponsored by Kearney High School and the Nebraska Public Power District, and is open to the public with no admission fee.
PNM is investing in Corrales by improving the system currently bringing electricity to area homes and businesses. The improvements, totaling approximately $300,000, will ensure Corrales has reliable electric service during both normal usage and peak times such as cold winter days when furnaces need to kick on and hot summer months when air conditioners are running. "Corrales residents and businesses are growing in their need for electricity, yet this area is supplied through one main source that is becoming overloaded. PNM is investing into this system to ensure our equipment meets our customers' needs for electricity," said Aubrey Johnson, Vice President, PNM New Mexico Operations.
In a study issued today 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 third consecutive year - the sixth time in the last seven years SRP has been ranked highest in the study. SRP's overall customer satisfaction index was 747 out of a possible 1,000 points in the 2016 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study. SRP's performance improved by six index points. SRP scored highest in the West in four of the six customer satisfaction factors: Power Quality and Reliability, Billing and Payment, Corporate Citizenship and Communications.
Westar Energy was granted a Section 333 Exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration. The exemption grants the company authority to conduct commercial operations via unmanned aircraft systems (UAS - also referred to as drones) in approved airspace. Westar plans to use UAS to capture still images, video and other data to be used for inspection of utility infrastructure. This allows employees to conduct inspections without being in proximity to high-voltage equipment or to the hazards of working heights. It will also facilitate the safe inspection of hard-to-access or environmentally sensitive areas without the use of bucket trucks, helicopter or other utility vehicles.
Xcel Energy on Jan. 28 said that it has potential incremental capital investment opportunities that could increase the base capital forecast by $2.5 billion over the 2016-2020 timeframe, resulting in a total capital forecast of $17.7 billion for that timeframe. The capital expenditure programs of Xcel are subject to continuing review and modification, the company said. Actual utility capital expenditures may vary from the estimates due to changes in electric and natural gas projected load growth, regulatory decisions, legislative initiatives, reserve margin requirements, the availability of purchased power, alternative plans for meeting long-term energy needs, compliance with environmental requirements, renewable portfolio standards and merger, acquisition and divestiture opportunities, the company said.
Although compressed natural gas represents a cleaner and more efficient fuel for vehicles, its volatile nature requires a reinforced, heavy tank that stores the gas at high pressure and therefore limits vehicle design. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering are utilizing metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to develop a new type of storage system that would adsorb the gas like a sponge and allow for more energy-efficient storage and use.  The research, "Mechanisms of Heat Transfer in Porous Crystals Containing Adsorbed Gases: Applications to Metal-Organic Frameworks," was published this week in the journal Physical Review Letters by Christopher E. Wilmer, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, and postdoctoral fellow Hasan Babaei. Traditional CNG tanks are empty structures that require the gas to be stored at high pressure, which affects design and the weight of the vehicle. Dr. Wilmer and his lab are instead focused on porous crystal/gas systems, specifically MOFs, which possess structures with extremely high surface areas.
An international team of researchers has taken a step toward achieving controlled nuclear fusion--a process that powers the Sun and other stars, and has the potential to supply the world with limitless, clean energy. The team, led by scientists and engineers at the University of California, San Diego and General Atomics, developed a new technique to "see" where energy is delivered during a process called fast ignition, which is an approach to initiate nuclear fusion reactions using a high-intensity laser. Visualizing the energy flow enabled researchers to test different ways to improve energy delivery to the fuel target in their experiments. The researchers published their findings online in the Jan. 11 issue of the journal Nature Physics.