RMEL e-Newsletter January 2016


I hope 2016 has started off well for you ! We are looking forward to a great year as your association. We've got exciting new member offerings, like an Emerging Leader  Forum  at the Spring Management, Engineering and Operations Conference, which is coming up May 15-17th at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center in Denver, CO. This new  forum  stems from RMEL's Emerging Leader Award, which was launched two years ago. The program gives member organizations the opportunity to recognize individuals who are driving success for their company and the industry. The 2016 Emerging Leader Award nomination deadline is coming up  March 4, 2016 . If you would like to be considered or would like to nominate a colleague,  click here .

The Emerging Leader Award and subsequent programs were developed by the RMEL Board of Directors in a continuous effort to improve the association and use learning experiences to help us increase efficiencies and better serve RMEL's membership. RMEL has been successful since 1903 because of great leaders like today's Board of Directors continuously working to keep the association relevant. And you, the members, are the main key to that success. We appreciate your engagement and we also thank you for continuing to spread the word about RMEL and the electric energy industry.

Growing the industry is so important. For the past 15 years, the RMEL Foundation has given 197 scholarships totaling $480,500 to deserving students pursuing electric energy careers. The 2016 RMEL Foundation Scholarship deadline is February 11, 2016 . We are here to help engage young talent in your area and connect them to your company. Please send this link to your academic contacts and  send us their contact information   - we'll do the rest! This is an industry primed for invention and technological advances, and new employees with all types of skill-sets are needed!

Thank you, Steve Sax, for 10 
great years of the Intro. to the 
Electric Utility Workshop
RMEL is here to continue to build skillsets for every person at your organization. Last week we hosted the 2016 Introduction to the Electric Utility Workshop with instructor Steve Sax, General
Manager, Murfreesboro Electric Department. This was Steve's 10th year instructing the workshop for RMEL (and his 11th time teaching the course for RMEL). Congratulations to Steve on helping 752 individuals better understand this complex electric energy industry.

And that was just our first event of the year - we've got almost 30 more coming up. Check out the event calendar below, and we look forward to seeing you this year!

Don't Miss These Upcoming RMEL Events
Physical and Cyber Security Conference  --- January 26-27, 2016 (Phoenix, AZ)
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.

An administrative law judge has recommended approval of a route permit for Minnesota Power's Great Northern Transmission Line, a project designed to bring renewable hydroelectricity from Canada to Minnesota Power's customers in northeastern Minnesota. Minnesota Power is a utility division of ALLETE Inc. Administrative Law Judge Ann C. O'Reilly issued her findings of fact, conclusions and route recommendation for the project on Jan. 4. Although O'Reilly recommended a route in her report, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) has final authority over selection of the GNTL's eventual route. That decision is expected by March 2016.
With the dismissal of an appeal to a state Siting Council decision approving a natural-gas-fired power plant in Oxford, the last legal barriers have been cleared to the facility's construction. A Superior Court judge on Tuesday upheld the council's decision, ruling that the neighboring town of Middlebury and other power plant opponents would not be able to stop the facility, which has been discussed on and off for the past 17 years.The site on Woodruff Hill Road has already been cleared for construction of the 785-megawatt plant.
Business customer satisfaction with their electric utility is up substantially year over year, with significant improvements in communications, corporate citizenship and price satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power 2016 Electric Utility Business Customer Satisfaction Study. The study, now in its 17th year, measures satisfaction among business customers of 102 targeted U.S. electric utilities, each of which serves more than 25,000 business customers. In aggregate, these utilities provide electricity to more than 12 million customers. Overall satisfaction is examined across six factors (listed in order of importance): power quality and reliability; corporate citizenship; price; billing and payment; communications; and customer service. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.
It's a new trend with significant implications for the utility business model. If they don't act, utilities may get pushed off their own turf, but if they do act, they stand to reach much greater levels of engagement with their customers. All said, it's a strategic opportunity that demands a strategic answer. What I'm referring to is something we call "bring your own device" (BYOD). You may have been first introduced to this concept with the term "bring your own thermostat," but we prefer BYOD as the model isn't limited just to the Wi-Fi thermostats it's most often associated with today. Connected water heaters, pool pumps, EV chargers, and storage batteries all have the potential to be harnessed for demand management programs as well. No matter what kind of devices they target, utilities interested in employing BYOD need to get engaged early, incenting consumers to purchase the right devices that will become most useful in smart grid applications. There has never been a better time to get started.
Acciona Energy has started construction work on the 93 MW San Roman Wind Farm, located near the southeast coast of Texas. It is the eighth wind farm owned by the company in the U.S., bringing Acciona's US wind power capacity to 721 MW. The project was acquired by Acciona Energy from developer Pioneer Green Energy. Located in Cameron County, the San Roman Wind Farm will be equipped with 31 Acciona Windpower AW125/3000 wind turbines. Each turbine has a rotor diameter of 125 meters and will be mounted on an 87.5 meter steel tower. The new wind farm will be operational by the end of 2016.
In a proposed decision scheduled to be addressed Jan. 14, the California Public Utilities Commission would give flexibility to investor-owned utilities in how they procure energy storage capacity and allow customer-developed storage projects to count toward utility procurement targets, up to a certain level.  The proposed decision, which was made available Dec. 15, 2015, also defers resolution of some issues for later, such as requests to change the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment mechanism for approval of contracts resulting from the 2014 storage solicitation process.
This action limited the new transmission lines to replacement and upgrading of existing lines within existing rights-of-way, and adding new substation facilities at several locations. The New York State Public Service Commission last month voted to further its Alternating Current Transmission Proceeding, which will now advance to a competitive process managed by the New York Independent System Operator (NYISO). This action limited the new transmission lines to replacement and upgrading of existing lines within existing rights-of-way, and adding new substation facilities at several locations, which will reduce or eliminate adverse environmental, landowner, and economic impacts. The proposed project provides $1.20 in benefits for every dollar that it costs.
A longstanding reputation for low wind resources in comparison to the rest of the U.S. has led many developers to overlook the Southeast as a potential site for commercial wind energy projects. However, as turbine and resource mapping technologies improve, interest in the region is starting to increase.  As reported by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), SEWC, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), taller towers, longer blades, and improved electronics have significantly increased turbine output and efficiency and expanded the areas where wind energy projects are not only feasible but also profitable. Some projections for the next five-to-10 years indicate rapid growth in the Southeast, building on the success of an already well-established wind industry supply chain in the region.
The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected 10 projects to receive funding for research in support of the lab's program on Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal and Coal Byproducts. The selected research projects will further program goals by focusing on the development of cost-effective and environmentally benign approaches for the recovery of rare earth elements (REEs) from domestic coal and coal byproducts. The funded projects fall under two subtopic areas: (1) development of bench-scale and (2) pilot-scale technology to economically separate, extract, and concentrate mixed REEs from coal and coal byproducts, including solids and liquids from coal-related operations.
That bad weather can damage property and lives is already known. It also has turned out to be the leading cause of power outages in the United States. And that, in turn, has helped spur the formation of a consortium of electric utilities that plans to create a national stockpile of hard-to-replace spare transformers. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University, in a study published last year based on the responses of 195 utilities, found that in the past decade or so, the average duration of weather-related customer interruptions increased by 260% to 370 minutes.
Until now, South Korea has been the site of the world's largest fuel cell energy park, and now Connecticut has approved a slightly bigger one. Passed unanimously by the Connecticut Siting Council, Beacon Falls Energy Park in New Britain will produce 63.3 megawatts (MW) of energy - both power and heating, 24 hours a day to 60,000 homes and businesses. South Korea's produces 59 MW.
The Eastern Control Center, once a critical hub for BPA system operations, will be officially retired at the end of 2015. Reaching this milestone is largely due to the hard work and initiative from employees and contractors across the organization. Located in Moses Lake, Wash., the Eastern Control Center was originally built in the late 1950s to support military operations for the United States Air Force. The building housed huge computer systems that supported the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment system, a defense network used to track foreign bomber attacks. When the Department of Defense vacated the building, BPA took it over and converted the main floor to an alternate control center.
Incandescent lighting and its warm, familiar glow is well over a century old yet survives virtually unchanged in homes around the world. That is changing fast, however, as regulations aimed at improving energy efficiency are phasing out the old bulbs in favor of more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and newer light-emitting diode bulbs (LEDs). Incandescent bulbs, commercially developed by Thomas Edison (and still used by cartoonists as the symbol of inventive insight), work by heating a thin tungsten wire to temperatures of around 2,700 degrees Celsius. That hot wire emits what is known as black body radiation, a very broad spectrum of light that provides a warm look and a faithful rendering of all colors in a scene.
The Iowa Utilities Board has dealt another procedural setback to a company proposing a $2 billion transmission line to ship Iowa wind energy to customers in Illinois. The board voted 3-0 on Monday to reject the third request by Clean Line Energy Partners to split the case into two separate hearings. The board stood by its earlier rulings stating that it will decide whether to approve the Rock Island Clean Line and whether to grant the use of eminent domain in a single hearing. The company has said that approach means it has to invest tens of millions of dollars acquiring land while running the risk that regulators could later reject the line as not in the public interest.
The country's largest electricity company is on alert for cyberattacks that aim to hamper the critical flow of power and is listening to U.S. intelligence agencies about potential threats, the Duke Energy Corp. executive heading electronic protection efforts said. Duke Energy manages dams, nuclear power plants and other types of electricity-generating plants - three of the 16 types of infrastructure critical to American life that the U.S. is focused on protecting from criminal hackers and hostile governments. As the power supplier to more than 7 million customers in six Southeast and Midwest states, the utility's computer systems are under constant attack, Duke Energy Executive Vice President A.R. Mullinax said.
The Department of the Navy (DON) announced today a partnership with APS to develop a low-emission microgrid network that generates 25 megawatts (MW) of electricity at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma. This microgrid system will provide 100 percent of the backup power needed for MCAS Yuma in the event of a grid disruption, enhancing the base's reliability and security. A microgrid is an industry term used to describe a small-scale power grid that can operate independently or in conjunction with the area's main electrical grid.  APS has taken an industry lead to find innovative ways to increase customer and system reliability, and meet future resource needs by partnering with customers on microgrid projects, like MCAS Yuma.
Black Hills Energy is piloting an innovative energy efficiency program to a portion of its Colorado residential electric customers that will empower them save electricity and reduce their energy bill using personalized tools, information and energy-saving solutions the company provides. Beginning in January 2016, a randomly chosen group of 30,000 Black Hills Energy electric customers will be able to receive at no additional charge a personalized monthly Home Energy Report by mail or email. The report provides clearly defined, actionable information, customized energy efficiency tips and a report that provides an anonymous list of energy consumption at similarly sized and equipped homes nearby.
The El Paso Electric Company (EPE) Board of Directors announces that Mary Kipp, President of EPE, has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Thomas V. Shockley, who has served as CEO for EPE since 2012, has fulfilled his contract and will continue to play a vital role as a Board member. Shockley has been instrumental in positioning EPE as an industry leader and establishing succession planning that promotes local leadership and diversity, as he looks forward to the future of EPE. Mary Kipp was born in El Paso and raised in southern New Mexico. Kipp has been with EPE since December 2007, and has overseen several departments at the Company.
Crews will begin working to clear foliage in preparation for construction of an electric transmission line that will run about 4.5 miles from the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project to the Pella West Substation. The line is necessary to get power from the hydroelectric plant, which is under construction at the Red Rock Dam, to a point where it can be distributed. The transmission line will run along Highway T15 northward until it reaches G-28 and then will run eastward along Fifield Road to West 11th Street in Pella where it will run northward to the substation. The entire 69-kilovolt line will be in the public right-of-way, except where overhang or pole placement easements have been obtained from land owners, and will include single-pole structures with no guy wires.
An iconic insect on the decline in Nebraska will be getting an opportunity to grow. A 50 acre tract of land near Beatrice, owned by Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), will become a new breeding ground for the Monarch butterfly. NPPD and the Save Our Monarchs Foundation have joined together in an effort to provide a viable location to encourage the growth of the Monarch butterfly and other invertebrates. NPPD has signed an agreement with the Foundation to utilize approximately 50 acres of unused land west of its Beatrice Power Station to seed for milkweeds and other native flowering plants in an effort to help the Monarch butterfly population grow.
The Omaha Public Power District has taken another step toward cleaner power generation. OPPD moved closer to making necessary modifications to coal handling units in preparation for the retirement of North Omaha Station Units 1-3 later this year. At its monthly meeting today, OPPD's Board of Directors approved a negotiated contract process that will allow bidders to gain a better understanding of the work and to offer alternatives that may lower the cost to the district. The work includes segregating the large bunkering systems from the operating units that will remain in service and cleaning out residual coal, which has the potential to be combustible.
An organization that helps families with seriously ill children is one of the recipients of Blue Sky funding awards for community-based solar projects in Utah. Rocky Mountain Power today announced that $481,714 will be provided for seven new Blue Sky funding awards for solar projects during 2016. "More than 100 community-based renewable energy projects in Utah have been made possible by support from our Blue Sky customers over the years," said Alene Bentley, Rocky Mountain Power regional business manager. "The latest Blue Sky funding awards make it possible for several exciting community projects to be built in Utah, including a solar project at the Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City."
Platte River Power Authority is pleased to announce that its $3,000 Roy J. Rohla Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to a local student in 2016 through the RMEL Foundation. The application for the scholarship can be found by visiting www.RMEL.org and clicking RMEL Foundation. The application deadline is February 11, 2016. Platte River Power Authority donated $3,000 to the RMEL Foundation and asked that a scholarship be given to a high school senior or college student whose permanent residence is located in Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont, or Loveland.
What can reach 213 feet into the air and extend 92 feet side to side? Answer: the tallest utility truck in the United States, which is the newest piece of equipment in SRP's fleet to ensure the power stays on for customers. The vehicle, which runs on biodiesel, is called a Palfinger P650i. It is the tallest insulated aerial work platform in the U.S., which allows SRP linemen to work on energized 500-kilovolt power lines without shutting off power. By working "bare hand" on the transmission lines, customers aren't inconvenienced with scheduled maintenance.
Westar Energy has signed an agreement with PEQ, an Internet of Things provider, to develop Westar Home, which will provide customers a tool to manage energy and the convenience of managing smart devices such as lights, thermostats, locks and more, in their home through a single interface. Westar and PEQ tested the concept of smart home offerings and learned that consumers were aware and interested in the technology. The familiarity with their local utility brought strong brand recognition and it was viewed as a logical fit as it enables them to manage their home energy use.
Western Area Power Administration and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District are studying the environmental effects to constructing and operating a 500-kilovolt transmission line in Colusa and Sutter counties in California. The proposed Colusa-Sutter Transmission Line, or CoSu Line, would enhance the reliability of the electrical grid in Northern California by providing a new connection to the existing California-Oregon Transmission Project line in Colusa County, California. The proposed line would link to a new substation near the existing O'Banion Substation in neighboring Sutter County. The project would increase SMUD's ability to deliver clean power to the Sacramento area from the Pacific Northwest and other energy markets.
Louis Industries activated one of Minnesota's largest solar arrays, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. The family-owned steel manufacturing plant is using more than 1,200 solar panels to power its facility. New solar incentives made this an easy decision for a company committed to energy efficiency. "Everything started looking better. Xcel Energy's new capacity credit, federal tax incentives, and rapid depreciation made this a very good investment for us," said Leo Louis, CEO of Louis Industries. "We'd actually considered a wind turbine, but with solar costs coming down, now was the right time."
The price of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems installed on homes and small businesses spans a wide range, and researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have published a new study that reveals the key market and system drivers for low-priced PV systems. Berkeley Lab's Ryan Wiser, a co-author of the study, explains, "Despite impressive recent cost reductions, installed prices for small-scale PV systems in the United States continue to show wide pricing differences depending on the location of the installation, the installer, the components of the system, and other factors. Our work seeks to pinpoint the characteristics of recently-installed PV systems at the lower end of the observed solar price range."
Two University of California, Riverside assistant professors of physics are among a team of researchers that have developed a new way of seeing electrons cool off in an extremely short time period. The development could have applications in numerous places where heat management is important, including visual displays, next-generation solar cells and photodetectors for optical communications. In visual displays, such as those used in cell phones and computer monitors, and photodetectors, which have a wide variety of applications including solar energy harvesting and fiber optic telecommunications, much of the energy of the electrons is wasted by heating the material. Controlling the flow of heat in the electrons, rather than wasting this energy by heating the material, could potentially increase the efficiency of such devices by converting excess energy into useful power.