RMEL e-Newsletter October 2017
From the Desk of Richard Putnicki, Executive Director, RMEL
The Fall is upon us! Footballs are in the air, baseball is starting their second-season. The leaves are dropping, the first winter snow has arrived (and melted), and we find ourselves realizing the holidays are just a short time away. With a moment to come up for air, we stop to catch our breath and recognize 2017 will be coming quickly to an end.
I always find the Fall a time of reflection of what has happened year to date. It is said, "It is not how you start, but how you finish!" And I am liking how we are finishing our year at RMEL. Starting with the Fall Convention. Attendee feedback on the program content indicated the planning team and RMEL Board of Directors hit the mark. Our Keynote speakers, American Astronaut Mark Kelly and Washington Insider Rob Talley, did an excellent job setting the tone for both days of the Convention. As always, the insight and perspectives shared by our CEO panelists Mark Bonsall (SRP), Cindy Crane (Rocky Mountain Power), Dave Hutchens (UNS Energy), and Patrick Ledger (AEPC), scored the top rated session for the event. The Board also added a very controversial speaker to the program - most attendees didn't share this speaker's position or agree with the message; but, he certainly hit a nerve and got everyone discussing the ideologies of groups that are currently attacking the industry! It was an interesting exercise in challenging power industry "group think." We brought in presenters from outside the industry and the results were extremely favorable, warranting much follow up inquiry about how we can bring this insight to our organizations. And the industry topics were relevant and insightful, which included leadership, customer experience, electrification, crowdsourcing, the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council, the investor viewpoint of utilities, electric energy policy in a shifting political landscape and a wide range of high level topics from the popular CEO Panel, which provided a comprehensive wrap up to the Convention on Tuesday.
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"You are never wrong, doing the right thing." And that "right thing" was the RMEL Board honoring the work and leadership of some outstanding individuals in the industry. Congratulations to Jacqueline Sargent, General Manager, Austin Energy, who received the 2017 Distinguished Leadership Award. Dennis Grennan, VP, Power & Energy, HDR, received the 2017 Honorary Life Membership Award. Three Industry Leadership Awards were given in 2017 to Mike Brumage, Project Executive, Zachry Group; Jeff Karloff, Division Manager of Production Engineering and Fuels at Omaha Public Power District; and Robert Kondziolka, Director of Power Delivery Engineering, Salt River Project. Again, congratulations to all 2017 Award Winners, and thank you for your dedication to the electric energy industry. Get more details on these individuals
We would be remiss if we did not extend our appreciation to our outgoing President, Jon Hansen, VP Energy & Marketing, Omaha Public Power District, for his outstanding leadership throughout the year. The Fall Convention also provides an opportunity to usher in our new President. Thomas J. Kent, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Nebraska Public Power District, became RMEL's 2017-2018 President. Tom joined the RMEL Board of Directors in 2011 and has served as a member of the Executive Committee and held the positions of VP of Finance, and President-Elect. I am looking for a successful year working with Tom and his Board.
Get more details
As RMEL's Board leadership and convention topics change with the industry each year, it's impressive to see how the conversation evolves at the Fall Convention and how those discussions influence the direction of RMEL. Specifically, the Executive Vital Issues Forum provides an opportunity for the electric utility CEOs and VPs to talk about the critical industry topics that are sparking new strategies at their organizations. RMEL member executives agree that electric utilities are now the innovators as they diminish the old customer perception of the "regulated monopoly protecting its profits." Incorporating ideas from Fall Convention presentations, these industry leaders also touched on areas where they're seeing change at their utilities, including:
- Data Analytics and Algorithms
- Resource Mix Strategies (including at the distribution level)
- Customer Experience/Touchpoints
- Crowd sourcing
- Electric Vehicles
- Plant Cycling
- Joint/Integrated Planning Between Generation, Transmission and Distribution
- Renewable Integration
- And more
Look for these topics and so much more in RMEL's 30 events planned for 2018, and remember that you can share your critical topics and vital issues at the Fall Convention Planning Session
on November 2. This is great opportunity to work with fellow RMEL members to build the direction of RMEL for 2018.
UPCOMING 2017 EVENTS
Renewable Planning and Operations Conference
October 18, 2017
The Renewable Planning and Operations Conference is focused on generation and transmission renewable issues related to planning, integration, operations and new technologies. Presenters will discuss renewables such as wind, solar and biomass energy. The conference will also cover regulatory and policy issues.
November 2, 2017
Now that the 2017 Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention in Tucson has commenced, RMEL has already begun preparations for next Fall Convention at the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio, TX (September 16-18, 2018). The 2018 Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention Planning Session is your opportunity to help develop and plan the education topics covered at next year's Convention. This collaborative half-day meeting will last from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
November Safety Roundtable
November 3, 2017
The November Safety Roundtable will focus on a Bicycle Friendly Driver Program. Scott Samp, City of Fort Collins, provide information on the best and safest ways to share the road with people on bicycles. Developed by FC Bikes in collaboration with Bike Fort Collins the class addresses:
- Why sharing the road is the safest alternative for both motorists and bicyclists
- What's legal and what's not legal, for both motorists and bicyclists
- Common crashes and how to avoid them
- Why bicyclists "take the lane" and what motorists should do in response
- How to navigate bicycle related infrastructure such as: sharrows, bike boxes, and green lanes.
Mark Bannister, Master Trooper, Colorado State Patrol Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program Office, and Brian McNulty, Trooper, , Colorado State Patrol Motor Carrier Safety Assistance Program Office, will address pre-trip and post-trip inspections, how and when to properly complete DVIR's (daily vehicle inspection reports), the Colorado State Patrol roadside inspections, and load securement (PRPA will provide a mock set-up of a truck and trailer).
The inventive spirit at the 2017 Fall Convention is a great sign of what's to come for our industry in 2018 and beyond. Thank you for engaging in the RMEL member community as we work together toward RMEL's mission:
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.
I look forward to seeing you soon!
EDUCATION AND UPCOMING EVENTS
Registration is Now Open for 2018 Events!
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U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has announced approximately $36 million in federally-funded financial assistance to advance carbon capture technologies. Under the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Office Of Fossil Energy (FE), the Design and Testing of Advanced Carbon Capture Technologies funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will support cost-shared research and development projects that will continue the development of carbon capture technologies to either the engineering scale or to a commercial design. "Carbon capture technologies are one of the most effective ways we can continue to leverage the sustainability of our Nation's fossil fuel resources while advancing environmental stewardship," said Secretary Perry. "This funding opportunity will provide for further innovation on methods for capturing carbon emissions for storage and other utilization efforts, as well as underscore this Administration's commitment to both environmental and economic security."
As the Guajataca Dam spillway in Puerto Rico continues to erode after Hurricane Maria's September deluge of 35 inches of rain in some places, officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have released details of efforts being taken stabilizing the dam's spillway. The non-hydropower earthen dam is located in Northwest Puerto Rico, and provides flood-risk management and water supply to more than 350,000 residents. The dam impounds Guajataca River creating Guajataca Reservoir, which was built in 1928. According to Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the reservoir originally had the capacity to store 48.46 million cubic meters of water for domestic, agricultural and industrial use.
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is an ongoing humanitarian crisis that underscores the vulnerability of traditional power grids in the face of an unprecedented Atlantic hurricane season. While Texas and Florida both saw widespread electricity issues with Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Puerto Rico was dealing with a bankrupt power utility and widespread transmission problems even before the first raindrop fell. More than a week after the record-breaking storm, a full 95 percent of the island's 1.4 million power customers remain in the dark. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the main island electricity utility, estimates it has lost 80 percent of its transmission and distribution infrastructure.
American Transmission Co.'s 10-year plan for electric grid improvements calls for a mix of new construction and continued asset maintenance to maintain the company's top performance in operations.
"Our long-range planning efforts assure the reliability that our customers depend on," said Ron Snead, vice president of system planning. "The expenditures in this year's 10-Year Transmission System Assessment are reduced from recent years, reflecting the measures ATC has taken to improve electric reliability." Specifically, the plan calls for expenditures of $1.4 billion in asset maintenance, $0.48 billion in regional Multi-Value Projects, between $0.7 billion and $1 billion in network projects and between $0.3 billion and $0.8 billion in other capital expenditures.
Renewable natural gas (RNG), which is derived from biogas collected at landfills and other facilities, is increasingly used to meet government targets for renewable fuel production. In 2016, about 189 million gallons of RNG were used to meet about 82% of federal targets set specifically for cellulosic biofuel.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is a program implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to promote the incorporation of biofuels in the nation's fuel supply. Earlier this year, EPA released a proposed rule to determine 2018 renewable volume obligations, and total volumes will remain largely unchanged from 2017 levels. Volume obligations for two categories-advanced biofuel and cellulosic biofuel-were slightly reduced from 2017 levels.
Oncor Electric Delivery Co. and Sempra Energy on Oct. 5 filed with the Public Utility Commission of Texas an application requesting that the PUC find that Sempra's proposed acquisition of the about 80.03 percent indirect interest in Oncor, which is held by Energy Future Holdings Corp., is in the public interest and should be approved. As noted in the application, EFH indirectly owns about 80.03 percent of Oncor, while Texas Transmission Investment holds 19.75 percent of Oncor; the remaining 0.22 percent of Oncor is held by Oncor Management Investment, which is an investment vehicle owned by certain current and former Oncor directors and employees. EFH and 70 of its affiliates (referred collectively as the debtors), excluding Oncor and Oncor Electric Delivery Holdings Co. and their respective units, in April 2014 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in bankruptcy court in Delaware. The application added that Oncor has continued to operate during the pendency of the bankruptcy with ring-fencing protections that have been in place since 2008.
The Trump administration is moving to repeal the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama's efforts to slow global warming, seeking to ease restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. In a plan expected to be made public soon, the Environmental Protection Agency declares that an Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the 43-page document. The proposed rule would make good on President Donald Trump's campaign pledge to unravel Obama's efforts to curb global warming.
Hurricane Harvey caused significant though largely temporary disruption to the electrical grid of south Texas, the Energy Information Administration reported. At its peak, more than 10,000 MW of capacity experienced outages, along with a substantial number of transmission and distribution lines. EIA reported the outages were mostly caused by rain or flooding affecting generator fuel supplies, outages of transmission infrastructure and personnel unable to reach the generating facilities. Most of the transmission line outages, including six 345 kV lines and more than two hundred 69 kV-138 kV lines, were in the immediate area along the Gulf Coast where the hurricane made landfall.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced awards of up to $50 million to DOE's National Laboratories to support early stage research and development of next-generation tools and technologies to further improve the resilience of the Nation's critical energy infrastructure, including the electric grid and oil and natural gas infrastructure. This investment builds on the Department's ongoing efforts toward the rapid development and widespread adoption of tools and technologies that will help create a more resilient, secure, sustainable, and reliable electricity system that can meet the demands of the 21st century and beyond. "A resilient, reliable, and secure power grid is essential to the Nation's security, economy, and the vital services that Americans depend on every day," said Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. "As round-the-clock efforts continue to help communities recover from the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the need to continue strengthening and improving our electricity delivery system to withstand and recover from disruptions has become even more compelling. By leveraging the world-class innovation of the National Laboratories and their partners, this investment will keep us moving forward to create yet more real-world capabilities that the energy sector can put into practice to continue improving the resilience and security of the country's critical energy infrastructure."
Austin Energy's solar program was selected as a finalist in the Cities4Energy category for the C40 Cities Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards 2017 this week. Austin Energy is a community-owned electric utility and part of the City of Austin, which joins 11 other U.S. cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, which are among 25 finalists. The finalists' projects represent the most ambitious and innovative efforts by the world's great cities to tackle climate change.The fifth-annual C40 Cities Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards will celebrate the best projects across five categories: building energy efficiency & clean energy; sustainable transportation; reducing waste; climate action plans, and adaptation plans & programs. The winners will be announced in Chicago at the North American Climate Summit in December. The C40 Cities Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards 2017 will have a special focus on the leadership of U.S. cities on the global stage. Each category of the C40 Cities Bloomberg Philanthropies Awards 2017 will have a winner from an American city and a city from the rest of the world.
Basin Electric CEO and General Manager Paul Sukut issued the following statement Oct. 10, following U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt's announcement of the EPA's decision to rescind the Clean Power Plan. "Administrator Pruitt's announcement is a welcomed boost to our efforts to seek time and flexibility when it comes to developing a carbon management plan.
"As written, EPA's Clean Power Plan would've had significant impacts on Basin Electric and our membership. Of the 13 states that were projected to be hit the hardest by this rule, eight are in Basin Electric's service territory. Financially, Basin Electric would have to spend billions of dollars to comply - costs that would have been unfairly borne by our membership.
Black Hills Energy - Colorado Electric has announced the availability of a 500 kW direct current (DC) Community Solar Garden (CSG) standard offering to solar developers. The application process will open on September 29, 2017 at 8 a.m. MST and the capacity will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. This CSG Standard Offer is one of two new CSG program offerings by Black Hills in 2017. Community Solar Gardens allow customers alternative access to solar as a renewable energy resource, including those customers who otherwise could not own a solar energy system because they rent their home or do not have a suitable site or location. The 500 kW DC CSG Standard Offer supplements the existing 120 kW CSG in Black Hills' service territory, and also supports Black Hills' much broader efforts to introduce more choices in renewable energy for its 95,000 Colorado electric customers.
After helping restore power to thousands of customers left without electricity in Jacksonville, FL., CPS Energy is now headed to Key West. On Monday afternoon, CPS Energy received a request for mutual aid assistance from Keys Energy Services for help to bring electricity back on for their customers.
CPS Energy crews will leave Jacksonville at 9am EST tomorrow to travel over 500 miles to the southern tip of Florida. Keys Energy Services is currently reporting 8,400 customers are without electricity. Crews are expected to begin work on Wednesday afternoon and are prepared to assist in Key West for up to two weeks. "We are extremely honored to have been asked to support Keys Energy Services in restoring power to their community," said Rudy Garza Senior VP Distribution Services & Operations. "The men and women of CPS Energy are humbled at the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and bring support to the people of Key West."
El Paso Electric Company announced that the City of El Paso approved, in principle, the settlement terms for EPE's rate case pending in Docket No. 46831 before the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT). No party in the case has indicated that it intends to oppose the proposed settlement. Key terms of the proposed settlement include: (i) an annual non-fuel base rate increase of $14.5 million; (ii) a return on equity of 9.65%; (iii) a determination that all new plant in service was prudent and used and useful and therefore is included in rate base; and (iv) allowing EPE to recover reasonable rate case expenses, subject to Commission Staff's review and currently estimated to be approximately $3.0 million, through a separate surcharge over a three year period.
KCP&L and Spire (formerly Missouri Gas Energy, or MGE) have created a partnership so eligible residential customers, utilizing both utility services, may receive energy savings and bill reductions from both energy sources. These mutual customers may also receive additional rebates for approved insulation and home air sealing. The increased rebate hopes to encourage more homeowners to add insulation to their homes, as well as consider air sealing to discourage heating and cooling air loss. Eligible customers can also participate in the Energy Savings Kit and receive a free, high-level home energy assessment, where a KCP&L home energy efficiency professional will walk homeowners through their home and show specific areas that can easily be improved to increase efficiency; as well as install several items that can lower energy costs, such as LED light bulbs, low flow faucet aerators and shower heads and a smart power strip.
Lincoln Electric System is celebrating Public Power Week, an annual event coordinated by the American Public Power Association, Oct. 1-7. LES joins more than 2,000 other public power systems in the U.S. taking the time to reflect on the benefits of public power and recognize how publicly owned utilities provide electricity to the 49 million customers they collectively serve across the country. Public power utilities like LES serve an important role in the electric utility industry and their communities. Although each public power system is different, all are locally owned, locally governed and share the common goal of providing reliable and safe electricity for their customers at a reasonable price. "Public Power Week celebrates the reliable, affordable electricity LES provides in our community," said LES CEO Kevin Wailes. "Public Power puts the people in our service territory first, and this week gives us the chance to emphasize the advantages of community-owned power to our customers. LES' service is reliable and safe and we take pride in serving our friends, families and neighbors."
It's harvest season in Nebraska. And Nebraska Public Power District is reminding farmers to "look up and around" for power lines when harvesting this fall. A little over a week ago, a grain trailer came into contact with an NPPD power line, resulting in damage to the tires on the grain trailer and to the line itself. "It was very fortunate that no one was injured," commented Transmission and Distribution Manager Art Wiese, about the contact with the power line. "We have had a few other power line contacts this year and are urging farm operators to look up and around in order to be aware of overhead power lines." Wiese noted that taking a few minutes to look for overhead electric lines may be life-saving time well spent.
PacifiCorp is formally seeking proposals to build new wind projects by 2020 as part of a broader wind and transmission expansion plan. The request for proposal (RFP), issued Sept. 27, establishes a competitive bidding process for the company to select the most cost effective way to add at least 1,100 megawatts of new wind generation to the resource mix used to serve customers across six states. The exact capacity of the new resources will depend upon response from the market. As envisioned, the proposed additional wind generation would produce power equivalent to the annual consumption of approximately 400,000 typical homes and would expand the amount of PacifiCorp's owned or contracted wind serving customers by about 35 percent.
Salt River Project's Board of Directors has approved the purchase of two 550-megawatt natural gas generating units at the Gila River Power Station, located near Gila Bend. SRP is buying Blocks 1 and 2 at the site from CXA Sundevil Power I, and CXA Sundevil Power II Inc. for $330 million. In a separate motion, the Board approved a purchase power agreement (PPA) that will allow the sale of power from Block 2 to Tucson Electric Power (TEP). That PPA includes an option for TEP to purchase Block 2 at a future date. The purchase of Block 1 at the plant will help SRP economically meet system needs and defer planned capital expenditures associated with the construction of new generating assets.
The Mountain West Transmission Group (Mountain West) announced that it has completed initial discussions with the Southwest Power Pool's (SPP) management team, concerning membership in the SPP regional transmission organization (RTO). Through these discussions, Mountain West has determined that membership in SPP would provide opportunities to reduce customer costs, and maximize resource and electric grid utilization. Mountain West intends to commence negotiations with SPP through a public stakeholder process next month, to begin with meetings to take place Oct. 13 in Denver and Oct. 16 in Little Rock, Ark. These stakeholder meetings are intended to accommodate stakeholders and interested parties in areas served by both Mountain West and SPP members, and will be open to the public and press.
Tucson Electric Power (TEP) has secured use of an efficient, low-cost, natural gas power plant that will diversify the company's energy portfolio and support efforts to deliver at least 30 percent of the company's power from renewable resources by 2030. TEP has reached an agreement with Salt River Project (SRP) to purchase the output of Unit 2 at the gas-fired Gila River Power Station near Gila Bend, Arizona. TEP, which already shares ownership of Gila River Unit 3, also secured an option to purchase Unit 2 from SRP, which is acquiring Units 1 and 2 at the plant. "This modern, low-cost natural gas resource will help us maintain affordable, reliable service for customers as we reduce our reliance on coal-fired generating resources and build a more balanced and flexible resource portfolio," said David G. Hutchens, TEP's President and CEO.
Xcel Energy's Solar*Rewards Community® program now has 40 active community solar gardens delivering more than 100 megawatts of clean, renewable energy to customers - making this the largest community solar garden program in the country. "This is a significant moment for the solar industry and we want to recognize all the partners who played a role in making Solar*Rewards Community® the largest community solar garden program in the nation," said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy-Minnesota. "Xcel Energy recognizes that our customers and communities want more renewable energy options. We are well on our way to deliver a third of our energy from renewables by 2030, and solar plays a role in achieving this ambitious goal."
A "cool flame" may sound contradictory, but it's an important element of diesel combustion -- one that, once properly understood, could enable better engine designs with higher efficiency and fewer emissions. Sandia National Laboratories mechanical engineer Jackie Chen and colleagues Alex Krisman and Giulio Borghesi recently identified novel behavior of a key, temperature-dependent feature of the ignition process called a cool flame in the fuel dimethyl ether. The adjective cool is relative: the cool flame burns at less than 1,150 degrees Kelvin (1,610 degrees Fahrenheit), about half the typical flame burning temperature of 2,200 degrees Kelvin. While cool flames were first observed in the early 1800s, their properties and usefulness for diesel engine design have only recently been investigated.