RMEL e-Newsletter September 2017
RMEL Report
From the Desk of Richard Putnicki, Executive Director, RMEL
I wish to start this month's eNews with my heartfelt wishes to all those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.  I feel certain that a large majority of you all know someone personally, or a company, that experienced the wrath of that storm. Some were fortunate, as my daughter, to escape any serious flooding or damage, and more importantly, injury. Unfortunately, others were not so lucky. I encourage you all to do your part, whatever your heart tells you, to aid in their assistance, as it will be a long recovery. Now the attention is shifted off Harvey, to prepare for Irma with hopes of minimal impact. The silver lining I see in these situations, which makes me especially proud to be a part of our industry, is how we all come together to serve and support our fellow utilities to restore service for their customers. With that, I applaud those utilities from around the country that are supporting the restoration efforts in Southeast Texas and parts of Louisiana. When devastation like Hurricane Harvey happens, it's really something to see how everyone lends a helping hand. Thank you for all you do!  Be safe, my friends!   

Working cooperatively side by side is what it's all about and that's how this association got started. A group of electric utility employees back in 1903 started the "Rocky Mountain Electric League" to discuss the industry and share what they'd learned to ensure they made the most from successes, mistakes, lessons learned and challenges. The very first RMEL Fall Convention was held in October of 1903, and now 114 years later, electric utility executives from across the country will meet up September 17-19th at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, to explore the New Power Industry Frontier. There's still time to register! This is the best strategic power industry event to plan for 2018 and beyond. The full brochure featuring strategic leaders in our industry is available here . RMEL members designed 9 strategic, senior-level presentations to comprehensively examine the power industry and provide solid, thought-provoking advice for your organization, including:
  • Keynote SpeakerMark Kelly, Commander of Space Shuttle Endeavour's Final Mission & Space and Aviation Contributor For NBC News/MSNBC
  • Day 2 Keynote Speaker: Rob Talley, Talley & Associates, will discuss Electric Energy Policy in A Shifting Political Landscape
  • CEO Panel (Now on Tuesday!): featuring Mark Bonsall, CEO & General Manager, SRP; Cindy Crane, President & CEO, Rocky Mountain Power; David Hutchens, President & CEO, UNS Energy; and Patrick Ledger, CEO, Arizona Electric Power Cooperative 

Get tips from the Disney Institute to align your organization with changing customer expectations; hear EPRI's discussion on how efficient electrification can impact an Integrated Energy Network; Jim Marston will talk about climate change and Trump; you'll learn about the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council's partnership with DOE; hear the investor community outlook of the current and future state of the electric utility industry; discover a tool NASA uses to promote innovation in finding solutions, and so much more.

Events throughout the rest of 2017 and into 2018 will dive into industry subsectors, topic areas, skillsets and emerging trends.


PLANNING SESSION: 2018 Spring Management, Engineering and Operations Conference
October 5, 2017
The  2018 Spring Management, Engineering & Operations Conference Planning Session is your opportunity to share ideas for topics covered at next year's Spring Management, Engineering & Operations Conference. This collaborative half-day meeting will last from 8:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. There has never been a more important time to get involved with RMEL educational planning. Your opinion about the direction of the Spring Conference will be heard at this planning session. All members are invited and encouraged to participate and bring ideas or names of possible speakers. This meeting is crucial in the development of next year's Conference agenda and topics. Mark your calendar for the 2018 Spring Conference in Keystone, Colorado, May 20-22, 2018!

Distribution Engineers Workshop
October 11-12, 2017
Distribution engineers and designers will have a unique opportunity to hear from a wide range of organizations during the Distribution Engineers Workshop. Instructors will provide an overview of the flow from the substation down to the customer, substation overview, system protection/fuse coordination, reclosers (traditional & bi-directional), regulators (including ratings, focus on overhead), capacitors, automatic throw overs (ATOs), products and modeling software, and much more.  

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 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.
Planning Session: 2018 Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention
November 2017
The entire membership is invited to help plan the topics and speakers for the 2018 RMEL Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention. The planning session will be held in November - the exact date will be announced soon. The 2018 Fall Convention will take place September 16-18, 2018, at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio in San Antonio, TX. By attending the planning session, you help direct the education provided at the Convention.  Presentations should be senior management focused.  The topics can range from CEO vision of the future to project case studies.  Bring your topics and/or speakers, appropriate for the Fall Convention venue, to this meeting.


These are the preliminary events on the docket for 2018, so make sure they're in your education budget for next year!
  • Introduction to the Electric Utility Workshop
  • Physical and Cyber Security Conference
  • Safety Roundtable - February 2018
  • Power Supply Planning and Projects Conference
  • Transmission Planning and Operations Conference
  • Distribution Overhead and Underground Operations and Maintenance Conference
  • Safety  Conference and Roundtable
  • Spring Management, Engineering and Operations Conference
  • Women in Energy Conference
  • RMEL Foundation Golf Tournament
  • Plant Management, Engineering and Operations Conference
  • Leaders Developing Future Leaders
  • Safety Roundtable - August 2018
  • Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention
  • 2019 Spring Management, Engineering and Operations Conference Planning Session
  • Distribution Engineers Workshop
  • Renewable Planning and Operations Conference
  • Transmission Operations & Maintenance Conference
  • 2018 Fall Executive Leadership and Management Convention Planning Session
  • Safety Roundtable - November 2018
  • Plant Cycling Workshop
  • Electric Utility System Operations Workshop
  • Transmission Project Management Workshop
  • Environmental Conference
  • Distribution Overhead and Underground Line Staking Workshop
  • Arc Flash Workshop
  • Standards Workshop
  • Meyers Briggs Workshop
Every event, topic, presentation and speaker idea that RMEL puts forth comes from a member describing a challenge and fellow members responding to that need. Everyone is working together. Be sure to share your vital issues with us by contacting me directly at rickputnicki@rmel.org or (303) 865-5544. You can send Generation, Transmission and Distribution topic ideas and needs to jamessakamoto@rmel.org, and Safety and Vital Issues/Management topics/needs go to ashleighiverson@rmel.org.
Thank you for being a part of RMEL's member community!

Don't Miss These Upcoming RMEL Events
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 Conference --- October 18, 2017 (Lone Tree, CO)
Safety Roundtable - November 2017 --- November 3, 2017 (Fort Collins, CO)


Join RMEL's Groups on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook
RMEL's trusted network is now accessible on Facebook , LinkedIn and Twitter . These are forums intended for RMEL members only. Working side by side in a cooperative manner, RMEL members band together for the common goal of bettering the industry and improving service for utility customers. For more than 100 years, these key principles have proven successful and more importantly are tried and true methods for building strong business relationships.

RMEL Champions is a prestigious group of RMEL supporters with access to useful and beneficial promotional opportunities. Click here to see a list of the 2017 RMEL Champions.

Florida Power & Light Co. mobilized a restoration workforce of more than 11,000 employees and contractors in preparation for the landfall of Hurricane Irma. The company has activated more than 20 staging sites and is already pre-positioning crews in the areas anticipated to be hardest hit, so they are ready to respond safely and as quickly as possible. FPL is continuing to secure additional support and resources from out-of-state utilities and electrical contracting companies.
It is being called the worst disaster in Texas history. And AEP Texas' service area bore the brunt of damage from the the strongest storm in terms of wind speed to hit the country since Charley in 2004. AEP Texas estimates last week that at least 2,100 utility poles and 55 transmission structures had been damaged or knocked down by the storm. Most of the utility poles were knocked down. On Aug. 28, AEP Texas requested an additional 1,000 personnel over and above the 3,600 who had already committed to the restoration of power in the Coastal Bend in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Officials say an Alaska coal plant created to generate cheap energy is expected to be operational next year. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (http://bit.ly/2wLwwvZ ) Golden Valley Electric Association President and CEO Cory Borgeson said Tuesday MillPro LLC "assured the board of directors the plant will work." Golden Valley Electric Association purchased the dormant coal power plant in 2013 for $44 million, and officials knew it would need improvements. But two days after passing its commissioning test in March 2016, a "mill puff explosion" shut down the plant. A second mill puff explosion halted the plant again in November 2016. Golden Valley Electric Association hired MillPro to determine why the explosions occurred. Borgeson says the firm determined "minor modifications" must be made to improve pressure levels in the coal feed system.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has issued a pair of original licenses for hydropower projects to be located on U.S. Army Corps of Engineer facilities in Fayette County, Pa., and Gallia County, Ohio.  The first license, awarded to Solia 8 Hydroelectric LLC, will allow for the development of a 5 MW project at the Corps' existing Point Marion Lock and Dam facility. The complex is located on the Monongahela River near Point Marion, Pa., and will occupy 1.44 acres of federal land administered by the Corps.  Solia 8 said the project will modify the Point Marion Dam by removing the fixed-crest weir on its east side to accommodate the construction of a new intake channel and powerhouse. The intake structure will convey flows through a trash rack to a powerhouse that will house two equally sized Kaplan turbines before exiting back into the river. Power generated by the plant will be transferred via a new substation to an existing medium-voltage transmission line.
The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected nine projects to receive $5.4 million in federal funding to support university-based fundamental turbine research. The new research projects were selected under the funding opportunity announcement University Turbine Systems Research (UTSR), which aims to address scientific challenges and applied engineering technology issues associated with advancing the performance and efficiency of gas turbines in combined cycle power generation applications.
This facility is one of a series of initiatives and partnerships underway at Ameren. We are focused on innovation because we are planning for a future grid that operates much differently-an integrated grid that offers new products and services for our customers. We built our new microgrid in Champaign, Illinois to test how to cost effectively and safely deliver energy from renewable, clean sources to our customers. We have three leased Distributed Energy Resources (DER) on the site: a solar array that can supply up to 125 kilowatts, a 160-foot wind turbine that produces up to 100 kilowatts, and two natural gas units with capacity of 500 kilowatts each. The leased generation assets are supplemented by 250-kilowatt battery storage than can supply about two hours of energy. The industry experts who have visited the facility tell us that it is the most technologically advanced utility scale microgrid in North America because we're able to seamlessly transition the power source for an entire distribution circuit from exclusively distributed renewable generation sources to the traditional grid.
Though headlines were dominated by President Donald Trump's subsequent comments on Charlottesville protests, the president signed an executive order that would streamline permitting regulations for infrastructure projects, a move supported by the utility industry. Part of the order eliminates the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard, instituted by President Obama in 2015, that requires the government to account for rising sea levels when building infrastructure, the New York Times reported.  Additionally, the order directs one lead federal agency to work with others to complete environmental reviews and other permitting decisions within 90 days. Agencies are also tasked to process environmental reviews within two years. "It's going to be a very streamlined process, and by the way, if it doesn't meet environmental safeguards, we're not going to approve it," Trump said.
Construction is underway on a joint effort by Entergy Louisiana and Cleco to construct a new storm-hardened transmission line that will strengthen service reliability for customers across southeast Louisiana. The 36-mile line will stretch from Gray to Patterson on steel structures designed to withstand winds of up to 150 mph. The final portions of the project are expected to be completed by fall 2018. "This project is a great example of two utilities working together to benefit customers of both companies," said Melonie Stewart, Entergy Louisiana's regional director of customer service. "It's part of Entergy Louisiana's commitment to invest in upgrading our power grid to better serve our customers."
TransCanada's $12bn Energy East pipeline and the Eastern Mainline projects are in doubt after the company filed a letter to Canada's National Energy Board (NEB) seeking a 30-day suspension of their applications. The move from TransCanada comes after last month's decision from the Canadian energy regulator to cover a wide range of topics before making a decision on the approval of the projects. According to TransCanada, the 4,600km Energy East pipeline will run from Alberta and Saskatchewan to Eastern Canada refineries to transport 1.1-million barrels of crude oil per day.
The future of what could be the largest wind facility in the United States is now in doubt as the Oklahoma Attorney General seeks to revoke approval. The Public Utility Division of Attorney General Mike Hunter filed a motion indicating state regulators should dismiss approval, claiming AEP did not follow competitive bidding rules and hasn't shown a need for new generation, the Oklahoman reported. AEP subsidiary Public Service Co. of Oklahoma indicated Wind Catcher would cause an annual increase in customer rates by $80 million, though the higher costs would be covered by federal wind production tax credits and fuel savings. The attorney general's office claims Wind Catcher, combined with a $156 million rate increase proposed in June, will result in a $250 million annual rate increase by 2021. "The attorney general's full participation is essential, as PSO's customers are at risk to bear the $1.36 billion cost of the Wind Catcher project if the commission grants PSO's requested relief," the motion said. PSO supported the attorney general's request for an independent evaluator, though the company feels Wind Catcher's development should proceed. "We believe the commission will allow the case to move forward and ultimately support the project moving forward so these benefits can be realized," the utility said.
Hurricane Irma, one of the largest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic, caused significant damage to the northeastern Caribbean and is currently projected to make landfall this weekend. Current model forecasts project that Hurricane Irma will then pass along or just offshore the east coast of Florida, although the actual storm track could change from current projections. To help analysts assess potential energy-related storm effects, EIA maintains an energy disruptions map that displays energy infrastructure and real-time storm information. Hurricane Irma initially made landfall in the Caribbean as a Category 5 hurricane with sustained wind speeds of more than 185 miles per hour, which made it the second-largest hurricane ever recorded and tied it with the 1935 Florida Keys hurricane as the largest Atlantic hurricane to make landfall. In advance of the storm, states of emergency were declared in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida. Thirty counties in Georgia are also under a state of emergency, as are the states of North Carolina and South Carolina.
Having restored power to more than 79,000 customers since Tropical Storm Harvey brought heavy wind and rain to Austin, Austin Energy is now preparing to send aid to harder hit parts of Texas. On Aug. 31, five Austin Energy contract crews deployed to assist AEP Texas in restoring power near the Texas Gulf Coast. Through a Mutual Aid Agreement, Austin Energy is sending eight tree-trimming crews to AEP, along with three 3-person trucks, one 2-person bucket truck and one general foreman. In addition, Austin Energy sent 17 network protectors to CenterPoint Energy, the distribution company that serves Houston. A network protector is a highly specialized type of electric device used in distribution systems that helps prevent service interruption. They are typically used in downtown areas.
Instead of rebuilding about 20 miles of transmission and distribution poles and wires, Arizona Public Service (APS) will  install two battery storage systems in rural Punkin Center, Arizona, making it one of the first electricity companies in the nation to use batteries in place of traditional infrastructure. The two 4-megawatt-hour (MWh) Advancion┬« batteries are made by AES Energy Storage. Construction on the project will begin in fall 2017. "This project is a crucial step in the right direction for Arizona's energy future," said Scott Bordenkircher, APS's Director of Transmission and Distribution Technology Innovation and Integration. "Over the next 15 years, APS has plans to add 500 megawatts of storage capacity. This project is indicative of the type of smart grid APS envisions for customers, one that enables people to have more technology in their own homes."
In response to requests from American Electric Power (AEP) Texas and the Texas Mutual Assistance Group, CPS Energy is sending several crews and support teams to Schulenburg, Texas to assist with storm restoration efforts. From here, crews will coordinate efforts to help restore power to south Texas residents. Hurricane Harvey has affected much of south and east Texas area with power outages resulting from heavy rains and strong winds. It is reported that more than 100,000 AEP customers are without power at this time. "We are fortunate to be in a position to assist," said Rudy Garza Senior Vice-President of Distribution Services & Operations at CPS Energy. "Our guys are proud to respond to the request. Our team is great at storm restoration and in the spirt of our community will represent CPS Energy and our San Antonio Community well in our effort to help our fellow Texans."
On August 24, 2017, the Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) in El Paso Electric Company's (EPE) (NYSE: EE) pending case to change its Texas retail electric rates in Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) Docket No. 46831 issued an order to abate the hearing on the merits, which commenced on August 21, 2017.  The hearings were abated to facilitate settlement discussions among the parties.  The outcome of any hearing or settlement would be subject to review by the PUCT.  EPE expects to file a status report on settlement progress with the ALJs on a weekly basis.
Westar Energy, Inc. (NYSE: WR) and Great Plains Energy Incorporated (NYSE: GXP) today asked the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) to approve their proposed merger. The neighboring utilities intend to apply for Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC) approval by Aug. 31. The revised transaction is a stock-for-stock merger of equals that would create a new company serving 1.6 million customers with a combined equity value of approximately $14 billion. "The KCC recognized the unique value of bringing Westar and Great Plains together. We appreciate the opportunity to present this new merger of equals for their consideration," said Mark Ruelle, president and chief executive officer of Westar Energy. "Our customers will have a stronger company with less pressure on prices. Our shareholders will see a dividend increase and opportunity for long-term growth."
Lincoln Electric System is ready for the next step in its latest long-range planning process with its third and final Integrated Resource Plan public meeting 6-7:30 p.m., Aug. 24, 2017, at the Walter A. Canney Service Center. This meeting will focus on reviewing the final draft of the report and the related action plan, which includes details on the future of the Western Area Power Administration contract, Sustainable Energy Program and smart thermostat pilot program. The LES Administrative Board will take action on the report at its Sept. 15, 2017, meeting. The IRP is a blueprint developed every five years to help forecast when power resources will be needed, what the power-generation mix should look like and how the utility will bring it together to best serve its ratepayers in the future.
The Omaha Public Power District's latest transmission project, the Sarpy Transmission Project (STP), will support continued commercial, industrial, and residential growth in Sarpy County. At its regular monthly meeting today, the Omaha Public Power District Board of Directors received an update on this and other transmission projects. For STP, a new high-voltage overhead transmission line in Papillion will connect substations near 114th and Giles Road, and 144th and Schram Road. OPPD held a well-attended public meeting Aug. 3 for customers and other stakeholders within the project area. With input received during that process, as well as by phone and through oppdlistens.com, the project team plans to announce a final route for the 161-kilovolt (kV) line in early September. Construction should begin in summer 2018, and the line is slated to be in energized and in service by December 2019. More information and the latest project updates are available at oppdlistens.com.
Nearly 20 years ago, Platte River Power Authority (Platte River) became the first utility in the region to provide wind energy to customers in Colorado - from the Medicine Bow Wind Project. The Medicine Bow facility continues to provide emission-free electricity to customers in northern Colorado and Platte River has added more renewable sources over time. Indeed, renewable energy supplied from wind and solar generation has nearly quadrupled since 2013 and non-carbon sources (wind, solar and hydropower) now comprise nearly one-third of the electricity provided to Estes Park, Fort Collins, Longmont and Loveland. Platte River and our owner communities have also invested over $40 million in energy efficiency programs since 2002 - reducing load growth by over 25% and cutting greenhouse gases and other emissions. These programs have helped our owner communities' residents and businesses save over $60 million so far on their energy costs, and savings continue to accrue over time.
More than 750 Salt River Project customers are participating in the Advanced Inverter study to investigate how solar and other types of customer-generated energy sources impact the grid. The purpose of the pilot study, which is being conducted in conjunction with the Electric Power Research Institute, is to better understand how advanced inverters can help maintain grid reliability as solar installations increase. Advanced inverters offer additional functionalities compared to traditional inverters that can support power quality and enable the ability to be controlled remotely. SRP has installed more than 750 advanced inverters on new and existing residential solar installations, and began collecting data in July. This study is one of the first of its kind to look at this technology from the customers' side of the meter.
Empire District will begin its annual aerial inspection of Company transmission lines and substations today. The inspection is expected to continue through August 19; however, the length of the program is dependent upon weather and wind conditions. The aerial inspection process uses a low-flying helicopter to survey approximately 1,300 miles of transmission line throughout Empire's electric service territory. The survey focuses on identifying potential problems with transmission structures, hardware, conductors, and vegetation. The process uses a high resolution infrared imaging system to detect potential equipment issues that may go undetected in a typical visual inspection. According to Blake Mertens, Vice President of Electric Operations, "Annual aerial inspection is an important part of our routine maintenance program designed to ensure safe and reliable operation of the transmission system. The high resolution infrared system helps us detect and address issues before they result in an outage for customers."
Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, Inc., is upgrading an existing transmission line (link is external) segment between the Montrose Substation west of Montrose, Colorado, to the Nucla Substation near Nucla, Colorado. Tri-State's construction contractor will begin upgrading the line segment beginning in September 2017 and is scheduled to complete the project in October 2018. Access road improvements and power pole pad construction is already underway in the Uncompahgre National Forest. "No site closures are planned at this time," said Diana Leiker, Tri-State project supervisor. "Recreationists are encouraged to continue to enjoy their favorite activities."
The United Power Board is soliciting applications from members interested in being considered to fill an open seat in the cooperative's South District. When seats are vacated mid-term the Board has the option of appointing a member to serve the remainder of the term, and they decided at their August board meeting to proceed with this process. "While it's rare that the Board needs to make an appointment, there is some precedent for this situation - whether by resignation or through a death or illness of the board member," stated James Vigesaa, United Power Board President. "With more than two years remaining on the term for this seat, the Board has decided that an appointment would be the best way to seat a qualified candidate and make certain our board continues to be representative of our membership."
Tucson Electric Power has established a powerful partnership with the University of Arizona. The two Tucson institutions have worked together for many years to expand educational opportunities, promote renewable energy research, provide learning opportunities for local teachers and develop innovative products. The Solar Zone at the UA Tech Park  , a joint venture of TEP, the university and solar developers, is one of the largest multi-technology solar demonstration sites in the United States.  Nine solar power systems at the site contribute 25 megawatts to TEP's renewable energy portfolio. The first-of-its-kind research park is located at Rita Road near Interstate 10.
Xcel Energy announced a donation of $100,000 to the American Red Cross to assist with Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts. The company is making the contribution through the Xcel Energy Foundation, a non-profit organization. "The heartbreaking devastation has moved all of us. Lives have been lost, communities destroyed and families displaced. At times like this, it's important to lend a hand to our neighbors on the Gulf Coast," said Ben Fowke, Xcel Energy chairman, president and CEO. "The American Red Cross is working around the clock to help people in need, and we are pleased to make a contribution to these essential relief efforts."
A new technology has been created that could make fuel cells cheaper and more durable. Hydrogen-powered fuel cells are a green alternative to internal combustion engines because they produce power through electrochemical reactions, leaving no pollution behind. Platinum is the most common catalyst in the type of fuel cells used in vehicles, but it's expensive. The UD team used a novel method to come up with a less expensive catalyst.