Risk management, safety, support cost analysis and systems reliability were just a few of the issues examined by electric utility industry leaders during the EUCG Fall Conference & Workshop in Denver.
EUCG, a global association of energy and electric utility professionals, meets semiannually to discuss current and emerging industry issues, share best practices and exchange data for benchmarking purposes. The association is in its 39th year of service to the power industry.
"Safety and systems reliability are two major focuses of the electric utility industry today," remarked EUCG President George W. Sharp from AEP (NYSE: AEP). "Our members gathered for this workshop to become better prepared to face the challenges of the future and to make better and more informed decisions in their roles in their organizations."
"There were a lot of synergies across multiple presentations from different providers in this workshop that led to a common discussion thread on cost and process definitions in the industry. The format was very informative and encouraged open dialogue across member companies to share and analyze best practices that have been implemented or are being planned," said David Ward, Jr., chairman of EUCG's Nuclear Committee from Duke Energy.
The workshop's opening remarks were provided by David Harkness, vice president and chief information officer, Xcel Energy, responsible for all information technology development, operations and governance, cyber security functions, and the company's business continuity programs. Harkness described Xcel Energy's business systems and its enterprise technology priorities including modernizing the infrastructure foundation, deploying expanded mobile functions, providing enterprise systems, data integration, and self-service capabilities. Harkness noted that Xcel Energy's business systems principles included thinking more strategically, maximizing outsource value, and increasing throughput. Harkness also discussed the key inputs to an enterprise IT plan, the information technology operating model, and the critical success factors for IT.
Joining Harkness in the keynote welcome address was Mike Moon, senior director of reliability risk management for the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). Moon described NERC's statutory program areas and its regulatory models for the electric utility industry. Moon focused his discussion on preventing failures before they happen and "regulating" the avoidance of failures, and on NERC's risk-based compliance monitoring and enforcement program.
EUCG Committees held Forums to discuss current events and what the future will bring to the utility technologies. During all of the Forums, members were encouraged to continue to pursue EUCG's mission to support discussion and dialogue among everyone and to continue to raise the overall performance of electric utilities.
Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Committee: Chaired by Jesse Medlock, Oncor Electric, the T&D Committee had a successful meeting focusing on sharing best practices in the T&D area and data emphasis tailored to employee safety and systems reliability. In addition to the "SmartGridCity" presentation, T&D also joined with the IT committee for an informative and interactive presentation by Martin Marquardt's team from Tosan, Inc., on "Generations in the Workplace." Additional highlights included a session on drive cameras by Joe Martucci of Public Service Electric and Gas Co. which focused on safety and the drive cameras installed in its company vehicles.
Nuclear Committee: The Nuclear Committee, led by Ward of Duke Energy, focused on many areas, including task team reports, inventory management, cyber security and emergency planning, and an "open forum" addressing nuclear issues. Recurring themes included support cost analysis and knowledge transfer processes. One of the highlights of the Forum was a panel discussion of central versus site staffing organization models featuring Mike Purcell of the Tennessee Valley Authority, Glenn Inouye of Ontario Power Generation, and Mike Kramer of Exelon (NYSE: EXC). The panel provided perspectives on fleet operations for central and site relationships including governance, coordination, autonomy and efficiency.
Fossil Committee : Plant safety, discovering new ways to operate at low-load, better cycling, and coal to gas conversion were the main issues of the Fossil Forum led by Fossil Chairman Ed Taylor, Ohio Valley Electric Company. The group had a panel discussion led by Alex Doddoli and Jason Gunawardena of the Salt River Project and Steve Royall of Pacific Gas & Electric (NYSE: PCG). In addition, a panel discussion on Lay-Up and Decommissioning Procedures for Coal Plants was moderated by Ed Healy of Southern Company. Ameren Missouri received the best performer award for the top performing steam plants for 2011.
Information Technology (IT) Committee : The IT Forum, chaired by Kathleen Heffelfinger of PPL Corp (NYSE: PPL), sponsored two sessions that were shared with the Transmission and Distribution (T&D) committee including an update on Xcel Energy's grid modernization strategy, which highlighted successes to date, lessons learned and next steps related to their SmartGridCity project in Boulder, Colo.
Hydroelectric Committee : Hydroelectric Committee Chairman Jim Miller, Tennessee Valley Authority, presented the opening remarks and introductions for the Forum. One of the main topics was safety and included the safety survey results. According to Miller, "The results of this year's analysis indicate plant and safety performance at many of the member company hydroelectric plants continue to improve." Patrice Blais and Daniel Lanciautt of Hydro Quebec led a discussion on the capital improvement survey findings. Chris Utracki of Ontario Power Group and John Schuknect of Pacific Gas & Electric presented the results of the Leading Performer Analysis of 293 hydroelectric plants. Fifteen companies submitted this year.
During the Membership Meeting, the 2012-2014 EUCG Officers and Directors were announced and are as follows: President: George Sharp, AEP Vice President: Kathy Shirley, Tennessee Valley Authority Treasurer: Evelyn Grant, Lower Colorado River Authority Emerging Issues Director: Bill Bunker, Pacific Gas & Electric Marketing Director: Stephen Thornton, Duke Energy Nuclear Committee Chair: David Ward, Jr., Duke Energy Hydroelectric Committee Chair: Jim Miller, Tennessee Valley Authority Information Technology Committee Chair: Kathleen Heffelfinger, PPL Services Transmission & Distribution Committee Chair: Jesse Medlock, Oncor Electric Delivery Fossil Committee Chair: Ed Taylor, Ohio Valley Electric Corp. The conference was held Sept. 23-26 at the Denver Marriott City Center and attracted more than 100 electric utility professionals from various utility technologies from all over the world.
"We were all very pleased with the educational and networking opportunities with this workshop and conference. Our workshop theme was 'Reaching New Heights,' and our attendees are certainly poised to reach new heights with the information and knowledge gained at the meeting. I am extremely grateful for the commitment from all of our members and participants," Sharp said.