T&D World Magazine

Critical Strategic Issues Examined at 2008 RMEL Fall Convention

More than 260 utility industry executives and senior management were in attendance at the 105th annual RMEL Fall Convention held in Vail, Colorado, Sept. 7-9, 2008. A powerful lineup of speakers provided attendees with the experience and knowledge from peers who understand the electric utility industry. The Fall Convention provided a variety of networking and education opportunities for attendees as well as another successful RMEL Foundation silent auction.

The convention kicked off Sunday morning with a golf outing held at the Vail Golf Club. Although there was an hour frost delay, the day turned out beautiful and participants had a great time. Sunday night’s RMEL Champion sponsored reception provided a great opportunity for everyone to network and mingle before education sessions began.

Monday morning began with a welcome and opening remarks by RMEL Board President Gary Stone, followed by Stevan Bobb’s presentation on the capacity of the railway. Stevan is the Group VP of Coal for BNSF Railway and discussed drivers of BNSF’s coal business and their approach to capacity planning.

Dean Oskvig, President & CEO of B&V Energy from Black & Veatch Corp gave an interesting presentation on how to build a sustainable generation portfolio. His presentation took a look at recent decisions made on new generation and the cancellations of recent coal plants through out the country, while giving some insight into the implications for the future and the sustainability-based approach.

The economy has been an interesting subject over this past year and Jeff Hohensee, CEO of Natural Capitalism Solutions provided a unique viewpoint on new technologies, policies and business practices to help leaders proactively capture the opportunities of the new energy economy. Global drivers such as rising energy prices, global warming, vulnerable systems and more represent a dangerous threat to complacent mangers. During Jeff’s presentation he touched on all of these factors while giving an interesting outlook on unleashing the new energy economy.

Hank Courtright, Sr. VP, Member Services of Electric Power Research Institute gave an update on EPRI and its view of the U.S. electric power sector’s reduction of CO2 emissions over the next 25-30 years. While explaining the “PRISM” analysis on reducing these emissions, he also assessed the lowest-cost combination of technologies and the resulting effect on prices of wholesale electricity and natural gas.

Xcel Energy’s President and CEO Dick Kelly described how the company’s use of renewable energy, its emission-reduction efforts and its investment in new technologies contribute to environmental leadership. Throughout his presentation, Dick addressed the issues of global climate change and what Xcel Energy’s unique solution is, so they can do their part in the reduction process.

Robert Gee, President of Gee Strategies Group addressed the Energy Policy Act of 2007 and described how it empowers a federal program to support the deployment of innovative grid technologies aimed at leading to their commercial adoption. He described the necessary steps that need to be taken for widespread realization that current technologies are too old and what we need to do to transform the power grid.

The 2008 presidential election is sure to go down in history as one of the most energy conscious campaigns for both parties. Floyd Ciruli, President of Ciruli Associates provided an examination of American public opinion and presidential candidates’ position on energy policies. Floyd highlighted specific strategies to help generate an informed discussion on how to maintain a balanced, reliable and cost-effective energy policy.

Concluding the education presentations on Monday, Robert Dyer, President and CEO of the Energy Authority gave a presentation illustrating the complexity of planning, implementing, and ultimately trading intermittent renewable resources in today’s wholesale energy markets. Robert discussed the many challenges TEA faces while trying to manage renewable resources in today’s wholesale markets.

Monday night provided a great time for everyone to network as well as offered attendees the opportunity to support students interested in the electric energy industry by bidding on several donated items during the RMEL Foundation Silent Auction. All proceeds from the silent auction benefit the RMEL Foundation which awards scholarships to qualified students interested in pursuing careers in the electric industry. This year, the Foundation raised over 16,000!

RMEL not only focuses on education and networking opportunities, but also honors individuals who have had a great impact on the field. Tuesday began with the RMEL Annual Meeting and awards ceremony. John Serfling (retired), Xcel Energy and PK Sen from Colorado School of Mines were given the Honorary Life Member award. The Distinguished Leadership award was presented to Dave Areghini from SRP. Following the awards, the Annual Meeting began where it was announced RMEL’s Executive Director Ed Blum will retire at the end of the year. Tim Blum was installed as RMEL’s new Executive Director. Ed will continue serving on the RMEL staff until December 31, 2008.

Starting off the Tuesday educational presentations was Scott Anderson, VP and Senior Economist from Wells Fargo Bank. He took a close look at the U.S. and global economic growth and how it’s likely to impact the demand for electricity and the costs of electricity generation going forward. He took a special interest in prices of coal and oil and how its effects affect the utility industry.

Milton Lee, General Manager and CEO of CPS Energy discussed the growth over the next decade and how it’s going to have an affect on San Antonio and CPS. CPS will need another substantial source of electricity by 2016 in order to maintain affordable and reliable power for the city’s continued prosperity. In doing so, CPS is working on its advancement of nuclear energy in a carbon-constrained world as well as looking at all potential costs of adding further nuclear generation to their portfolio.

Greenhouse gasses have become a watershed issue our energy conscious world. Dr. Mark Trexler, Managing Director, Global Consulting Services of EcoSecurities discussed GHG emissions and the systems that pose major challenges. The systems that are being designed now will greatly affect the costs that utilities and their customers have to absorb. He gave several scenarios and discussed key variables in the impact assessments that will help mitigate the costs to everyone.

Electric Transmission America was formed in 2007 through a joint venture by American Electric Power Company and MidAmerican Energy Holding Company. This partnership has created a unique opportunity for these companies to pursue a variety of transmission projects. John Stough, VP for MidAmerican Energy Company discussed the challenges and opportunities of siting, building and deploying an interstate transmission system.

Dave Nevius, Senior VP at North American Electric Reliability Corporation was the final speaker at the Convention. Dave discussed NERC’s mission to ensure the bulk power system in North America is reliable. Dave talked about how NERC develops and enforces reliability standards, monitors the bulk power system, audits owner’s operators and users for preparedness and educates and trains industry personnel.

All of the 2008 Fall Convention presentations are available on the RMEL website. Watch video of each presentation and download slides. The 2009 Fall Convention will be held at the Intercontinental Kansas City at the Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

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