Utilities Eye Future, See Critical Role in Country's Road to Recovery at EUCG Spring Meeting

May 7, 2009
Electric utilities play an integral role in the United States' economic competitiveness and will play a similar function in its economic recovery, concluded industry professionals at EUCG's recent spring workshop in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Electric utilities play an integral role in the United States' economic competitiveness and will play a similar function in its economic recovery, concluded industry professionals at EUCG's recent spring workshop in St. Petersburg, Florida. 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 celebrated its 35th year in 2008.

"Our member utilities are pursuing similar objectives at this time, such as developing competitively priced, clean and sustainable generation delivered by an increasingly intelligent transmission and distribution network," said EUCG President Mark Derry of Exelon. "We realize that our industry plays a critical role in our nation's ability to compete globally and provide a high standard of living."

Jeff Lyash, president and chief executive officer of Progress Energy Florida, addressed the workshop and called on the industry to institute a balanced approach to energy generation. "We need to develop all forms of energy with a focus on domestic sources if we are to create a more competitive, secure and sustainable energy future. That means energy efficiency. That means alternative energy, and that means building state-of-the-art plants and distribution infrastructure," declared Lyash.

Gil Friend, president and CEO of Natural Logic, a consulting firm specializing in energy sustainability, provided the keynote address. Friend challenged the electric utility industry to accelerate its path toward adopting energy efficiency, renewable energy and distributed generation as the cornerstones of a long-term, permanent energy solution.

"Technology is key to our industry's and nation's future," said George Sharp, EUCG vice president from American Electric Power . "Clean coal and carbon capture technologies, as well as new nuclear plants and intelligent electric grids, will be the bridge to an energy future that features breakthroughs in renewable technologies and distributed generation. New industries with millions of jobs will be created as we reinvent our energy sector, relinquish our dependence on foreign oil and maintain our high standard of living," said Sharp.

EUCG's spring workshop attracted approximately 150 electric utility professionals from more than 50 utilities, including numerous foreign countries. Highlights from each EUCG committee included the following:

  • Nuclear Committee: The Nuclear Committee heard presentations on work force planning, cost and reliability performance and normalization techniques for comparing global nuclear cost data, among other topics. Committee presentations were attended by more than 75 percent of North American nuclear operators, as well as delegates from Japan and Romania. David Ward, committee chair from Duke Energy , said, "We are continually seeking ways that will further enhance the value that these workshops bring to our membership and the industry as a whole. The active participation, open dialogue and networking at this workshop proved just how important these meetings are to the nuclear industry."
  • Fossil Committee: Cost containment was a key issue discussed by the Fossil Committee, reported chair James Patrick of Ameren. Committee members gave presentations on managing boiler tube failures, best practices in scrubber program construction, simulator training strategies, boiler and turbine outage intervals and risk management strategies for construction programs. "Capital budgets are being decimated while operations and maintenance spending is being frozen or even reduced. Our committee is sharing processes and best practices that can help member companies optimize the impact of their reduced spend," said Patrick.
  • Information Technology (IT) Committee: Kelly McNair, committee chair from Oncor Electric Delivery, reported that the IT Committee shared information regarding each member company's experience in new IT technologies and innovation, portfolio management tools, service desk management and enabling the work force with wireless applications. "Our committee has carved an important niche for utility-only IT benchmarking. We now have a database on cost information that allows our member companies to truly measure their IT organization against like companies with similar objectives, challenges and roles. We plan to explore, benchmark and discuss best practices around IT service levels, key department deliverables and business strategies at our next workshop," said McNair.
  • Hydroelectric Committee: Forced outage analysis, staffing levels and general performance benchmarking were the focus of the Hydroelectric Committee, according to Jim Miller, committee chair from TVA. "Our new database is paying dividends for our member utilities, who have unique tools for analyzing costs that no one else in the industry currently has," said Miller. "Our members want to understand the specific drivers behind exceptional hydro performance, and they can discuss ways that our member utilities can continue a path of continuous improvement."
  • Transmission and Distribution (T&D) Committee: The T&D Committee focused on a variety of current issues, including physical and cyber security, estimating costs for transmission construction projects and succession planning for an aging work force, reported Joe Martucci, committee chair from PSEG. "New technologies and building out our nation's electric grid are important objectives for our country over the next few years, and our committee will stay on top of these issues in future workshops."
  • Safety Committee: The EUCG Safety Committee is transitioning from an exploratory to a fully functioning committee, said Ken McCullough, committee chair from AEP. "Those who attended our meeting are excited about the potential this unique forum holds for advancing safety performance in our industry," said McCullough. "We are exploring new and innovative ideas, such as the creation of a system to report on significant industry safety events, the development of standard safety metrics in which our member companies can benchmark ourselves and the sharing of best practices. The value of such a forum to the electric utility industry cannot be overstated. It's important at this juncture to involve more members so that we can explore other opportunities within the EUCG infrastructure."

EUCG will hold its 2009 fall workshop in San Diego, Calif., Oct. 4-7, 2009. All energy professionals are invited. Interested parties should visit the EUCG website at http://www.eucg.org for more information about the organization's next event.

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