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ESMO 2019: Q&A With Rick Bush of T&D World

ESMO 2019 brings the power industry together for four days of education and networking. To kick off the technical sessions, Rick Bush, strategic director for T&D World magazine, is leading a panel discussion about field engagement. 

In the following Q&A, Bush gives an overview of this session as well as his thoughts on why others in the power industry should register for ESMO 2019. 

Q: You are the chair for the opening session, "Field Engagement is Key." What was your inspiration for this topic?

A: The industry is changing rapidly with an increased focus on integrating distributed energy resources into the grid. The tools and work practices are changing too.

The historical top-down method of providing direction and input to field crews is proving to be inept at best and counterproductive at worst. We need to engage with field teams who can provide the input and direction to assure a smooth transition forward within our electric utilities.

Q: For this session, you have four presenters from electric power utilities participating, but you also have a presenter from a major substation and line contractor. Talk about the role contractors are playing in the modernization of the grid and the engagement of the field workforce. 

A: The goal of providing safe, reasonably priced and reliable power has not changed. But over the past several decades, our utilities increasingly depend on contractors to assist in building and maintaining the grid. Sharing information and coordinating work with partners has never been more critical. At the opening session, Carl Segneri with M.J. Electric will share his perspectives on close coordination with utility customers and line workers to assure professional quality field work.

Q: From your years of experience working for both T&D World and Georgia Power, how do you think the level of engagement with field professionals has changed over the years?

A: Mark Gabriel with WAPA will share how this utility is working with field staff to innovate faster and perform work quickly and reliably. I am seeing this trend accelerate in most utilities as more technology makes itself into the field.  

Q: What might be the best indicator of a well-functioning field workforce?

A: We have Tom Gwaltney, senior director of emergency preparedness with FP&L, sharing how this utility mobilized and restored power in 12 days to a state that received unprecedented damage by Category 5 Hurricane Irma.

Essentially, a utility prepared to handle major catastrophic events is a well-functioning utility.

Q: So could you comment on the key ingredients for a well-functioning utility?

A: It always comes down to the basics. It comes down to safety and training. A safe, well-trained workforce with the proper tools and supplies is an effective workforce. We have Marketta Franklin and Brent Stegner with AEP, the utility host, sharing industry-leading efforts to assure a safe, well-trained workforce. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to at the event?
A: I love the two outdoor days when we can see leading utilities show off the latest in work practices. Make sure you check it out. And the panel sessions are jam-packed with knowledgeable people.

But the reason this is my favorite of all events is the people who attend. ESMO provides an environment where linemen, substation technicians, field supervisors and superintendents mix with engineers, managers and executives to share perspectives, insights and work practices. And this includes vendors, contractors and utilities.

Q: What is new at the show?

A: Enhanced ergonomic tools. Better inspection tools including drones. GPS enabled dispatch. Better emergency response, tactics and tools. Enhanced field testing and maintenance. Machine learning. These are just a few.

Q: Any last thoughts?

Sign up for ESMO and have your voice heard. Here is the link to register: https://ieee-esmo.com/registration/

Come find me. I would love to connect.

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