I love traveling to Denver. Heck, I love traveling around all of Colorado. Coming from the flatland state of Kansas, there are many marvelous ways to spend a day or a week in majestic Colorado. My wife, Alice, and I recently went camping with our son Lee, daughter-in-law Millie and our three grandkids in the Rocky Mountain National Park, which is a little more than an hour’s drive outside Denver.
I love hiking the mountain trails while surrounded by snowcapped peaks. I also appreciate the stunning diversity of wildlife. One morning, a herd of elk came meandering through our campground. And later, when we were driving around the northern perimeter of the park, we found ourselves in the midst of a herd of mountain goats. Spectacular. The weather up in the high elevations can change quite rapidly. One evening, we were greeted with a massive thunderstorm that flooded our tent and soaked our sleeping bags. That is just part and parcel of the outdoor experience.
Alice and I are heading back to Colorado this spring where we will be combining business and pleasure. IEEE PES is bringing the biggest T&D show to Denver this April. Now would be a great time to work out your travel and hotel accommodations so you can join us in Denver, too.
Our IEEE PES executive team, led by president Saifur Rahman and past president Damir Novosel, is working with the meetings committee to provide a high-level understanding of the forces that are shaping our T&D industry. In fact, in the keynote session, Accenture’s Gregory Bolino will look at the emerging business models that will enable our delivery companies to grow while defining the form of the future utility.
One super session will look at the growth and impact of distributed generation while yet another will provide us with a reality check on the impact of energy storage. I am thrilled that our IEEE PES team is providing us with access to thought leadership so that we can see where the industry is headed. But that is only half of the story. Once we know the direction, we still need to individually parse this knowledge down into a personal mission: How I can make a bigger difference in my present role?
The meetings team has developed a series of forums that allow attendees to dig deeper into their individual verticals. Topics to be discussed include power system economics and analytics — very appropriate for an era where analysis is crucial to making wise asset investments. Individual panels will focus on transmission and distribution, transformers and substations, energy storage, generation, power system instrumentation, dynamic performance, power system communications and cybersecurity. For those who want to take a deeper dive there are a bevy of panel sessions and poster sessions. In the program, I’ve spotteda panel session on overhead transmission line uprating and upgrading that I have to attend. For me, this session will be old home week as I worked in this space for almost a decade, and a lot of the dynamic line rating and modeling work we did within IEEE working groups is now embedded in EMS/SCADA systems around the world.
Another session I will be attending will be sharing the technologies available to enhance grid resiliency, reliability and sustainability. I covered the rebuild after Superstorm Sandy; that storm changed us. We realized we could no longer continue with “business as usual” but that we needed a more resilient grid, and we needed to design in elements to enable us to bring the grid back quickly.
We saw the results of that change when our industry responded so quickly to Hurricane Irma, raking all of Florida with utilities, contractors and vendor partners pulling together as to bring the power back within 12 days. I have to say those were the best storm response results I have seen in my 45 years in the business.
If you are new in the industry or if you have switched roles, you might want to try out one or two of the many training courses covering all aspects of T&D on Monday of show week. IEEE PES has worked hard to make these courses relevant to practicing engineers.
We are seeing an incredible influx of talent into our industry, and we are also seeing a lot of utilities hiring individuals with advanced degrees. You will be able to meet many of the presenters in the poster session. Now that utilities are again investing in university research, we are seeing phenomenal advances in technologies. The students coming out of our colleges and universities are as equipped as any I have seen in the last 30 years. The poster session at the 2016 IEEE PES T&D show was quite a raucous, and I expect this one to be the same; hosting a reception during poster hours doesn’t hurt. If you get the chance, go by and take a look and chat with our next-gen engineers. They would love to hear your views on how their efforts could plug into the greater energy movement.
Our smart grid needs really smart technologists, analysts and IT professional as we move to embrace distributed energy resource management systems. But we can’t ignore the need to invest in transformers and breakers and towers and wires and manholes and vaults. I was in Nanjing several years ago and had the great privilege of hearing the president of the State Grid Corporation of China share that we would need to build a smart grid on the foundation of a robust grid. His comments have proven to be right on target.
With our utility customers now digitally engaged and totally dependent on electricity, we need to provide greater reliability and value than ever before. Of course, you will hear a lot at this event about microgrids. My view is that the T&D community will be totally immersed in providing service whether micro grid, mini-grid, local grid or super grid. Interconnected grids will provide the best value in the majority of instances as the cost of service and supply for stand-alone grids will be too big a financial burden.
We are seeing several microgrid controllers coming into the market from Schneider and others. Look into them while you are on the show floor. Speaking of the show floor, we have some of the big boys including SAFT exhibiting grid-scale storage. I just took a virtual stroll through the exhibitor list and it is massive. Whatever you are looking for, you will find it on the show floor. All our vendors will be there. If you are like me, you will visit with the folk you work with regularly while walking the show floor to see what’s new.
I’d be remiss in not mentioning that the local utility always makes a huge difference in pulling off an event of this magnitude. Thanks to Xcel Energy for stepping up this year. I am sure you will see Xcel Energy volunteers all about the meeting halls providing assistance. Xcel Energy is also hosting tours of its trading floor as well as its Lookout Control Center. Among the many tours available, you IT types might want to check out the National Renewable Energy Systems Integration Facility where NREL is doing our industry a great service.
I just got my first evening event invite today. I’ll be joining Black & Veatch at its customer appreciation event to be held at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. I’ve been working closely with Black & Veatch all the way back to when I was at Georgia Power collaborating on standards within the Insulated Conductors Committee of IEEE. Great group of guys.
In truth, this event is too big for any one company representative to cover. We will be bringing four or five editors from T&D World, and I know a lot of utilities will be sending 20 or 30 or more folk over to Denver, too. If you send your folk in droves, you can divide and conquer, and then share what you’ve learned over after-dinner drinks.
I started by saying how much I enjoyed the Colorado outdoors. Let me end by stating that getting flooded out of my tent has affected me in a profound way. I now have a fiberglass camper being pulled with a brand-new Ford Expedition. I’ve also attached cruiser bikes to the camper bumper, and I have a canoe I can carry on the top of my SUV. I am road-worthy. Alice and I will add a few days to the conference so I can tour a bit more of Colorado. I’ll be chilling with Todd Hagen, our West Coast sales rep, and I’ll be visiting Lisa, Sam and Neil, my three amigos who work at EDM in Fort Collins. I hope to add in side trips to visit my buddies in their Xcel Energy and WAPA offices.
With as many years in the industry as I have logged, I find it impossible to separate work from play. I have so many people to meet and lifelong friends to reconnect with. As you make your way around our wonderful industry, make sure your journey includes the IEEE PES T&D Conference and Expo. I would love to see you at the Denver Convention Center.