APPA News

Andrew C. Wills
Director of Government Relations and Counsel at American Public Power Association
Posted July 21, 2017 

On April 7, 2017, I posted an update on a regulatory issuance by the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) seeking comment on a Petition for Declaratory Ruling submitted by Mobilitie, LLC (“Mobilitie Petition”), a company that “build[s] and operate[s] networks and infrastructure” which are then used by communications providers to facilitate broadband and network services. Since that post, the Commission has issued two Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (“NPRM”) and Notices of Inquiry (“NOI”) relevant to broadband siting, and these issuances may affect state and local electric utility pole attachment regulations. Below is a summary of the activity at the FCC over the past few months.

By Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
Posted July 17, 2017 

The White House on July 13 said that that President Trump will nominate Kevin McIntyre for the chairmanship of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

McIntyre is currently a partner in the Jones Day law firm in Washington, D.C., heading its global energy practice.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has said she will hold a nomination hearing on FERC nominees as soon as she gets the paperwork that is required from the White House. 

By Ursula Schryver
APPA Vice President, Education and Customer Programs
Posted July 14, 2017 

Transmission may be the backbone of the electricity industry, but the backbone to the industry’s success is the workforce behind it. And as we in public power know, that workforce is shrinking.

The industry was facing significant workforce challenges as early as a decade ago, according to the Center for Energy Workforce Development. And it isn’t just because of the aging workforce. Rapidly changing technologies make workforce planning more unique and challenging for utilities. The number of 18- to 32-year-olds in the workforce is trending upward, but to stay on that trajectory, we need the right jobs and the right plan for them.

Here’s a four-step schematic for engineering the workforce of the future:

By Jessica Porter
Contributing Writer to APPA
Posted July 14, 2017 

As the economics of traditional power operations become more challenging, public power utilities are turning to a range of cutting-edge generation resources — from small modular reactors to renewables.

“As community-owned utilities, our members are at ground zero for a lot of changes, from energy efficiency to decisions about decommissioning plants,” said Carolyn Slaughter, director of environmental policy at the American Public Power Association. “Our planning horizons are long-lived because we’re making the most economical decisions for operating these units. We don’t make decisions for three years; we look at 30-year horizons.”

The Association’s Public Power Forward initiative aims to help public power utilities prepare for the new era in electricity. It includes a business, policy and technology assessment toolbox that utilities can use in their own business models to meet customer demands with next-generation energy sources.

Given their smaller size and community connection, public power utilities are uniquely positioned to broaden their generation portfolios in response to customer preferences. Many utilities are getting at least some of their electricity from newer energy sources like solar, wind, and combined-cycle natural gas.

By Elisa Wood
Contributing Writer to APPA
Posted July 14, 2017

The adage “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” doesn’t apply just to health. Ben Franklin said, “Diligence is the mother of good luck,” and any good Girl Scout can tell you the No. 1 rule is to always be prepared. So it’s not surprising that when it comes to protecting the nation’s grid, experts give the same advice: Take measures now to prevent and prepare for an attack. And those attacks are as front-and-center as ever.

The May 12 ransomware attack, which infected hundreds of thousands of systems in hundreds of countries around the world and crippled British hospitals, reminded the energy industry again of the breadth and depth of today’s cybersecurity threats.

Just a day before the global ransomware attack, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on cybersecurity designed to protect federal government networks and critical infrastructure, including the nation’s power grid. The American Public Power Association voiced support for the executive order, saying, “As threats evolve, so too must the efforts of industry and government to mitigate them.”

The executive order directs various federal agencies and state, local, tribal and territorial governments to jointly assess the potential for a prolonged power outage associated with a significant cyber incident — as well as the nation’s readiness to manage the consequences and to identify any gaps or shortcomings in assets or capabilities required to mitigate the consequences.

By Nidhi Chaudhry
Contributing Writer to APPA
Posted July 14, 2017 

If Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison both woke up today, an often-told industry joke goes, Bell would be mystified by the state of telecommunications. Edison, on the other hand, would not only recognize our electric system, he could probably fix it too.

“In some ways, the joke is kind of true,” said Mike Hyland, senior vice president of engineering services at the American Public Power Association. “We’re talking about the delivery of electricity, and when you look at elements like substations, they haven’t really changed in 130 years.”

Substations still sit on the grid, taking power from the transmission lines, transforming it, and transmitting it out on distribution lines. But while the bare bones might still be the same, some public power utilities are innovating and pushing the envelope — bringing design, analytics, customer focus, and energy storage to substations.

Public Power Lines
By Sue Kelly and Mike Hyland
President & CEO and Senior Vice President, Engineering Services, American Public Power Association
Posted July 14, 2017 e it stronger.

Think about the electric grid — transmission and distribution equipment spanning the entire country and carrying electricity across rivers, mountains, and highways right into our businesses and homes, making commerce possible and communities livable.

“Scores of times each day, with the merest flick of a finger, each one of us taps into vast sources of energy … transformed into electricity, the workhorse of the modern world,” the National Academy of Engineering said, calling the electric grid one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century.

The grid has been doing its job for more than a century. That’s a long time and some parts are showing their age, while others need to be upgraded just to keep pace with evolving technology. Still, the system is resilient and robust. For example, in 2015 the U.S. was hit by 24 major winter storms and more than 1,000 tornadoes, but all utility customers on average lost power for roughly 243 minutes the entire year — and public power customers for just 125 minutes in the year — according to data from the Energy Information Administration.

Could we do better? Absolutely, and we are taking steps to do so, like investing in new generation and advocating for cost-effective transmission planning.

By Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
Posted July 12, 2017

Through a competitive bidding process, Tesla was recently selected to provide a 100 MW/129 MWh Powerpack energy storage system to be paired with a wind farm near Jamestown, South Australia.

Tesla was awarded the entire energy storage system component of the project, the company noted in an update posted on its website.

Tesla noted that in September 2016, a 50-year storm damaged critical infrastructure in the state of South Australia, causing a state-wide blackout and leaving 1.7 million residents without electricity. Further blackouts occurred in the heat of the Australian summer in early 2017.

In response, the South Australian Government issued a call for expressions of interest to deploy grid-scale energy storage options with at least 100-MW of capacity.

Tesla’s Powerpack system will be paired with renewable energy provider Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm.

By Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
Posted July 12, 2017

California public power utility Glendale Water & Power has successfully installed a new two-megawatt battery energy storage system, or BESS, next to the utility’s newly upgraded Grandview Substation.

The BESS can now instantaneously respond to shifts in systemic load, “providing GWP with an unprecedented capacity to regulate its transmission,” the utility said on July 11.

Beyond renewable integration, the BESS may serve as an emergency source of energy to start up other units, mitigating the impact of potential unplanned disruptions in service. It will also reduce costs by delaying the need for infrastructure upgrades, GWP noted.

By Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
Posted July 11, 2017

The Energy Information Administration on July 5 said that based on EIA survey data for new, utility-scale electric generators, capacity-weighted average construction costs for many generator types have fallen in recent years.

It said that the cost of utility-scale solar photovoltaic generators fell 21% between 2013 and 2015, from $3,705/kW to $2,921/kW. More than half of the utility-scale solar photovoltaic systems installed in the U.S. track the sun through the day, and in general, those systems cost slightly more than those installed at fixed angles, the agency said in its “Today in Energy” report.

EIA defines utility-scale generators as having a capacity greater than one megawatt.