Winter Conference focuses on linemen, superintendents

It wouldn’t be December in South Dakota without a little cold weather and wind, but that didn’t stop us from hosting our annual Winter Conference. This conference is designed for electric superintendents and linemen of our customer communities. Our goal is to provide education on topics important to them as well as show appreciation for the hard work they do every day.

IMG_0085
Jim Enga of Omni-Pro Software speaks to the Winter Conference attendees about load management software.

Jim Enga of Omni-Pro Software provided an overview of the load management system offered by his company. Heartland Director of Power Supply Adam Graff also chimed in on how an effective load management system can benefit a utility by reducing demand during peak times. As a reminder, customers can utilize Heartland’s HELP Fund with low-interest financing to implement a system.

Heartland was excited to welcome two special guests to the conference – Bill Drummond, executive director of Mid-West Electric Consumers Association, and Mark Gabriel, administrator and CEO of the Western Area Power Administration. Drummond gave an overview of the benefits Mid-West provides to members, including all Heartland customers with a WAPA allocation. Mid-West promotes and protects the interests of federal power customers and their consumers within the Missouri River Basin.

Gabriel provided insight on WAPA’s three lines of business – federal hydropower, transmission system and service, and transmission infrastructure program. He also talked about their budget emphasis on physical and cyber security as threats against the system continue to increase. Gabriel also mentioned WAPA is planning to conduct a customer survey and he encouraged participation in order for them to measure feedback and establish a baseline as customer partnership is critical to their operation.

hunt 6
Mark Gabriel of Western Area Power Administration discusses WAPA operations.

Linemen and electric superintendents help make utilities tick. They are the ones dedicated to the reliability of the system, who brave the harsh weather to turn the lights on, and who protect public safety. We hope those who attended the Winter Conference not only found value in the information presented, but also enjoyed the day networking with their peers from other utilities and organizations.

On a related note, on April 1st and 2nd, public power lineworkers will come together from all over the United States in Shakopee, Minnesota for APPA’s Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo to demonstrate their skill and knowledge in the craft of linework. Journeyman and apprentice lineworkers can compete for professional recognition, attend training courses and practice essential skills in a safe environment. Attendees will also have a unique opportunity to connect with and learn from the nationwide community of lineworker professionals. For more information and to register, visit the APPA website.

 

Featured picture above: Bill Drummond of Mid-West Electric Consumers Association speaks to the group.

Hydroelectric power: clean, green and renewable

Drummond VanWall Olson 2014
Bill Drummond

Mid-West Electric Consumers Association Executive Director Bill Drummond recently wrote a letter to the editor on the importance of hydroelectric power and the benefits it provides. You can read his letter in its entirety below.

Hydroelectric power has come under recent criticism by some in the environmental community to prevent passage of bipartisan legislation aimed at speeding up the review process for licensing new hydroelectric projects. These opponents view the hydroelectric licensing process as the means by which to forestall the construction of any new dams. Unfortunately, the very reasons they give for opposing this legislation are exactly the reasons this country needs additional hydroelectric power.

Some of these opponents have argued that electricity generated at dams is not “green” because it impacts land use, fish and wildlife, and local economies. Without ever defining the term “green,” opponents are usually willing to acknowledge that hydroelectric generation is clean, renewable, and non-carbon emitting, and superior to some other forms of electric generation.

Dams provide multiple benefits that can include flood control, recreation, irrigation, navigation, municipal and industrial water, and, yes, hydroelectric generation. This multi-purpose aspect to building and operating dams is critical not only to the reasons dams are constructed, but also to the value they provide.

The flood damage prevented from the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program dams versus the pre-dam era are estimated to exceed $1 billion/year in today’s dollars. Tonnage transported on the Missouri from Sioux City to St. Louis went from 51,000 in 1951 to 3,261,000 in 1979. Lands irrigated by this project produce crops with a gross value of over $200 million. The almost 3,000 mega-watts of hydroelectric generating capacity not only prevented the need to construct an equal amount of thermal generation, but also allows for the integration into the grid of thousands of mega-watts of wind and solar generation. And more people recreate at Corps of Engineers’ facilities than at all of our national parks combined.

Construction and operation of dams definitely have fish and wildlife, land use, and societal impacts. Yet, electric ratepayers and the federal government have invested billions of dollars in mitigation, dam modifications, and fish and wildlife projects to mitigate for the dams’ impacts.

Finally, hydroelectric opponents appear to cavalierly ignore the fact that all electric generation systems have environmental impacts. Even the intermittent renewable wind and solar projects have significant land use, visual, and wildlife impacts, to say nothing of the thermal generation necessary to integrate wind and solar into the grid. The Minneapolis StarTribune’s article last year (http://www.startribune.com/emerging-solar-plants-scorch-birds-in-mid-air/271624061/ ) is an excellent description of a severe environmental impact from a “green” resource.

The current hydro licensing process is broken; it can take 10 years or more to obtain a federal license for a new hydroelectric facility. Two bills currently before Congress, H.R. 8 and S. 2012, would make rational changes to the hydro licensing process while maintaining the important environmental safeguards in the current licensing process.

With the current concern about carbon-based generation and the need to integrate additional intermittent renewable resources into the electric grid, taking aim at a clean, renewable, non-carbon emitting resource like hydropower stands the whole concept of “green” on its head.   Please contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives and ask them to support H.R. 8 and S. 2012 to remove barriers to the development of additional hydroelectric power.

Mid-West Electric Consumers Association promotes and protects the interest of federal power customers and their consumers within the Missouri River Basin. For more information, visit meconsumers.com.