New York PSC to Audit major utilities' staffing Levels

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© Can Stock Photo Inc. / corund
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / corund

by Corina Rivera-Linares, TransmissionHub

New York state regulators will conduct an independent operations audit at the major energy utilities in the state, focusing on the utilities' internal and external staffing levels of core utility functions.

Core functional areas to be studied are those that have the greatest impact on service reliability and customer satisfaction, including electric and gas engineering, electric and gas supervision, electric and gas quality control, electric and gas field operations, customer service representatives, customer service field staff, state public service commission (PSC) liaisons' handling complaints, and information technology, the PSC said Jan. 16.

An independent consultant will be selected to conduct the audit, and a final report from the selected consultant is expected by August 2015.

In his 2013 State of the State, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo highlighted the importance of management and operations audits of utilities in the state and authorized the PSC to direct utilities to comply with recommendations made under management and operations audits.

The PSC also noted that in August, it directed that a focused operations audit be conducted on the accuracy of electric interruption, gas safety and customer service data reported to the PSC for the major electric and gas utilities.

To start the new audit, a request for proposal (RFP) will be issued detailing the scope and timetable for the work to be done by an independent consultant for the operations audit. The consultant, under the direction of PSC staff, will examine the utilities' internal staffing of certain core utility functions, the criteria and controls for the use of external staffing, and consider current industry best practices, the PSC said.

A Jan. 16 memo by the state Office of Accounting, Audits and Finance and the Office of General Counsel to the PSC provided an update regarding the progress of six management audits and two operations audits that have been undertaken since 2008.

In each management and operations audit, such areas as long-term system planning, capital and operations and maintenance (O&M) budgeting, and program and project planning and management have been reviewed.

Last year, in direct response to concerns raised by Cuomo and a Moreland Commission recommendation, the state Department of Public Service (DPS) dedicated additional resources to perform operations audits. The PSC authorized the first such audit last August regarding the accuracy of self-reported data from all major electric and gas corporations in the state.

By a law signed in 2013, utilities are required to submit an implementation plan within 30 days of the PSC release of the final audit report.

The memo also summarized key findings and recommendations from each of the audits to date.

For instance, the comprehensive management and operations audit of Niagara Mohawk Power doing business as National Grid was completed in December 2009 and included such findings and recommendations as a call to consolidate the management of its U.S. transmission and distribution lines of businesses into one entity, reporting to a single CEO in the U.S., and place more emphasis on discrete New York operations.

National Grid has transitioned to a jurisdictional model, which replaced the line of business model. The audit highlighted that the line of business model did not protect the interest of New York ratepayers, and National Grid responded by adopting the new state-by-state model.

The comprehensive management and operations audit of Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, completed in August 2009, included findings and recommendations that Con Edison should develop electric long-range plans as well as asset management strategies, among others.

Con Edison has developed the electric long-range plans and subsequently expanded those plans to include gas and steam in the integrated long-range plans. Furthermore, it is addressing cultural, environmental, financial and regulatory barriers to facilitate the future sustainability and success of the company.

The memo also noted that the comprehensive management and operations audit of Central Hudson Gas and Electric contained 20 recommendations, and the company reports 18 of those are completed. Staff concurred that 10 of those recommendations are completed, while eight others are under review.

Some findings and recommendations included that Central Hudson develop a comprehensive, integrated strategic plan and performance measures.

The comprehensive management and operations audit of Iberdrola S.A., Iberdrola USA, New York State Electric and Gas and Rochester Gas & Electric, completed in August 2012, included such recommendations as moving to a five-year distribution vegetation trim cycle for all distribution circuits.

As of October, Iberdrola reported having completed 35 nongovernance-related recommendations. Staff concurred that 11 of those have been completed and are reviewing the other 24 that have been reported as completed.

The memo further noted that the company has completed three of six recommendations related to load forecasting, adding that two of the recommendations relate to creating an executive forecasting committee.

Corina Rivera-Linares is senior analyst for POWERGRID International's sister publication TransmissionHub. Reach her at corinar@pennwell.com.


ABB's Power Divisions Move to New Building
on NC State University's Centennial Campus

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Norebbo
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Norebbo

ABB, a global power and automation technologies company, plans to move its approximately 350 power products and power systems employees from the 940 building to the new Alliance One building under construction on North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus.

ABB's Corporate Research Center will remain on floors one and two at 940, which will be refreshed to improve collaboration, upgrade the labs and allow for growth in power electronics.

This announcement comes on the heels of President Barack Obama's announcement of a manufacturing innovation institute that will inspire collaboration among seven universities and labs and 18 companies, including NC State and ABB.

The institute aims to improve wide bandgap semiconductor technologies to improve efficiency in power electronic devices, including industrial motors, electric power equipment and consumer electronics. Several innovations will be developed and tested for possible commercialization.

"This move into a larger building on Centennial creates a real center of power engineering innovation on campus and further highlights our commitment to innovation, creating jobs, nurturing local engineering talent and growing our North American headquarters here in North Carolina," said Greg Scheu, president and CEO of ABB Inc. and regional manager of North America. "We've had a long, close relationship with NC State, as we've worked together to develop the area's engineering and computer science talent. In fact, ABB's power products and power systems division was one of the first tenants on Centennial Campus."

NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said the school and ABB have long partnered to advance engineering and computer science programs, and this move will strengthen those opportunities.

"The impact that a move likes this generates on job creation, academic advancements and economic development cannot be overstated," Woodson said. "This is the university of the future, where researchers, students, faculty and business work together to solve real-world problems."

In addition to being one of the original tenants on Centennial Campus in 1991, ABB recently donated $632,000 to NC State's electrical and computer engineering department. The gift established the ABB Distinguished Professorship in Electrical Engineering, the ABB Power Engineering Scholarship program, a faculty support and development fund and a lecture series all focused on power engineering, a field that deals with the generation, transmission and distribution of electric power, as well as the electrical devices connected to those systems.

ABB employs nearly 2,000 throughout North Carolina, including 700 in the Triangle. Other locations include Asheville, Hickory, Huntersville, Kings Mountain, Marion, and Pinetops. The company employs 30,000 throughout North America.

The company has signed a 10-year lease for the Alliance One building on the research park and technology campus and is expected to move into its new offices in 2015.

 TransmissionHub Summarizes Recent Project Updates
TransmissionHub Summarizes Recent Project Updates

UL Announces New Safety Programs to Facilitate Smart Meter Adoption

UL

UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a global safety science leader, has launched two safety services to facilitate and accelerate the adoption of smart meters.

In cooperation with leading U.S. utilities and smart meter manufacturers and in response to smart meter safety concerns from consumers and regulators, UL has established product safety certification services for smart meter manufacturers and product safety testing services for users.

Earlier this year, UL published the Standard for Safety for Electric Utility Meters, UL2735. This standard contains requirements for the electric shock, fire, mechanical and radio-frequency (RF) emissions safety aspects of all electric utility meters, including smart meters, and is the foundation for both the UL product safety certification service and the product safety testing service.

"The safety standard, the safety certification and safety testing programs are all now in place," said Lisa Salley, vice president and general manager of UL's energy and industrial systems. "As a direct result of having all three, UL is uniquely poised to immediately help smart meter manufacturers and users address the product safety concerns of both regulators and consumers. We don't take lightly the trust and confidence that leading smart meter manufacturers and utilities have placed in us. We are absolutely committed as partners."

UL's product safety certification service enables manufactures of smart meters to apply the UL certification mark to smart meters that are determined to be in compliance with the requirements of UL2735. The UL certification mark is trusted by more consumers in North America than any other safety mark and signals a commitment to safety for the smart meter manufacturer and the installing utility.

UL has issued the first smart meter safety certification to a leading manufacturer, and a complete list of certified smart meters can be found in UL's online certification directory at www.ul.com.

UL's product safety testing service enables utilities and other users of smart meters to demonstrate their commitment to safety when a UL-certified meter is not available. UL has completed product safety testing of smart meters for a number of leading utilities.

"This service is especially useful for utilities that have either begun or completed their smart meter deployment," Salley said. "Each utility has the option to customize the test program."

UL will test the specific smart meters employed by the utility to the testing requirements of UL2735 and provide a detailed report of the findings.


Army Corps Battalion is Life Support for VA Hospital

by JoAnne Castagna, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District

Patients at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y., were pleasantly surprised recently to see active duty soldiers' walking in their hallways.

"It's so nice to see when they walk through the facility how the patients react to them," said Anthony DelVecchio, project manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District.

The 249th Engineer Battalion prepares cables for connection to a generator. © Anthony DelVecchio
The 249th Engineer Battalion prepares cables for connection to a generator. © Anthony DelVecchio

"They look at their shoulders and see the rank and they ask, 'How are you, Sarge?' And when they're going for coffee, the patients stop them and talk with them."

The soldiers were from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power). Not only did they brighten patients' moods, they made sure the hospital's lights stayed on.

James J. Peters VA Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y. © James J. Peters VA Medical Center
James J. Peters VA Medical Center, Bronx, N.Y. © James J. Peters VA Medical Center

The hospital needed to complete an electrical distribution system upgrade to maintain its accreditation and keep the facility operational for veterans.

During the fall, the 249th played a key role in getting the project completed with minimal impact to patients and significant savings. The work included replacing up to 400 circuit breaker panels and installing five backup generators. The hospital already had two backup generators, but now hospitals are required to have more to keep critical portions operational in the event of a power outage.

To accomplish this work, the Corps realized that one-fourth of the hospital's electricity needed to be turned off for significant periods sometimes as long as 30 hours to perform the work, meaning temporary power was needed.

The 249th Engineer Battalion feeds cable through an access hole. © James Holmes
The 249th Engineer Battalion feeds cable through an access hole. © James Holmes

Unfortunately, a plan for temporary power was not factored into the VA's project design, so alternatives had to be considered. That's when the Corps called on the 249th, a versatile power generation battalion assigned to the Army Corps to provide commercial-level power to military units and federal relief organizations worldwide.

The battalion played a key role in the Corps' response mission following Superstorm Sandy, providing temporary emergency power to critical facilities such as hospitals, police stations and public housing developments in the New York-New Jersey metro area.

"I called them and they agreed to help," DelVecchio said. "They have their own men and equipment and provided us a cost estimate to provide temporary power for the entire project."

The project was completed in fall 2013. The work was performed only on weekends for minimal impact to patients. The outpatient facility typically has no patients on weekends, and the hospital also has several clinics that are closed on the weekends.

"These guys were 100 percent professional," DelVecchio said. "They came in with all of their men, equipment and generators and worked 'round the clock. They are all about the mission."

The Army Corps and contractors had to swap out old circuit breaker panels and install 130 new ones on several patient floors. The devices collect the electric power that comes into the hospital from the outside public power grid and transmit it to the hospital rooms. The five backup generators were installed earlier in the project.

Luis Rosado, a project engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, said the job was not simple.

"To install the new circuit breaker panels, the project team had to disconnect the power connections, such as cable connections, from the old panels, remove the old panels, install the new panels and reconnect the power connections to the new panels," he said. "While this is being done, the hospital's electric power needed to be turned off."

The project was successfully completed, and the hospital is pleased with the work and how the 249th came to the rescue for their electrical distribution system upgrade project.

"The VA loves them," DelVecchio said about the 249th.

The hospital recently held a ceremony for the battalion and presented its members with certificates of commendation.

JoAnne Castagna, Ed.D., is a public affairs specialist and writer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District. Reach her at joanne.castagna@usace.army.mil and follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/joannecastagna.


EYE ON THE WORLD

Scottish islands race to future with Formula One energy storage technology

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / ssuaphoto
© Can Stock Photo Inc. / ssuaphoto

Williams Advanced Engineering, the division of Williams that commercializes Formula One-derived technologies, is embarking on a project to install flywheel energy storage technology in two remote Scottish island communities to help stabilize their power grids, improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions from nonrenewable power sources.

The Isle of Eigg and Fair Isle will be the first sites in Europe to install Formula One-developed composite flywheel energy storage technology into their power networks. Originally pioneered by Williams for Grand Prix racing after the introduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) into the sport in 2009, the technology has since been introduced by Williams into a range of applications outside of Formula One such as hybrid buses and Le Mans-winning race cars. The project is being funded partially by an extended grant from the Department of Energy and Climate Change's (DECC) Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, which aims to encourage innovation in the low-carbon sector.

Williams Advanced Engineering has joined forces with the Fair Isle Electricity Co. and Eigg Electric to identify possible operational improvements, energy-saving and environmental benefits from installing the technology on each island. The Fair Isle power network relies heavily on wind turbines and diesel generators to supplement the power system and can guarantee power only during the day. Williams Advanced Engineering's flywheel technology will smooth the power that flows from the wind turbines and inject stored energy when needed. This will improve the quality of power received by residents and reduce the reliance on costly diesel generators that produce high carbon dioxide emissions.

"We are delighted that Williams Advanced Engineering is going to be installing this equipment in 2014," said Robert Mitchell, director of Fair Isle Electric Co. "This will provide a much needed buffer to improve our power quality and reduce how often we use the diesel generators. Our two wind turbines produce more than enough power most of the time, but they cannot store energy, so this will be an excellent addition."

The Isle of Eigg power network uses various renewable sources, including solar, hydro and wind power, and currently uses lead acid batteries to store excess renewable energy and smooth the flow of power. Using batteries to smooth power flow forsakes the need for diesel generators but significantly reduces their lifespan. Williams' flywheel energy storage system can take on this role so the batteries can be used for their main job of long-term bulk energy storage. This will prolong battery life and improve the transient response of the network and increase its fault-clearing capability.

Sarah Boden, director of Eigg Electric, said her company expects the new flywheel energy storage to be used for short-term frequency regulation when generation drops off, such as when clouds obscure the solar array.

"Our island is managed by a partnership approach, and this joint effort will further improve power quality and security of supply for the island power system," Boden said.


Tesla expands Supercharger network in Europe

© Tesla Motors
© Tesla Motors

Tesla recently opened new Supercharger locations connecting the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. These newly energized routes will enable Model S customers to enjoy free, convenient, 100 percent electric trips on the German Autobahn and to destinations in the Alps and elsewhere.

Tesla's first six Superchargers were energized in California in September 2012, with the first network of European Supercharger stations opening in Norway less than a year later. Today 80 Supercharger locations are energized worldwide, with 14 locations in Europe. More than 11 million kilometers have been charged by Tesla Superchargers, and nearly 1.13 million liters of gas have been offset.

The accelerated energizing of Superchargers in Germany (Wilnsdorf, Bad Rappenau, Aichstetten and Jettingen), Switzerland (Lully), Austria (St. Anton) and the Netherlands (Zevenaar and Oosterhout) represents a new milestone in the expansion of the European network.

In Germany, Superchargers connect Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich. They also connect the German network to Amsterdam, Zurich and Innsbruck.

In the Netherlands, energized routes connect Amsterdam to Cologne and Brussels.

And in Switzerland, the stations connect Zurich and Geneva.

By the end of March 2014, 50 percent of the German population will live within 320 kilometers of a Supercharger, and 100 percent of the population will be covered by the end of the year.

The Tesla Supercharger is substantially more powerful than any charging technology to date, providing up to 120 kW of DC power directly to the Model S battery using special cables that bypass the onboard charging equipment. Superchargers replenish half a charge in about 20 minutes. Supercharger stations are strategically placed along well-travelled highways to allow Model S owners to drive from station to station with minimal stops. They are near amenities like roadside restaurants, cafes and shopping centers so drivers can stop for a quick meal and have their cars charged by the time they're done.

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POWERGRID International

March 2014
Volume 19, Issue 3
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ELECTRIC LIGHT & POWER

January 2014
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