Power Thanks

Thanksgiving-11282014This Thanksgiving my “thankful for” list took an unexpected turn. My 86-year-old mother successfully experienced a triple-bypass open heart procedure just days before the holiday. For a surgery of this magnitude to have a successful outcome requires, first and foremost, incredibly talented surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists and nurses. These professionals also have some impressive tools with which to work their miracles.

As I look around my mother’s room, it is hard to escape the reality that without a reliable electrical system, many of the tools would simply not be available. The hospital requires basic lighting, heating and communication systems. Trust me, if the patient is not warm enough, there MAY be some complaints. Somewhere within the bowels of the hospital is a kitchen that prepares meals for the patients. I assume SOME patients actually enjoy the food, and am encouraged when the surgeon assures the patient that food will not taste good for the first three weeks.

Surrounding the cardiac patient are a number of monitors and pumps and drains. Blood pressure, pulse, respiration rate, body temperature, fluid intake, dopamine, antibiotics…all of these critical data points are continually displayed in real time, and all of them are plugged into an electrical outlet. As an engineer, the technology is amazing to watch, but I remember to occasionally visit with my mother, the patient. After all, her ability to even talk to me is a direct result of the technology.

Consider a recent “Top 10” list. The list documents someone’s evaluation of the top inventions of all time. The list, from last to first, includes:

10. Paper
9. The compass
8. Refrigeration
7. Printing press
6. Plumbing
5. Medicine
4. Engines
3. The wheel
2. Communications
1. Electricity

Not too surprising is the fact electricity is number one. Note how many of the others on the list also depend, to some degree, on electricity.

Here in the United States, we enjoy arguably the best electric utility system in the world. The lights come on when we hit the switch. When we plug in a new appliance or device, the rest of the electrical devices continue to work. The price we pay for electricity, as a percentage of income, is very low.

I have had the opportunity to travel to less-developed countries and experience life without the blessing of a robust electric system. You look around the mud buildings and see no overhead lines. It is not because everything is buried; they simply don’t exist. Electricity comes and goes, and life is lived with that expectation and with those limitations.
I am thankful to live in a country with such a strong electrical system. I am thankful to have worked most of my career in the electric utility industry. It is rewarding to play a role in ensuring the lights come on and consequently, power the things that make life in this country both enjoyable and productive.

Our electric system is something we often take for granted. My hope is that, upon some reflection, you share my thanks for living in a country with this blessing.

A monitor just started blinking and beeping…I need to go check it out!


About the author

Marlon is our account executive in the Power market. He has more than 35 years of experience with all aspects of planning, design and construction of 12.5 kV-345 kV distribution and transmission systems, including right-of-way, design, regulatory coordination, public information meetings, public testimony and project management. With an extensive background in power transmission and distribution, Marlon brings a wide variety of knowledge in discussing the energy industry and the issues it faces. From education of future engineers to critical infrastructure analysis, he offers a unique perspective on the industry and where it's headed.