Across the United States many community-owned, not-for-profit utilities are struggling with how fast and how much to modernize their electrical grids as they meet the demands for electrical power today, as well as for five, ten and 20 years from now.
Recently, the grid modernization team at Ulteig worked with a community-owned power utility serving about 53,000 customers in a third-ring suburb outside the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Formed more than 100 years ago, this local utility faces a number of issues that may sound quite familiar to other community-owned utilities across the country. Issues such as:
- Communicating the value of a community-owned, not-for-profit power utility. According to the January 2016 survey by the American Public Power Association, only 1 in 5 customers under the age of 55 knew that their utility was community owned and not-for profit.
- Anticipating future electric power demand based on changing customer loads
- Investing in newer technology to drive increased efficiencies while decreasing outage metrics and operational expenses.
- Increasing the use of renewable energy sources while maintaining competitive and reliable rates. This community utility set a goal of 100 percent renewable energy for all customers by the end of 2020, and takes pride in being a national leader in renewable energy.
- Providing citizens with access to energy sources that are environmentally responsible
- Preparing for physical (i.e., hurricanes) or cyber threats
- Meeting utility workforce challenges
- Navigating changing utility industry regulations
Helping Community Owned Utility Look Forward
To help this Texas utility look forward and anticipate its future grid needs, it engaged the nFront Consulting group to assess the municipal utility’s electric grid. In turn, nFront tapped Ulteig to contribute its grid modernization expertise.
A core focus of the project was to conduct an overall organizational evaluation to ensure the utility operated effectively and efficiently while creating grid stability and advancement. Ulteig was added to the project because of its strong experience in transmission and distribution engineering, design, and operations.
The Ulteig team contributed the following:
- Interviewed key staff of the community-owned utility to ensure a clear understanding of the client’s unique electric system and day-to-day operations practices. The initial step of listening to input from the clients proved vital in preparing the overall assessment.
- Evaluated the utility’s distribution, substation, and transmission construction standards. The Ulteig team identified areas that needed to be addressed as well as highlighted areas of success.
- Evaluated recently completed projects and the client’s five-year budget plan to assess how its planning compared to industry standards.
- Summarized overall findings and contributed key points as they played into the overall organizational evaluation. These findings played an instrumental role in guiding the changes that were suggested within the organization.
Results and Takeaways
Ulteig provided the client with insight into the state of the utility’s current electric system and the effectiveness of its engineering processes. The insight from the Ulteig grid modernization team enhanced nFront Consulting’s recommendations on organizational restructuring.
“Our experience with Ulteig was excellent by every project management measure,” said Fred Haddad, Executive Consultant, nFront Consulting. “Ulteig staffed the project with well-qualified engineers, provided a detailed scope of services, and met both the demanding schedule and budget constraints of the project.”
With the expertise of Ulteig, nFront Consulting set up the utility to operate within industry norms consistent with other community-owned public utilities, meet its organizational goals, and address the needs of the utility in a fast-changing power industry.
Want to Learn More?
Community-owned, not-for-profit utilities are a critical part of America’s electrical power system. For more than 75 years, Ulteig has been helping community utilities better understand how to operate more efficiently and effectively to deliver the value that their local citizen owners demand. By delivering comprehensive design engineering, program management and technical and field services, Ulteig strengthens the infrastructure vital to everyday life in small, mid-size and large communities across the United States.
Want to know more? Download Ulteig’s new white paper on modernizing the electrical grid — click here.
By Jason Hall, Josh Guck, and John Barksdale, Grid Modernization, Ulteig
About the Authors
Josh Guck brings nearly a decade of distribution engineering experience to Ulteig’s Power and Renewable markets. As the company’s Grid Modernization lead, he supports clients throughout the U.S. in developing innovative solutions to help navigate the fast-paced changes occurring in our industry.
John Barksdale, an engineer with Ulteig’s Grid Modernization team, holds a Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate and a Masters of Engineering in Electrical Engineering.
Jason Hall is a senior engineer with the Ulteig Grid Modernization team who has focused much of his career on improving business and engineering practices to increase utility efficiencies, reliability, and customer service.