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Our Insights

Power Delivery Design Conference: Highlights from the General Session

March 21, 2019

What a tremendous week it was in Sun Valley! The Power Delivery Design Conference (#PDDC2019) brought 250 of the nation’s energy industry leaders together for two days of learning, networking, and problem-solving at the Sun Valley Resort.

Our general sessions brought focus to the changing energy landscape and ways that our industry can plan for and embrace the future.

Texas Energy: Dynamic Growth

Wes Speed, VP of Transmission Operations for Oncor Electric Delivery, reviewed the state of the ERCOT market. Texas has experienced tremendous growth in population and economic activity in the last ten years. The technology sector is a major driver of this growth, as Dallas-Fort Worth has become the second largest data center market in the US behind Northern Virginia. But the oil and gas industries are the motors that move Texas, and Wes shared that growth of oil and gas production on the Permian basin is creating significant new demand in Oncor’s service territory. The irony? Much of this oil- and gas-related demand is being met with wind, and Oncor is seeing historic levels of wind penetration into the load served, including record-setting volumes on one breezy day in January, 2019.

Distributed Energy’s Impact on Utilities Spurs Innovation

POWER’s Northwest Business Development leader, Will Rambo, moderated a panel discussing insights derived from the implementation of Distributed Energy Resources in utility environments. John Gibson from Avista Utilities in Spokane, Ted Reguly from San Diego Gas and Electric, and Greg Clark, POWER’s DER Team Leader, discussed the use of DER to improve resilience, the changes to rate and business models that DERs are causing, and market forces driving costs and adoption of renewable generation to fuel distributed energy deployments. We’ll be delving deeper into the discussion from this lively panel session in a subsequent post, but the key message that really engaged the room was that we can’t look to the past to find signposts for the future: to best serve our stakeholders we must embrace “transformational changes” and look for creative solutions to the challenges ahead.

Can Energy Be a Customer-Driven Industry?

Adam Benshoff, Executive Director for Regulatory Affairs at the Edison Electric Institute, brought attendees up to date on what EEI sees as the industry’s key priorities in 2019 and beyond. Clean energy, electric transportation, and enhanced customer experience were hot buttons for Adam, and he drew particular attention to technology’s ability to shift power into the hands of customers. As customers have more choices in how they obtain service, energy providers have an opportunity to distinguish themselves through customer-centricity and respect for end-user’s time and money.

Adam continued his talk with a review of the current regulatory environment, from FERC to state-level grid modernization initiatives, and concluded with a financial review of the industry. EEI forecasts continued increases in functional capex spending, with Distribution being the largest spending segment, having overtaken Generation in 2018.

WIRES is Bullish on Infrastructure

After first dispelling some insidious myths about transmission investment, Brian Gemmell, President of the industry association WIRES and VP of Transmission Asset Management for National Grid, revealed a preview of WIRES’ study identifying key trends impacting transmission infrastructure spending. The study was performed by the Brattle Group and found that the electrification of transportation and other key economic sectors will drive increases in energy demand that will be served by new, mostly renewable generation. Without new transmission investment, this new generation won’t make it to the markets it is intended to serve. Beyond the basic service these investments will support, the ancillary economic benefits include job creation, improved system reliability, reductions of carbon emissions, and more. Brian told us that WIRES is pounding the pavement in Washington, D.C., touting these lifecycle benefits to decision-makers on Capitol Hill.

Save the Date

We’ll be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Power Delivery Design Conference on March 4-5, 2020, with more of the industry’s most compelling content and learning opportunities. Do you want to be a part of next year’s invitation-only event? Contact our event organizer Sara McClarin for details.

We hope to see you in Sun Valley next year!