DistribuTECH returns to San Antonio for 2018
By Rod Walton, Senior Editor
Step right up and get ready to be transformed.
DistribuTECH—the nation’s biggest annual conference and exhibition for the transmission, distribution and smart grid industries—is barely a month away. It returns to San Antonio for the first time in four years offering a three-day deep tour of insightful sessions, networking and potential deal making opportunities.
The event runs Jan. 23-25 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center near San Antonio’s River Walk area. DistribuTECH 2018 will offer all that is tried-and-true, including the latest on the impact of data analytics, substation automation and distributed energy resources on the grid. It also will include plenty that is new like an energy storage track and a renewed focus on customer strategies for utilities and their vendors.
“DistribuTECH is an important event on everyone’s schedule each year, and coming at the beginning of the year, it helps set the tone for what to expect in the energy industry in the year ahead,” said Patty Durand, president and CEO of the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative and part of the DistribuTECH planning committee. “With all of the transformation in the industry today, it’s crucial that the needs and wants of the consumer are top of mind for industry decision-makers.”
As always, DistribuTECH actually kicks off a day early with the Utility University’s 18 offerings on Monday, Jan. 22. These half- and all-day courses offer expert education on key challenges whether it’s SCADA, line sensor deployment, outage management, dealing with all those renewables on your system or other skills needed amidst this grid modernization era. Registration for Utility University is separate from the DistribuTECH costs.
The main event starts bright and early Tuesday with the 9 a.m. keynote session. Event emcee Teresa Hansen, who is also Editor in Chief of POWERGRID International and conference chairwoman for DistribuTECH, will give an overview of the industry’s turning points in 2017, 2018 and beyond, while also revealing the four Projects of the Year Award winners.
Featured keynote speakers and utility leaders are CPS Energy president and CEO Paula Gold-Williams and New York Power Authority (NYPA) CEO Gil C. Quiniones—who is pushing to make NYPA the world’s first “all-digital utility.” They will be joined in the keynote by social media influencer Tamara McCleary and Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute and professor who guides energy research at the University of Texas at Austin.
All four speakers will offer entertaining and insightful thoughts on the state of the grid and where it goes from here. Once that is over, though, even Katy couldn’t bar the door as the always vibrant exhibition hall opens up. Each year, more than 500 companies man booths to meet people, demonstrate products and show what they have to offer the world of electricity delivery, DER integration, customer engagement and more.
You haven’t lived until you’ve taken that stroll down a DistribuTECH exhibit hall. It’s quite a scene.
The first of DistribuTECH’s 84 sessions kicks off Tuesday afternoon. The sessions cover 15 conference tracks, from advanced metering to customer strategies to defending the grid to the first-ever energy storage to mobile solutions and microgrids.
The DER, DR and other Non-Wire alternatives track was a favorite at the last DistribuTECH and in 2018 will offer updates and real world experiences in distributed energy interconnection efforts, demand response case studies and talk about the potential impact of behind-the-meter technologies.
Meanwhile, the customer strategies track will feature panelists focused on investments to enhance customer engagement, an area where utilities are constantly trying to get better. Other sessions will detail e-commerce efforts and one will highlight a discussion on the electrical impact of legal cannabis.
Yes, dude, we’re going there.
“New for this year will be a panel on the impact of legal cannabis on consumer energy demand, included at the suggestion of Sacramento Municipal Utility District,” Durand said. “With cannabis now legal in 31 states, utilities with experience engaging this customer segment will present lessons learned and discuss significant energy efficiency measures that could be applicable to them.”
The conference will revolve around technological points of interest, including the future vision of geospatial on utility networks, the smart city value chain and advancing DNP3 as part of substation integration and automation.
DistribuTECH’s mega-sessions on Wednesday afternoon offer opportunity to gain in-depth information somewhere between the regular sessions and UU courses. This year’s mega-session topics include energy data analysis, building the transactive energy marketplace, award-winning demand response initiatives, the role of innovation and the digital utility relationship with grid reliability.
“DistribuTECH represents change. Whether it’s covering the paradigm shifts in the industry or simply rethinking the way companies can do business on the show floor and beyond, DistribuTECH is focused on the evolution of things,” said Tim Chambers, POWERGRID International’s parent firm PennWell Corp.’s marketing manager for the event. He noted that new additions include a mega-session on hurricane responses and an exhibition floor experience called DistribuTEXAS that will be fully engaging. “If there is one thing we aren’t worried about changing, it’s this transformative mindset.”
The newest mega-session was formed later than usual after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria blasted the U.S. coast and the Caribbean islands, devastating the grids in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and beyond. It had to be added to highlight just what these utilities overcame to reconnect millions of customers. We have much to learn from them.
This mega-session will feature speakers from Florida Power & Light, CenterPoint Energy, AEP Texas and PA Consulting talking about response and restoration efforts vs. the biggest coastal storm season since 2005.
As ever, DistribuTECH peppers this salt-of-the-earth information with some breaks that allow attendees to get to know each other and have some fun. The opening reception on the exhibit floor will be 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, while the “It’s 5 0’Clock Somewhere” will kick off for a happy hour at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the sponsors’ booths.
“Step Right Up and Network” will begin one hour after “5 O’Clock Somewhere.” This party will feature live music, dancing, state fair food and an open bar.
DistribuTECH winds down Thursday with two session slots before the 12:30 p.m. floor giveaway at the PennWell booth. Some lucky delegate will win the keys to a brand new Chevrolet Colorado truck. Delegates are qualified for the truck drawing if they have visited all of the sponsor’s booths and they must be present to win.
See distributech.com for more details about registration schedules, fees and contest rules. The website also gives more information on all of the sessions, mega-sessions, roundtables and evening networking parties.
From morning to night, DistribuTECH will offer something for all attendees interested in the once and future state of the power grid. If you want to learn more, it’s right there in River City.
Diamond sponsor for DistribuTECH 2018 is Itron. Other premium sponsors include Oracle, Landis+Gyr, Honeywell, OSI, G&W Electric, Accenture, Black & Veatch, Siemens, Smart Energy Water, EY and S&C Electric.
As of print date, nearly 40 utilities had signed up to be utility partners, including premier utility partners Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Entergy, Duke Energy, PG&E, Florida Power & Light, Salt River Project, DTE Energy, Austin Energy and Oncor Electric Delivery. San Antonio’s utility CPS Energy is DistribuTECH’s host utility. | PGI
Monday, Jan. 22, 2018
7 a.m.-5 p.m.: Registration
8 a.m.-5 p.m.: General exhibitor set-up
8 a.m.-5 p.m.: Utility University courses
4 p.m.-5 p.m. Exhibitor only reception
Tuesday, January 23
7:30 p.m.: Registration starts (Tuesday and Wednesday)
9 a.m.: Keynote address
11 a.m.: Exhibit floor opens
11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.: Delegate lunch
1 p.m.-4:30 p.m.: Conference sessions
5 p.m.: Opening reception on exhibit floor
Wednesday, January 24
8 a.m.: Breakfast roundtable and Women in Utilities networking breakfast
8:30 a.m.-10 a.m.: Conference sessions
9 a.m.: Exhibit floor opens
1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. DistribuTECH mega-sessions
4 p.m.: It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere reception
5 p.m. : Networking party
Thursday, January 25
8 a.m.: Registration
8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Conference sessions
10 a.m.-11:30 a.m.: Last round of sessions
12:30 p.m. Floor giveaway