A Look Back at DistribuTECH 2007

Steven Brown, editor in chief

Although the show was two months ago, this is my first opportunity to write here about my reflections from DistribuTECH 2007 (www.distributech.com). I serve as chairman of the advisory board that puts this conference together each year, so I’m always interested to see what’s hot and what’s not among the conference sessions.

It’s never a surprise to see a great deal of interest in the conference tracks that make up the core of DistribuTECH, namely distribution automation, substation automation and automatic/advanced metering. The DA sessions were well-attended as usual-even to the point that fire marshal regulations at the San Diego Convention Center caused some attendees to be turned away from a session on the conference’s first day.

There was also a substantial resurgence in interest in the AMI/AMR conference sessions this year. Smart metering initiatives were the topic du jour, and that was no surprise given DistribuTECH’s California locale where the state’s major IOUs are all in varying stages of huge AMI initiatives. All told, more than 400 DistribuTECH attendees spent time in the various AMR/AMI session during the three-day event.

However, I was surprised with the level of interest in two conference tracks. Back in the summer of 2006, when the advisory committee was putting together DistribuTECH 2007, I had concerns about whether we needed to offer full conference tracks on demand response and grid security. Would there be enough interest to justify providing the conference space for these issues?

As it turns out, there was plenty of interest. While the rooms for demand response and cyber security weren’t as packed as rooms for DA and AMI, there was still an appreciable amount of interest in these two subjects. We had 50 attendees during one session on “non-traditional” demand response on the conference’s first day. In the cyber security track, 55 folks filled seats to learn about NERC’s critical infrastructure protection requirements on the conference’s second day. Regulatory action, in the case of cyber security, and a combination of regulation and our California locale, in the case of demand response, no doubt helped put rears in the seats this year. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.

A few issues back (January 2007), I wrote in this space about a recent endeavor of ours here at the magazine: an energy news “podcast” called Currents. The Currents Podcast has become a monthly feature for us, and the last two episodes are particularly pertinent. You can find them at uaelp.pennnet.com/podcasts/list_podcasts.cfm.

Episode 4 of Currents features a roundtable discussion about DistribuTECH 2007, as well as a sneak peek at what those of us who organize the conference expect to be new and exciting about DistribuTECH 2008. There will be at least one interesting addition to DistribuTECH 2008, and you can hear about it first on Currents Episode 4.

The recently completed Episode 5 includes an audio supplement to this issue’s cover story, “Everything’s Bigger in Texas.” In Currents Episode 5, you’ll hear directly from those involved in nearly $10 billion worth of proposed transmission projects in the Lone Star State.

We’re not “radio people” here at Utility Automation & Engineering T&D, but with the new podcast, we’re doing our best to bring you a more complete picture of what’s going on in the power industry. The Texas story is a good example: Read about it first here in the magazine, then log onto the website, download the podcast, and-as a well-known “real” radio guy is fond of saying-hear “the rest of the story.”

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