DistribuTECH 2002 Brings Bright Ideas to Miami Beach

With downtown Miami in the background, DistribuTECH 2002 hits Miami Beach, Feb. 27-March 1.
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Against a backdrop of neon lights and art deco architecture, the leading conference and exhibition on utility automation and information technology celebrates its 12th anniversary in style.

From its humble beginnings in 1990 as the DA/DSM conference, the DistribuTECH conference and exhibition has evolved into the one must-attend annual event for those involved in automating the transmission and distribution operations of modern utility businesses. This year, for its 12th anniversary, DistribuTECH returns to Miami Beach, Fla., for sun, fun and thought-provoking discussion of the business and technology topics most critical to the utility industry.

More than 4,000 attendees and more than 200 exhibiting companies are expected to congregate at the Miami Beach Convention Center on Feb. 27 for DistribuTECH’s opening day. From the opening Keynote Session on Wednesday to the close of the last conference session on Friday, thousands of utility personnel will get an up-close and personal look at the people, ideas and technologies that keep the world’s power flowing.

Industry Leaders Highlight Keynote Session

When DistribuTECH hit San Diego last year, there was little question what the main topic of discussion would be. California was in the midst of a power crisis, and DistribuTECH was right at its epicenter. While conference organizers kept their fingers crossed that the San Diego Convention Center wouldn’t fall victim to a rolling blackout, DistribuTECH attendees debated the pros and cons-mostly the cons, given the setting-of electric power deregulation.

This year in Miami Beach, the overarching topic of controversy may not be as well-defined as it was a year ago in San Diego. This year, a number of subjects are piquing the collective industry interest. Will the restructured Texas electric market fare better than others have to date? Will regional transmission organizations take a for-profit or non-profit model? Will a sluggish economy drive utility companies toward more merger and acquisition activity? Which technologies will help utilities do more with less?

DistribuTECH 2002 has scheduled three distinguished industry leaders to discuss these and other topics during the Keynote Session at 9 a.m. on Feb. 27. Peter Flynn, vice president of National Grid USA and president of New England Power Co.; Joseph Lasky, vice president of information technology at ComEd Energy Delivery; and Sam Jones, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas are each uniquely suited to discuss the industry’s top-of-mind issues.

Focus on Power Grid Security

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., brought to light a grim reality-critical infrastructure within the United States is not immune from attack.

In light of the current world situation, DistribuTECH conference organizers have assembled a special panel to focus on power grid security issues. The special panel session, to convene Feb. 28 at 1 p.m. will feature three panelists well-suited to speak on issues related to the security of the automated systems, IT underpinnings and interconnected physical components that make up the U.S. power delivery system. Special attention will be paid to electronic, or “cyber” security during this panel session. Each of the three panelists in this session is a recognized expert in the area of power grid security.

Dr. Paul Oman, senior research engineer at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories Inc. (SEL), has published more than 100 papers and technical reports on computer security, computer science education and software engineering. Part II of one of his most recent papers on grid cyber security is published in this issue of Utility Automation beginning on Page 25 (Part I appeared in the November/December 2001 issue). During the panel session, Oman will expand on the points made in this recently published two-part series and draw from his experience at SEL, a company which has been highly regarded-both pre- and post-Sept. 11-for its attention to grid cyber security.

Dr. Paula Scalingi, of the Scalingi Group, knows well the dangers an organized electronic attack on the power grid could pose. While with the Department of Energy’s Critical Infrastructure Protection team, Scalingi was a central figure in planning a mock cyber attack exercise, called Black Ice. The Black Ice exercise simulated the possibility of a major ice storm combined with a cyber attack on grid SCADA systems during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. Her first-hand experience with the Black Ice “what-if” scenario will provide a unique perspective to the DistribuTECH panel.

Dr. Massoud Amin, who leads research and development in infrastructure security at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), rounds out DistribuTECH’s cyber security panel. Amin formerly served as EPRI’s manager of mathematics and information science and is a recognized expert in the field of “self-healing” energy infrastructure systems. Drawing from his technical knowledge and research background with EPRI, Amin will provide some unique, innovative ideas about grid security during the panel session.

DistribuTECH’s cyber security session is intended to be interactive. Each panelist will provide a short presentation, leaving ample time for attendees to ask questions of the three infrastructure security experts. Security of the power grid is obviously a top-of-mind topic in the post-Sept. 11 world. Attendees anxious to shore up security weaknesses within their own systems won’t want to miss this late addition to the conference program.

A Look Around the Conference

DistribuTECH conference organizers have assembled 10 informative conference tracks for 2002 covering substation automation, distribution operations management, demand response, distribution automation, DA communications, distributed generation, enterprise application integration, utility-specific business strategies, metering and AMR, and mobile computing and field work force management. A few of the can’t-miss sessions include:

  • DA Benefits on and Beyond the Distribution System. Thursday, Feb. 28, 9:30 a.m. This panel discussion in the Distribution Automation track takes a look at Florida Power’s implementation of distribution automation. Panelists from Florida Power will discuss the operational and business benefits the utility expects to derive from its DA system.
  • Selecting and Managing the Largest All-electric AMR Deployment. Thursday, Feb. 28, 1 p.m. A recent automatic meter reading system procurement by PPL Electric Utilities will impact all of PPL’s 1.3 million customers-residential and commercial & industrial-making it the largest all-electric AMR program. The system will utilize both PLC and CDPD technologies to obtain interval AMR data from all customer classes. Panelists in this session will discuss the business case behind this huge AMR deployment, and take a look at the implementation issues specific to such a large project.
  • Web Technologies in the Substation. Friday, March 1, 9:30 a.m. Five years ago, few if any system vendors or integrators were using Web-enabled technologies in their substation automation and integration architectures. Today, nearly all have this capability. Presenters in this session will take a look at how these Web-enabled technologies are being applied in the substation and what type of security provisions are being incorporated into the new Web-based architectures.

But Wait … There’s More

No doubt most DistribuTECH attendees come mainly for the variety of informative conference sessions and to meet face-to-face with the more than 200 product, service and solution providers gathered in the exhibit hall. But DistribuTECH goes above and beyond the standard conference offerings by hosting a full slate of attendee activities.

The highlight of DistribuTECH 2002 might come Thursday evening, Feb. 28, after the exhibit hall closes. DistribuTECH is throwing its annual networking party at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, just a few steps from the exhibit floor. Each corner of the room at the Taste of Florida networking party will feature a distinctly Floridian experience for party-goers. A simulated casino cruise, a sports bar, a South Beach nightclub and a Key West marina are all offered under one roof at the Taste of Florida party.

More than 600 conference attendees made it to last year’s networking party in San Diego, and DistribuTECH organizers are expecting an even bigger crowd at the Taste of Florida party. Miami Beach is, after all, a party town. DistribuTECH attendees are invited to come early and stay late at the Taste of Florida party. Tickets will be available at the door.

Those unable to attend DistribuTECH 2002 can at least get a glimpse of what they’re missing by visiting the DistribuTECH Web site at www.distributech.com. There, Web site visitors can read the DistribuTECH Today daily newspaper to catch up on news from the show floor, or browse through the specially designed “virtual booths” of DistribuTECH exhibitors.

If it all sounds like a lot to do, that’s because it is. Once again, DistribuTECH offers something for everyone-a lot of something, at that. There’s no better place to share innovative ideas and see cutting-edge technologies than in Miami Beach, Feb. 27-March 1, at DistribuTECH 2002. We look forward to seeing you there.

With downtown Miami in the background, DistribuTECH 2002 hits Miami Beach, Feb. 27-March 1.

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