DistribuTECH 99 Provides Key to the Millennium

DistribuTECH `99 Provides Key to the Millennium

By Steven Wood, Associate Editor

Over 4,000 utility leaders recently experienced the excitement, education and networking at DistribuTECH `99, the world`s leading symposium on information technology, utility automation, and energy buying and selling. The symposium, held this past February in San Diego, included more than 144 hours of education, including sessions on distribution technology/SCADA, substation automation, metering issues, communications technology, information technology, customer service via new technologies, GIS/enterprise management, branding and customer information management, new ventures, end users forum, risk management/deregulated markets, retail and energy service providers/new customer services. Delegates also had the opportunity to experience special events such as the Utility University with its numerous tracks to choose from, a fiber-optics luncheon mega session, power breakfasts and technical tours. When delegates weren`t attending sessions or seeing the San Diego sights, they visited with hundreds of vendors in the Solution Exchange Expo, where the latest technological advancements in the utility industry were demonstrated. The Expo is one of the largest of its kind, and provides delegates with the opportunity to keep abreast of the tools and technologies that will mold the industry into the new millennium.

The Future Utility Industry

To a near capacity crowd, Edward Barlow, Jr., Creating the Future Inc. president, outlined the drastic changes that are present in today`s business world. According to Barlow, these changes require a radical change in thinking. Businesses, including utilities, have to change the way they approach business, customers and the delivery of products and services. Businesses need to realize that there is an extremely short timeline between creating a product and its obsolescence. Barlow also indicated that businesses need a strategic approach to what lies ahead, including a future view and vision with the organizational capacity and professional literacy to be prepared for the future.

Michael Peevey, New Energy Ventures LLC president and CEO, indicated deregulation will take the industry from a very inefficient bureaucratic structure to a more soundly run industry. He indicated that there would be several winners in the deregulation environment, including consumers, suppliers, new entrants, investors and the U.S. economy. Those that should be concerned are the entrenched incumbents, utility executives that don`t prepare for deregulation, employees, regulators, environmentalists and special interest groups. With the potential savings of $55 billion due to deregulation, Peevey believes that the utility industry is moving much too slowly towards deregulation.

Charles Bayless, Illinova Corp. and Illinois Power Co. president and CEO, concluded the keynote session with his presentation, Managing Changes in the 21st Century. He believes the next few years will be brutal for utilities. He also supports national regulation to help states work together to make it a smooth transition to deregulation.

The California Experience

The General Session, moderated by Craig Goodman, National Energy Marketers Association president and CEO, focused on the California deregulation experience. Panelists included Kevin Cini, Southern California Edison Co. energy supply and marketing manager; David Pruner, Engage Energy US, LP executive vice president of strategic planning and business development; Kellan Fluckiger, California Independent System Operator operations and engineering director; and Curtis Kebler, California Power Exchange Corp. market planning director.

Each panelist gave a short presentation pertaining to his responsibility in the California deregulation movement and his experience with the opening of the California market. The panelists, with their unique perceptions, offered their predictions on the future of the California market. Pruner predicted that the volatility in the market will continue and the current focus for marketers currently is on margin, not market share. Fluckiger specified three key perspectives about the California experience. He believes that deregulation is working, electricity can be bought and sold in a commodity type of market, and technology is the enabler to make this feasible. After the informative presentations, delegates were given an opportunity to ask the panelists questions that led to some enlightening discussion.

Innovation Awards/Utility of the Year

The best automation and technology and buying and selling projects of 1998 were recognized at the 1998 Innovation Awards presentation during the opening segment of the General Session. Sponsored by Utility Automation, the awards, presented by Teresa Hansen, Utility Automation managing editor, recognize companies for leading edge technologies, as well as development of advanced customer-focused applications. Many worthwhile projects were submitted this year, but only two could receive the distinguished awards.

The Best Energy Buying and Selling Project was presented to Williams for its Energy Trading Floor. The Williams Trading Floor is notable for implementing a variety of technologies that addressed data presentation, acoustic sensitivities, lines of sight and general flexibility to allow re-arrangement of floor personnel when necessary. It also provided redundant technology in areas of networking, computing, market information feeds and building power which protects the business from computer and network outages as well as power outages that may be experienced by the local utility company.

The Best Automation and Technology Project was presented to Cobb EMC for its distribution automation project. In 1991, Cobb EMC implemented a long term distribution automation project, which would better support the region`s development and enhance reliability of service to existing customers. Through distributions automation, they were able to minimize outage times, reduce the travel time of patrolling crews and sectionalize the system by remote control.

Also presented at DistribuTECH `99 was the Utility of the Year award, sponsored by Electric, Light & Power (EL&P) magazine. Michael Burr, EL&P managing editor presented Duke Energy with this prestigious award.

2000 is Almost Here

DistribuTECH `99 provided thousands of delegates with information that will help them make informed corporate decisions as the industry goes through its massive changes in the next few years. The information they received, from some of the utility industry`s leading experts, will help guide utilities and vendors into the new millennium. Technology is the driving force in the industry and will help to bring the future closer to reality. With this constant change, keeping informed is vital in the emerging competitive environment. To keep current on the most important developments in the industry, planning for DistribuTECH 2000 is well under way. By attending DistribuTECH 2000 in Miami Beach, March 1-3, you can keep one step ahead of technology, and know what the future will be. n

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DistribuTECH `99 delegates prepare for the conference at the San Diego Convention Center.

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More than 250 exhibitors demonstrate their products and services for thousands of delegates at DistribuTECH `99.

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