Echelon Smart MeterApproved in Canada

The Networked Energy Services (NES) smart meter from Echelon has received certification from Measurement Canada. Echelon’s NES meter, which includes a built-in, remotely controllable 200 amp service disconnect switch and built-in power line networking communications, has been approved for measurement of active (kWh) and reactive (kvarh) energy as well as for use as a bi-directional meter with registers for delivered and received energy, making it the first meter with this combination of features approved for revenue use in the Canadian market.

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More information regarding Echelon’s North American NES meter can be found at


The POWERGRID Europe advisory committee met in late November to plan the upcoming June conference. Attendees can expect expert presentations from RTE, Areva, ABB, ESRI, and CESI–just to name a handful of those accepted. The two tracks will cover the smart grid and system performance, respectively, with individual sessions in network applications, operations, power markets, communications, equipment performance, measurement, asset optimization and a special panel on looking at “people as assets” within your organization. POWERGRID Europe is scheduled for Milan’s Fiera MilanoJune 3-5, 2008.

World’s Largest SVC In-service at Allegheny Power

The world’s largest Static Var Compensator (SVC) was placed in service in early December at Allegheny Power’s Black Oak Substation near Rawlings, Md. The installation is expected to enhance the reliability on Allegheny Power’s 500-kV Black Oak-Beddington transmission line–one of the PJM area’s most congested lines–by quickly changing reactive power levels to control the line’s voltage. In addition, the SVC will enable increased transmission capacity on multiple 500-kV lines in the PJM region.

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The project came about as part of PJM’s Regional Transmission Expansion Plan, which identifies upgrades and additions to ensure transmission system reliability throughout the multi-state region.

“The Black Oak SVC will benefit millions of customers by providing a new level of reliability to a critical transmission line serving the Mid-Atlantic region,” said David E. Flitman, Allegheny Power’s president. “Further, allowing more power to flow on existing lines is an important step in keeping pace with the region’s increased demand for electricity.”

An SVC is a type of flexible ac transmission system (FACTS) device that can provide fast-acting reactive power compensation on high-voltage transmission networks.

ABB completed the Black Oak SVC turnkey project in 14 months, record time given its size, complexity and scope. The Black Oak SVC is equipped with ABB’s advanced MACH 2 control system that will be capable of controlling the SVC’s operation, as well as the switching of 500-kV capacitor banks connected to the same substation.

What’s the Solution to the Transformer Price Problem?


By Gerry Yurkevicz, Global Insight

Editor’s Note: Yurkevicz participated in our story on transformer prices (see page 68), but he gave us a wealth of information that we couldn’t manage to squeeze into the short article. Therefore, we’ve included a few tidbits here in the news.

There are a number of initiatives that utilities are taking to better manage in such a sourcing environment.

  • Build intelligence capabilities and understanding: Equipment, material and labor markets important to utilities have become complex quickly. One utility senior management team pointedly remarked to us on how much time they have spent over the years on coal and natural gas markets, and now carbon and climate change issues, but almost no time on steel, equipment, or construction contractor markets and issues. Many utilities are trying to build market intelligence capabilities in a number of ways: through internal staff development, increased supplier interaction, or use of third-party information. Utilities must know much more about their suppliers. For example, utilities must use information on global cost reduction initiatives that transformer manufacturers are implementing in their own manufacturing, sourcing and administrative areas to improve utility sourcing results.
  • Improve cost estimating processes: You can’t just inflate everything by 3 percent per year anymore. A range of companies–from utilities, project developers and EPC firms–have gotten estimating wrong and suffered at the bottom line. Many utilities are developing category-specific forecasts to improve cost and project estimating processes to better plan, budget and develop rate filings.
  • Improve strategic sourcing and supplier relationship management competencies: Utilities face significant negotiating and supplier management issues in markets such as transformers, where they are confronted with a limited supplier base in North America. To have a chance, utilities must extract all the value they can from the planning, supplier selection, negotiating and contract implementation processes. As a result, many utilities find that strengthening two core procurement functions–strategic sourcing and supplier relationship management–are the keys to improving performance.
  • Build supplier relationships as well as attack the demand side: Working closer with suppliers to buy better as well as focusing on standardization and consuming better often improves sourcing results in equipment markets such as transformers.
  • Search out new suppliers: The world is growing, and most of that growth is outside of North America. We expect strong regional equipment suppliers to emerge over the next five years in these new growth markets. Now is the time to begin a focus on supplier selection to take advantage of these future opportunities.

Yurkevicz is a managing director in Global Insight’s worldwide Energy Group. He directs Global Insight’s new Utility Sourcing Advisory Service.

Allegheny Power to Upgrade West Virginia Line

Allegheny Power, a division of Allegheny Energy Inc., will install 3M’s high-capacity Aluminum Conductor Composite Reinforced (ACCR) to upgrade a key line linking the Bedington and Nipetown substations along Interstate-81 in West Virginia, according to Tim Koenig, head of 3M’s high-capacity conductor program.

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Allegheny Power serves 1.7 million customers in four states, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia. It owns approximately 9,760 megawatts of generating capacity.

The 1.7-mile 3M ACCR upgrade will boost transmission capacity on a line serving growing communities in West Virginia near the border with western Maryland, some 50 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. The 138-kV line, which will share structures with three other lines for most of its length, including two under-built 12-kV lines, has a flow of 2,200 amps and is expected to peak at a temperature of 200 degrees Celsius. The line is built on self-supporting steel poles with drilled pier concrete foundations.

Richard Hoch, an engineer for Allegheny Power, said “The 3M ACCR we chose for this project gave us the ability to leave the under-built 12-kV circuits in service during construction and to avoid structure replacement. We also needed a conductor that sagged neatly with an adjacent 954 ACSR conductor on the same structure. By using the 3M ACCR, the money and time saved was invaluable on this fast-paced project.”

3M ACCR was developed with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy, which tested the conductor at its Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee, and with early contributions by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Reduced Copper Wire Thefts at PSE Substations

To combat an increase in copper theft resulting from a worldwide spike in the price of copper, Puget Sound Energy has initiated several measures to deter thieves, protect lives, and keep its electric system operating.

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By combining new deterrent technologies with increased law enforcement, PSE has decreased copper thefts from its substations by 28 percent and more than doubled the number of arrests by law enforcement since January in the nine counties where the utility provides electric service.

The new technologies include replacing chain-link fencing around substations with extruded steel fencing, which can’t be cut, and applying spray-on microscopic labels to copper wire for identification by recycling centers and law enforcement agencies. PSE is also replacing copper with new materials such as copper-weld–a steel line coated in copper–which has virtually no recycle value.

PSE is also employing remote monitoring devices, roving patrols and partnerships with local law enforcement to help curb copper theft at its substations.

“With the extra eyes watching our infrastructure we can call local law enforcement to the scene during the crime–not after it has happened,” said Sue McLain, PSE’s senior vice president of operations.

Since 2005, copper thefts have cost PSE nearly $500,000, primarily from damage to substations and equipment. A theft of $50 to $100 in copper can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in electrical system damage.

“The costs are much more than the price of the stolen copper,” McLain said. “It is the damage to the electric system that is significant. And, the life-threatening safety risk to the people stealing the copper is immeasurable.”

In addition to PSE’s efforts, a law requiring recycling companies to maintain detailed transaction records and seller information, as well as making it a misdemeanor for companies to knowingly purchase metals from a person convicted of theft or crimes involving methamphetamine, has been a significant factor in the declining thefts.

The law, which took effect in July, already has helped reduce copper wire thefts at PSE’s substations. The most dramatic drops in thefts have occurred in Pierce County, with a 65 percent reduction and Thurston County, with a 70 percent reduction.

The price of copper has risen from 80 cents per pound in 2003 to about $3.50 this year. Nationwide losses to businesses hover around $1 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Dow Announces Wire, Cable Price Increases

Transformers aren’t the only pieces of infrastructure costing utilities more these days (see Getting Equipped, page 68).

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Dow Wire & Cable in late November announced a $.12 per pound increase on all its wire and cable resins, compounds and materials sold in North America. The price increase became effective Jan. 1, 2008.

Jim Burton, North American sales director for Dow Wire & Cable, cites historically high feedstock prices as the chief reason for the increase. “When you couple the high demand for wire and cable materials with the continuing high cost of oil and derivatives, prices for compounds that use polyolefins as their input must be adjusted to reflect those market conditions,” he said.

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