By Kathleen Davis, Associate Editor
During a sunny week in Orlando, more than 3,700 people visited one particularly powerful attraction. Not Disney-owned or Universal-operated, instead the attraction was more of a traveling show of more than 200 exhibits, namely DistribuTECH 2004.
“Traditionally, Florida is known as a center for tourism, but, in fact, Florida is also a great place to do business,” began Bill Habermeyer, president and chief executive officer of Progress Energy Florida, during the keynote address. And, indeed it was for DistribuTECH attendees and exhibitors alike.
With tracks on distribution automation, T&D engineering, mobile workforce management, metering, demand response and others, DistribuTECH 2004 covered the extensive range of transmission and distribution issues for the power industry. Additionally, the 2004 conference contained two successful water industry tracks on metering and automation strategies.
Keynote Speakers Look to Balance Technology, Security
The conference opened on Jan. 20 with three keynote speakers, who discussed the industry’s diverse past and technology-laden present, as well as future potential.
Habermeyer told the positive tale of Progress Energy Florida’s three-year program committing the company to both employee and customer satisfaction, pointing out how the company’s change in focus and culture has led to business benefits.
“We were the highest-priced IOU just three years ago. Now, we are competitive with our sister utilities,” he stated.
He also commented that current trends in technology for the industry are “a means to an end U never an end in itself.” Instead, he said that utilities should focus on what those technologies bring–especially to the customer. Progress itself has spent around $100 million in the last three years on system enhancements to improve reliability.
Overall, Habermeyer sees a major convergence of technology in the future, a world where SCADA and communications are connected with customer systems and consumer data–a world Nora Mead Brownell, of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, would like to facilitate.
As the second DistribuTECH keynote speaker, Commissioner Brownell talked about restructuring, reliability and new investment, commenting initially on how the industry has “limped along” since restructuring began in 1992.
“We’ve compromised reliability in ways that the August blackout only began to introduce,” she stated, adding that restructuring the markets has the potential to introduce innovative technology, if the industry will allow it.
“Technology is leading the change, and we need to get out of the way of that introduction,” she said. Brownell also said that we currently lack the market transparency required to make the right decisions about technology.
Among her suggestions for smoothing the process–beyond standard market design–Brownell pointed out the need for regional nuances in regulation, as well as investment in demand-side management and a jurisdictional model that is more market-reflective.
She singled out the Midwest ISO as a well-organized group of commissioners “who know what they want” and suggested that the introduction of independent transmission companies is the wave of the future, or, at least, what FERC thinks will work.
But, good rules alone won’t cut it, Brownell commented. The industry also needs independent auditors, a way to monitor the rules, better tools (both hardware and software), better redundancies, more distributed generation and more sophisticated diagnostic tools. Such a laundry list, obviously, brings up a question of cost.
Brownell, however, added that “we need to look more at reliability and less at cost U refocus the debate.”
Brownell insisted that this change in viewpoint could create the certainty that capital markets need to reinvest in the industry–that the money will come back if the stability is apparent.
Building on the idea of technology and reliability as sound corporate policy, DistribuTECH’s final keynote speaker, Joe Weiss, took a look at the current status of cyber security issues.
Weiss, an executive consultant with KEMA, stated that cyber security is important “not because it’s an ‘insurance policy,’ but because it’s good business.”
Weiss stressed the need to invest in cyber security because a utility’s “most critical data relies on these systems; it’s a competitive advantage” to keep it secure. Weiss gave a number of real-world examples of control systems that have been impacted by a cyber event or intrusion.
He also warned that the prevailing theory that “it couldn’t happen to me” is a dangerous one. Weiss stated that experts have done penetration testing on “the most secure SCADA system you could have” and were able to gain access to the system in less than two days, bringing home the point that nothing is currently secure.
Weiss’ suggestions for remedying this situation include conducting vulnerability and risk assessments, developing recovery plans, addressing the gap between IT and operations–IT knows security; operations knows the system, but “it’s commonly said that they don’t ‘like’ each other”–and providing training programs.
From the Exhibit Floor
As the crowd moved out of the keynote session, one could follow the stream straight into a teeming exhibit hall. DistribuTECH 2004 saw a number of exciting announcements from various companies.
Datamatic introduced CommSTAR MDx, a commercial and industrial data retrieval system that supports all major brands of utility meters.
Indus International launched its new Indus SDM for utilities, a service delivery management solution.
Elster Electricity made a number of announcements, among them that the Orlando Utilities Commission has installed their EnergyAxis system.
Landis + Gyr announced a new product designed jointly with Comverge Inc. and announced new alliances with NxtPhase, Hunt Technologies and Cellnet. A familiar name with a new face, Cellnet revived its brand at DistribuTECH 2004 after having been acquired from Schlumberger by Atos Origin.
Besides its alliance with L+G, Hunt Technologies also announced an alliance with Badger Meter Inc. to marry Hunt’s PLC-based communication system with Badger’s Orion meter reading solution.
Siemens Power Transmission & Distribution announced that the company has been selected by the California Independent System Operator to provide an energy
market management system and services for the day-ahead integrated forward market and real-time market operations.
Cooper Power Systems discussed their work with DV2010, a consortium of electric utilities making a unified effort to define a vision for the power distribution industry for the year 2010.
The release of OVS, a new solid dielectric vacuum interruption overhead distribution switch with visible break was announced by ABB, along with a new 27-kV rating and the availability of a magnetically actuated circuit breaker for SafeGear and Advance switchgear.
Open Systems International revealed a number of confirmed orders, including ones from FPL Energy (for a generation management system), Chelan County Public Utility District (for a new energy management and distribution management system), Kissimmee Utility Authority (for a new SCADA system) and Lafayette Utilities System (for a new SCADA and energy management system).
Also announced during the show: ALSTOM’s Transmission and Distribution Sector, a worldwide supplier of energy management software solutions, has changed its named to AREVA T&D following ts acquisition by AREVA earlier in January.
DistribuTECH Switches Coasts
DistribuTECH 2005 is scheduled for Jan. 25-27, 2005, in yet another super sunny destination, San Diego. Tracks on power system technologies, T&D business issues, customer-facing technologies, water technologies, along with maintenance, operations and hardware are already being shaped.
More information, including information on submitting a paper or panel presentation for next year’s show is available on the DistribuTECH website at www.distributech.com.