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Technology Allows for Daytime Corona Inspection

A new camera technology developed by EPRI makes a once impossible task possible. The new DayCor camera, developed by EPRI in conjunction with Ofil Ltd. and several U.S. electric utilities, makes it possible to see corona on overhead transmission lines during daylight hours. The device’s effectiveness has already been put to the test, as the New York Power Authority used the DayCor camera to resolve a potentially serious radio interference issue at one-fourth the cost of a conventional nighttime corona inspection.

The camera works by splitting captured images in two. It sends the first image through a filter to block out sunlight, exposing the corona, and sends the image of the object under investigation to a standard video camera. An imaging process then superimposes the two, producing an image of the corona exactly as it appears on the insulator, conductor or other line component.

“DayCor technology has the ability to fundamentally change the way utilities deal with corona problems,” said Andrew Phillips, a senior research engineer at EPRI subsidiary EPRIsolutions. “With further improvements, which are under way, we believe this device will prove indispensable for the inspection of transmission lines and substation components.”

Testing has proved the camera’s effectiveness both from the ground and air. The camera’s first version, the DayCor MK I, currently is available for purchase. A limited number of the DayCor MK II, which promises higher magnification and digital signal processing in a smaller package, should become available in September. EPRI is setting up tailored collaborative projects with member utilities to further assess DayCor MK II applications and is developing a guide for using the camera on overhead transmission lines.

“This is a breakthrough technology,” said Fisher Campbell, a Tennessee Valley Authority project manager who assisted in DayCor’s prototype development. “It allows daytime corona inspections that were not previously possible. Ultimately, we would like to employ the DayCor camera in airborne inspections. That would allow us to inspect our 17,000 miles of transmission lines for corona and to work the camera into our routine line inspection program.”


Image from the DayCor camera showing corona on an insulator.Click here to enlarge image

Utilities interested in participating in related research or having EPRIsolutions perform DayCor inspections on their facilities can contact Andrew Phillips at aphillip@epri.com or (413) 499-5714.

Commonwealth Edison Prepares for Summer’s Peak Demand

In a recent presentation to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) reported that more than 70 percent of the critical improvement work slated for this summer has been completed, and the company is on target to finish all critical projects before summer peaking season.

ComEd distributes biweekly and quarterly progress reports to the city of Chicago and the Illinois Commerce Commission about transmission and distribution systems improvements.

ComEd officials, in the midst of a massive construction and repair program, said they have invested more than $1.5 billion overhauling the utility’s transmission and distribution system.

“Though we have made significant improvements since last summer, it will take at least another year to get the system in top shape,” Carl Croskey, ComEd’s distribution group president, said during the presentation. “I cannot guarantee that there will not be outages this summer. However, I can guarantee more reliable service, a quicker response time and better communication to the ICC, city and customers.”

At the time of the presentation, ComEd had completed more than 200 major projects, and another 93 were under way. Since last year, customer outages have decreased by 21 percent, and the time it takes ComEd workers to respond to outages and restore power has improved by 36 percent.

Croskey said the company’s investment is easy to see and cited work sites at specific substations where crews can be seen working on lines. “Rebuilding our system is a massive job,” he said. “We’re importing parts and supplies from places throughout the world. We’re using thousands of contractors and working seven days a week.

“It is important to us that all of our customers know we are committed to providing the most reliable service in the nation. It will take time, but we believe that at the end of the day, the difference in service will be obvious,” Croskey said.

PG&E to Pay C&I Customers to Reduce Load

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) is marketing a new program that pays large commercial and industrial customers to use less power when system demand peaks and electric prices are high.

The price-responsive bidding program, called E-BID, was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission in April. E-BID allows customers to accept a payment offer at which they would agree to reduce their load by at least 20 percent. The program is part of a statewide effort to prepare California for the summer of 2000, which could bring with it record demands on the electrical system.

“This is a unique opportunity for customers to be part of the solution in meeting California’s growing energy needs,” said Al Torres, PG&E’s account services department manager. “We expect that reducing electrical demand when prices are high may result in a downward pressure on electric supply costs to our other customers as well.”

NewEnergy Criticizes SRP’s New Competitive Price Plan

Even though Arizona’s Salt River Project (SRP) service territory was opened to competition last year, it is impossible for any energy service provider to sell power there unless clear rules providing fair and open access to SRP’s transmission and delivery system are established, said Phil Harper, senior vice president of energy service provider NewEnergy.

Since competition was introduced in the territory, few customers have left SRP for other energy service providers. In an attempt to promote competition, SRP’s board of directors recently approved a new price plan for its customers.

According to Harper, the steps taken by SRP, while positive on the surface, represent only a first step toward competition. “NewEnergy has been talking with customers in SRP’s service territory since 1998, and the board’s decision is an important first step in providing us an opportunity to serve those customers,” said Harper. “They (SRP) have improved the shopping credit, but their action falls far short of the steps necessary to create a robust, competitive market for their customers. We do not believe that these steps will improve the market environment enough to attract additional competitors, including NewEnergy, into SRP territory.”

SRP’s new plan, called the Price Plan, gives the former monopoly service provider, which still has an unquestionable amount of market power, an unfair and anti-competitive advantage over competition, Harper said.

Under the new plan, SRP can match any offer given to one of its customers by a competitor. “As the incumbent monopoly, SRP can leverage off its integrated utility structure as well as its existing customer base,” Harper said. “This will discourage competition, because after energy service providers expend time, effort and money to try and acquire a customer, SRP can simply match the offer and prevent erosion of their customer base.”

Harper added that SRP has created a penalty for customers who leave them and then try to come back. A customer cannot return to the original tariff, but rather a market index price for electricity, which will expose the customer to price spikes and unnecessary risk. This action is clearly punitive and designed to discourage customers from leaving SRP, Harper said.

The only energy service provider currently active in SRP’s territory has announced it will return its customers to SRP rather than wait for this portion of the Price Plan to be implemented.

“It is said that a long journey begins with a single step,” Harper said. “We took a very important first step with the board of directors for SRP, acknowledging that competition was not working under their existing rules. The next step on this road will be taking actions that bring about a serious change in the status quo, changes that bring more competitors into SRP territory for their customers to choose from. We look forward to moving down that road with the Salt River Project.”

Substation Automation Programs on the Rise

Initial findings of a Newton-Evans Research investigation into substation automation and integration programs indicate that plans for substation automation programs are on the increase among the world’s electric utilities. At the time of this writing, fieldwork for the study was in its final stages, but a number of key findings were available:

  • Protocol Usage Patterns: Several protocols are vying for attention in the North American market and internationally. The list includes DNP 3.0, UCA 2.0 and IEC 870-5, along with two found in substations using programmable logic controllers-typically Modbus or Modbus Plus in North America, and Profibus elsewhere. DNP stands as the most widely used, most rapidly maturing standard, according to initial findings of the Newton-Evans study.
  • Physical Linkage: For communications between IEDs, fiber has become the leading physical link choice. From the substation to external networks or remote host computers, radio and leased lines are tied for leading choices. Fiber use will increase faster than other media over the next four years, according to utilities involved in the study.
  • Communications Architecture: Within the substation, serial links are widely used, with local area networks undergoing rapid implementation. Reaching the substation from remote control centers is also likely to be based on serial links today, but wide area networks (WANs) are becoming important. By year-end 2004, WANs will become the pre-eminent communications architecture.
  • Need for External Assistance: According to the study, utilities are reporting a need for support and training services when tackling substation automation and integration programs. The need today is particularly strong for training and IED configuration support. In the future, these requirements will be joined by needs for long-term maintenance agreements, commissioning, and installation and design services.
  • Specific Equipment Types Integral to Substation Automation: Remote terminal units and digital relays were considered to be the leading equipment types that utility officials consider integral components of substation automation programs.

The five-volume series of substation automation reports is slated for sequential publication from May through July. For more information on the study, contact Newton-Evans Research at 1-800-222-2856.

While nearly six out of 10 midsize business customers in the United States report that they are “extremely satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their electric utility provider, the level of satisfaction varies significantly, according to the recently released 2000 Electric Utility Midsize Business Customer Satisfaction Study.

The study, jointly funded by J.D. Power and Associates and Navigant Consulting, found that levels range from nearly eight out of 10 “very satisfied” customers for the highest-performing provider, down to just over two out of 10 “very satisfied” customers for the lowest-performing provider.

That variation in customer satisfaction performance for midsize business customers differs from residential customers based on results from the 1999 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study, also conducted by J.D. Power and Associates and Navigant Consulting. Although the residential study found a significant gap between the best performers and marginal performers, that gap was much narrower, and residential customers generally expressed a higher satisfaction level.

Midsize Businesses Show Varying Satisfaction with Utilities

The midsize business study also found that the key determinants of satisfaction among electric utility customers are a provider’s image, price and value, and power quality and reliability. The study shows that utilities in the South consistently receive higher ratings across all factors of customer satisfaction.

The study’s findings indicate that business customers are more satisfied with their electricity provider when they have a human touch point with the provider. Midsize business customers that have a designated utility account representative are almost 40 percent more “extremely” or “very” satisfied with the electric utility than if they do not have a designated point of contact, according to the study.

“The personalized touch of an account representative, together with the fundamentals of image, price, value, power quality and reliability, seems to be the winning formula for success,” said Jeffrey Conklin, Navigant Consulting director. “Retaining the most desirable midsize business customers will require a utility to excel in each of these areas.”

DTE Energy Technologies Rolls Out Bundled Services

DTE Energy Technologies, an affiliate of Detroit Edison and a subsidiary of DTE Energy Co., announced the rollout of two innovative Web-based service bundles-energy|now and safety|now-to its commercial customers. Energy|now is a combination of energy monitoring and data services that helps businesses achieve significant operating cost reductions. Safety|now integrates temperature monitoring with other systems to help ensure food safety for a wide range of businesses involved in food service.

A gateway, the Connector, provided by Coactive Networks, which extends Internet access to devices, appliances, control systems and computers, is an integral part of the service offering. “The Coactive Connector provides a flexible yet cost-effective platform for introducing a growing range of innovative new services across diverse customer classes,” said Jim Gariepy, DTE Energy Technologies’ information technologies vice president.

DTE Energy Technologies is a diversified high-technology company offering a range of products and services to solve the energy-related challenges of commercial, residential and industrial customers.

Southern Company Launches Online Information System

In an effort to expand its Internet presence, Southern Company has launched an online energy and cost management information system, www.EnergyDirect.com. The site provides business customers with secure, continuous access to current and historical energy billing and usage information.

“EnergyDirect.com will significantly improve our customers’ ability to understand and analyze their energy consumption, allowing them to make better business decisions,” said Bertram Sears, Southern Company’s marketing and new business development vice president.

EnergyDirect.com lets customers access real-time prices and hourly usage information, overlay weather data on energy usage, measure consumption against their own goals, and compare energy usage and billing information among multiple sites or over a period of time.

EnergyDirect.com is being launched in phases and was made available first to the Building Owners and Managers of Atlanta. Southern plans to offer the service to other customer groups later this year.

Contract Awards and Extensions

Ontario Hydro Services Co. (OHSC) has contracted Alstom ESCA to provide a transmission network management system that will combine the functions of a SCADA system with the analysis functions of an energy management system. The system will be the key component of OHSC’s Integrated Transmission Operating Facilities, which monitors and operates Ontario’s transmission system.

Denver Water has contracted Itron Inc. to implement AMR technology for 220,000 residential and commercial meters in the Denver metropolitan area. Itron AMR modules will be installed on all of the utility’s water meters. Data will be collected using Itron’s Mobile AMR technology, with Itron’s MicroNetwork system being tested in hard-to-access areas and commercial corridors.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has selected Andersen Consulting to deliver business systems and procedures so ERCOT can control power flows, oversee market operations, track commercial transactions, and archive and retrieve data needed to track activity in a competitive market. Subcontractors include Alstom ESCA, Lodestar and Regional Economic Research.

Canadian utility Nova Scotia Power Inc. has selected Utility Partners’ MobileUP Software Suite to automate work planning and field processing operations. Also involved in the project are ESRI Canada, which is providing ArcInfo products as the GIS platform and CES International, which is providing its Centricity Operations Resource Management System for trouble call/outage management.

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative has selected Microlog Corp.’s uniQue interactive voice response (IVR) system to handle customer calls, specifically during outage situations.

NewEnergy Inc. has selected C3 Communications Inc. to provide interval meter reading, data processing and delivery, settlement data, and field installation and maintenance for NewEnergy’s direct access customers in California.

Alliances, Mergers and Acquisitions

Motorola and Salt River Project (SRP) have signed an agreement that gives Motorola responsibility for future development and marketing of SRP’s Spatia solution-a Web-based solution for collection, communication and information processing of power usage for commercial and industrial customers.

Scottish Power and U.S. Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) have planned a joint venture that will create a global e-business service provider for the utility industry. The new company, called Calanais, will target deregulating markets in Britain, the United States and Europe.

T&D design and optimization software developer LineSoft Corp. has forged a strategic alliances with Intergraph and Smallworld to leverage integration of its LD-Pro program with utility companies’ enterprise solutions.

Andersen Consulting and edocs Inc. have announced an alliance to serve the electronic bill presentment and payment (EBPP) market. Andersen Consulting will offer EBPP solutions based on edocs’ BillDirect product suite to a range of industries, including utilities, telecommunications and financial services.

Exelon Infrastructure Services (EIS) and Siemens Power Transmission & Distribution Inc. (SPT&D) have agreed to jointly market their products and services. SPT&D is partnering with EIS to enhance its existing design, installation and maintenance services. EIS will offer Siemens’ T&D equipment line along with its infrastructure services.

Personnel Changes and Promotions

Internet utility company Utility.com has hired Ella Conrad as systems development vice president. Conrad will be in charge of Web development and engineering. Prior to joining Utility.com, Conrad worked as application development director and acting vice president for Silicon Energy in Alameda, Calif.

The Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator (ISO) has selected David H. McMillan as market operations director and John R. Catlin as client relations director. McMillan was previously transmission policy manager at Reliant Energy in Houston; Catlin had been power system operations manager at Wabash Valley Power Assoc. in Indianapolis.

The EPRI board of directors has elected TVA Chairman Craven Crowell to serve as EPRI chairman. Crowell is the first TVA board member to serve as EPRI chairman.

Carolina Power & Light has chosen Peter M. Scott III to be its new chief financial officer. For the past 20 years, Scott has worked as a financial and strategic adviser to CP&L. Scott also will hold the title of executive vice president.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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