on-site at CIS Conference 30

If you have peace of mind, you’re a success,” said “Iron” Mike Ditka, during his keynote address at CIS Conference 30. “It took me a long time to figure out what’s important and what’s not.”

The CIS Conference has been working at it for 30 years, and, by all accounts, they’ve got it figured out.

In addition to the legendary NFL player and coach, more than 80 speakers shared their expertise and experiences with representatives from 230 utility companies who came to meet and learn during CIS Week at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas.


During CIS Week, more than 1,200 attendees met to learn and network
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CIS Conference CEO Jerry Duvall welcomed conference goers by saying this conference has a reputation for “working hard and partying hardy.” He was absolutely right. More than 1,200 attendees enjoyed every opportunity to learn, network and party during the weeklong event.

state of the industry

Another piece of knowledge imparted by “Iron Mike” during his keynote address was particularly applicable to this crowd of CIS users and suppliers: “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do.”

The utility CIS market has been somewhat slack since it hit its last high as utilities braced themselves for power deregulation and Y2K. But, based on the increased participation at CIS Week and the opinions of numerous analysts, vendors and users, the market appears to be coming back.

During a session titled “What’s Hot in CIS,” UtiliPoint’s Jon Brock pointed out that the passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 has spurred interest in CIS for at least a couple of reasons: PUHCA repeal has M&A-minded utilities realizing the potential need for a new CIS as they merge systems; and the bill’s focus on “advanced metering infrastructure” and time-based rates is driving interest in CIS and related technologies, such as meter data management.

Brock pointed out that the number of co-ops and munis in the market for a new CIS is growing. Particularly at co-ops, “interest is skyrocketing,” Brock said, “but interest doesn’t equal deals.” Still, Brock noted that deals are increasing and that even IOUs are beginning to buy again after a two-year lull.

According to one vendor, the water utility market is particularly lucrative for CIS vendors right now. For every RFP from an electric utility, there are 15 from water companies, said Burt Willey, president and CEO of Systems & Software. The company is seeing good growth in the municipal market and acknowledges that while they don’t currently serve the co-op market, a lot of co-ops are looking at new CIS purchases.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave demand response a big push but according to Chris Hamilos, CEO of Lodestar, traditional CIS wasn’t engineered for these programs at the residential level. Taking dynamic pricing from the C&I customers to the mass market level is the next step. UtiliPoint’s Brock mirrored that point, saying that more vendors are starting to separate meter data management from CIS.

the exec’s eye view

Don’t let this person touch anything.” That’s what Tom Baker, TXU Electric Delivery’s president and CEO, says is on his personal file in the IT department. In his keynote speech, he acknowledged that he’s no expert when it comes to his computer, but he’s been watching the trends in the industry for his entire career and he knows where his company has to go to keep up. What he needs is an IT group that’s ready to take it there.

Change will happen, said Baker, and it will happen faster and faster. The lessons learned from the past 30 years have led him to that conclusion. Now he tries to prepare by looking at least five years out.

What’s driving all this change? The digital revolution for one thing. It’s made the quality of electricity so critical that frequency variation is measured at levels undreamed of before. Customer expectations are another factor. People just want more. “Do customers really need it? It doesn’t matter,” said Baker. “They expect it.”

CIS is mandatory and “you start from perfection-that’s the entry point.” Music to the ears of the CIS and IT people who know how important their work is and plan to keep working until they get it right.

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