Utilities Peer Into Industry's Future At EUCG Spring Workshop
ANAHEIM, Calif., April 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The electric utility industry is bracing to confront a list of social, economic, operational and strategic issues. These concerns will force many companies to reinvent themselves to remain competitive, according to industry leaders attending EUCG's annual spring workshop in Anaheim, California. The meeting, held March 27-29, was attended by approximately 200 energy industry professionals. The workshop theme was "Energy Information ... for the Future." EUCG is a global association of energy professionals that performs benchmarking surveying and analysis and seeks to identify best practices in the electric utility industry. The biannual workshop helped to identify, frame and debate potential solutions to emerging issues within the electric utility industry. Workshop attendees explored issues ranging from the management of "brain drain" precipitated by the expected mass exodus of baby boomers from the industry over the next decade, to the relevancy of historical electric generation/transmission/distribution performance metrics in competitive markets, to re-licensing and construction strategies for existing or new hydro, fossil, nuclear and renewable-energy power plants. According to EUCG President Steve Saunders, who is employed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the largest public power generator, "The EUCG organization and its workshops have historically proven to be ahead of other industry mediums in identifying and discussing solutions important to utilities. I've been told by our members that we're the industry's incubator for framing these issues, and this workshop exemplified that notion." A utility's use of benchmarking and best practices data to manage change within the organization was also a common workshop theme. James Reyes- Picknell, author of Uptime: Strategies for Excellence in Maintenance Management, provided the keynote address and challenged attendees to understand fully the difference between data and information. "Some would say that we are in the 'information age,' but it's really the 'data age.' Information comes from using that data and wisdom comes from using that information," according to Reyes-Picknell. "Change in the utility industry is more difficult than other industries because utilities have tended to solve problems from a technical orientation. Effective change management stems from a mastery of data and information, not solely from a technical fix." Dozens of benchmarking, best practices and change management topics were presented during the conference's three-day run, reported George W. Sharp, EUCG national marketing director, of American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP). According to Sharp, each EUCG committee focused on a number of issues and ideas relevant to their business: * Information Technology (IT) Committee: Key activities included the identification of IT best management practices, business-IT key performance measures and the successful development of an agreed-upon Committee Charter. According to Committee Chair Blake Rothfuss, IT portfolio manager for Pacific Gas and Electric (NYSE: PCG), the group evaluated a list of business-focused IT performance metrics that will help member utilities improve business-IT alignment and evaluate performance. Best practice and lessons-learned sessions covered Sarbanes-Oxley controls and IT governance implementations. In addition, anticipated customer service benefits associated with mobile computing/wireless technologies were discussed. "Our committee's discussions reflected the input from over 20 different electric utilities, and finalizing our charter is a significant achievement. We now have a solid plan to provide our electric utility members with cost-effective, business-oriented IT benchmarking and best management practice exchanges," said Rothfuss. * Nuclear Committee: Highlights included a presentation of trends in nuclear industry capital and operations and maintenance costs. "The EUCG Nuclear Committee explored issues important to our industry, such as cost trends, but we also spent time discussing the impact that the construction of new nuclear plants will have on electric utilities and on our nation," said Nuclear Committee Chairman David Ward from Duke Power Company (NYSE: DUK). * Fossil Committee: Key issues discussed during the conference included current and future approaches to outage management, technical staffing and incentive compensation. "The Fossil Committee spent a great deal of time discussing creative and cutting-edge approaches to outage management, such as the use of Kaizen as an effective planning tool, and the differences and similarities in outage intervals used by our members," said James Patrick, Fossil Committee chairman, of Ameren (NYSE: AEE). "We also explored recent trends in engineering staffing and incentive compensation programs, which are always on the minds of our members." * Transmission & Distribution (T&D) Committee: Highlights included a lessons-learned discussion around the industry's response to last year's devastating hurricanes. "The impact of natural disasters and how to effectively respond is of great importance to our members. However, we also took time to look at more traditional T&D topics such as cable replacement and maintenance strategies, distribution capacity expansion practices and transformer and protection obsolescence condition issues," said Joe Martucci, T&D Committee chairman, of Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE: PEG). * Hydroelectric Committee: Highlights included presentations around maintenance best practices and strategic asset management. "The Hydro Committee focused its attention on asset management issues because we are so cost and performance focused," said Jim Clune, Hydro Committee member from Bonneville Power. "However, we also took time to explore staffing and human performance issues, which invariably impact both hydro business unit and parent company success." EUCG membership and workshop participation continues to grow. "Our workshop attendance is up by more than 20 percent over last year," said Sharp. "Plus, our membership numbers have grown substantially over the last three to four years. We welcome new members and workshop attendees who would benefit from our unique organization." EUCG will hold its 2006 fall workshop in Dallas, Texas. All energy professionals are invited. Interested parties should visit the EUCG website (http://www.eucg.org) for more information. About EUCG: EUCG is a global association of energy and electric utility professionals who discuss current and emerging industry issues, share best practices and exchange data for benchmarking purposes. The association is organized into five separate committees that represent specific utility functions: Transmission & Distribution (T&D), Fossil Plants, Hydro Plants, Nuclear Plants, and Information Technology (IT) departments. Members attend semi-annual workshops that focus on strategic planning, maintenance practices, operations management, outage management and various other aspects of the electric utility business. Membership is open to all utility companies and professionals worldwide. Interested parties should contact Pat Kovalesky, EUCG executive director, at 1-623-572-4140. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Website: http://www.eucg.org .
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