Utilities Peer Into Industry's Future At EUCG Spring Workshop

Apr 13, 2006, 01:00 ET from EUCG

    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
     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:  
     * 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:  
     * 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:
 eucgexec@cox.net . Website: http://www.eucg.org .