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Celebrating National Lineworker Appreciation Day

​On July 10, EEI joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the Utility Workers Union of America, and the National Electrical Contractors Association in saluting the nation’s nearly 75,000 electrical lineworkers. America’s lineworkers maintain and enhance the energy grid and work day and night in all conditions to ensure that customers have reliable and safe access to the energy they need to power their lives. National Lineworker Appreciation Day is celebrated each year on July 10, and it honors the life and work of Henry Miller, the first president of IBEW. 

“The nation’s lineworkers are the face of America’s electric companies, and they truly are deserving of our appreciation today, and every day,” said EEI President Tom Kuhn. “Lineworkers are among the first responders in the wake of storms and other disasters, and we are grateful to these dedicated men and women, and the families who support them, for the work they do to power our lives.”

America’s lineworkers are on the front lines of the clean energy transition underway throughout the country. They are adopting and integrating new technology into their daily routines designed to make their work more efficient and the energy grid stronger, more reliable, and more secure.​ 

Kuhn and IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson authored a joint op-ed on the invaluable role played by the nation’s lineworkers in Energy Central: “All of us rely on the hard work and commitment of our nation’s lineworkers to keep our country and our communities running. Please join us and #ThankALineworker​, not just on National Lineworker Appreciation Day, but every day. The work they do ensures that the energy we depend on to power our lives can get where it is needed, when it is needed, while keeping electricity costs affordable.”

This year’s celebration centered around two events on Capitol Hill featuring lineworkers from EEI member companies. The first involved demonstrations of some of the tools and techniques lineworkers use to maintain and enhance the energy grid, which was followed by a reception allowing members of Congress and their staffs to meet lineworkers and featuring the signing of a bipartisan resolution in recognition of National Lineworker Appreciation Day. More than 100 members of Congress co-sponsored this resolution. 

Learn more about the electric power industry's commitment to its extraordinary men and women in EEI Executive Vice President of Public Policy and External Affairs Brian Wolff's column in Electric Perspectives. Read more about this year's celebration in EEI’s press release.

​Photo: Representatives Donald Norcross (D-NJ) and David McKinley (R-WV) pose with lineworkers to celebrate a bipartisan resolution recognizing National Lineworker Appreciation Day.​
News From the Hill
News From the Hill
LIHEAP Action Month Will Highlight Importance of Energy Assistance

For the millions of Americans who struggle to afford basic necessities, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a critical source of aid, helping them pay their energy bills and preventing them from having to ​choose between energy and other essentials, like food or medicine. Access to affordable energy is a matter of health and safety for everyone.

In August, EEI, our member companies, and partners from across the nation working together through the National Energy & Utility Affordability Coalition (NEUAC) will participate in events for LIHEAP Action Month to highlight the vital importance of this essential, widely supported federal program. NEUAC provides a LIHEAP Action Toolkit and a calendar of events, such as town hall meetings, that help to underscore the value of LIHEAP funding for America's most vulnerable citizens.

Approximately 35 million households across the nation are eligible for LIHEAP assistance. Yet, inadequate funding for the program means that only 6.8 million receive basic help to pay their energy bills—four out of five eligible families do not. Four out of five households helped by LIHEAP have an annual income below $20,000, and nine out of 10 households helped by LIHEAP are home to a child under 18, an elderly resident, a veteran, or someone with a disability.

Each year, EEI's member companies contribute millions of dollars to energy assistance programs for vulnerable customers and provide access to home weatherization programs, but the need for LIHEAP remains critical nationwide. Find more information on EEI's website​ and in our factsheet.

Driving Diversity
Driving Diversity
EEI Names Winners of 2019 Business Diversity Awards

​On July 11, at the 36th annual Business Diversity Conference in Nashville, EEI presented the 2019 Business Diversity Awards, which recognize companies for their outstanding efforts in advancing purchasing opportunities for diverse suppliers, including minority-, women-, veteran-, and LGBTQ-owned businesses within the investor-owned electric power industry.

  • DTE Energy earned the industry’s overall Excellence Award for its dedication to partnering with women- and minority-owned businesses, strengthening the local economy. In 2018, DTE spent $472 million with certified diverse suppliers, which represents almost 20 percent of the company’s total spend. "Congratulations to DTE for winning this year’s Excellence Award for its commitment to developing and maintaining a strong network of diverse suppliers," said EEI President Tom Kuhn. "DTE demonstrated how both electric companies and their suppliers can be successful when they work together on workforce and business development to ensure that the supplier base reflects the communities they serve."
  • San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) was the recipient of EEI’s Innovation Award, which recognizes a company that promotes business diversity by any new approach through technology, software, project management, or outreach efforts that result in increased business development for its suppliers or efforts that make a substantial economic impact. SDG&E developed a custom online portal for its suppliers to enter their monthly spend with diverse subcontractors, allowing the company to track and audit subcontractor spending to ensure the use of diverse subcontractors.
  • Engineered Solutions, Inc. (ESI) received EEI’s Diverse Business Award, which is given to a company that displays support of business diversity through development initiatives. This veteran-owned business offers a broad range of consulting services with a focus on custom mechanical and electrical engineering and design services. For more than 11 years, ESI has worked with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to provide quality and timely electrical and digital design services.
  • The Prime Supplier Leadership Award was presented to Phillips and Jordan, Inc., (P&J), a civil and infrastructure contractor that is a certified woman-owned business. For more than 60 years, P&J has worked with TVA while consistently supporting fellow diverse businesses in the process. After developing a small and diverse spending program in 2013, P&J has consistently spent 40 to 52 percent annually with small and diverse businesses. In 2018, that number was 44 percent of P&J’s spend.

For more information, read EEI's press release​

In the News
In the News
Electric Companies Respond to Summer Heat and Storms

This summer, a variety of extreme weather events have impacted customers and communities around the country, from Tropical Storm Barry (which reached hurricane strength briefly as it made landfall in Louisiana) to a dangerous heat wave and series of destructive thunderstorms that struck parts of the Midwest and East. In each case, electric companies mounted safe, efficient, effective, and robust responses. 

During Barry, EEI and the CEO-led Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council​ were heavily engaged, holding daily coordination calls with senior officials from the Department of Energy, FEMA, and Department of Homeland Security, and with the operations and communications leads from electric companies in the path of the storm to discuss the preparation and staging activities underway; mutual assistance planning and readiness; the response and recovery; and critical safety messaging. 

Mutual assistance is a hallmark of the electric power industry and serves as an effective and critical restoration resource for electric companies. Beyond ensuring the safety of customers, communities, and crews, protecting the energy grid is the electric power industry's top priority.​ Learn about how power is restored after a storm​.

Taking simple steps today to be ready for emergencies makes a difference if—and when—an emergency occurs. Always assume that downed power lines are energized and stay away. Always have an emergency outage kit prepared, and read EEI's safety tips for earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires​. Visit your local electric company’s website for the latest updates and guidance on how to prepare for storms and other emergencies.

What We're Reading
What We're Reading
The AES Corporation's Andrés Gluski on Innovation in Energy Storage

​"The need to store energy has never been more critical," writes Andrés Gluski, president and CEO of The AES Corporation, in the latest issue of Electric Perspectives. "Integrating renewable power with battery-based storage not only increases energy grid stability and enhances distribution networks, it increases the value of renewable energy. It forms what we call 'firm renewables.'

"The combination of renewables and energy storage creates predictable blocks of power that can be bid into the energy market just as traditional methods of generation are. Typically, batteries charge when there is a surplus of energy—often during the day when sunshine is abundant or at night when the wind is blowing—and release that energy when customers need it most, including during peak hours after dark when solar panels no longer are producing power or when turbines stop rotating. This lowers the average cost of electricity to customers and allows greater penetration of renewables on the energy grid."

Read more.

Delivering Innovation
Delivering Innovation
Electric Companies Deploy Advanced Wildfire Protections

​​The electric power industry continues to look collectively for strategies to manage and mitigate the risk of wildfires, and EEI's member companies are leading on developing and implementing advanced systems to protect their customers and communities. The following are just two of the innovative ways electric companies are working to safeguard against wildfires.

  • After several years of testing and development in collaboration with experts from the University of Wisconsin–Madison Space Science and Engineering Center, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has deployed the PG&E Satellite Fire Detection and Alerting System, which incorporates data from two new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration geostationary operational environmental satellites, as well as three polar-orbiting satellites, to provide the company with 24/7 advanced warning of potential new wildfires. The system became fully operational in late June, and already has detected hundreds of fires since it began limited operation in February.

    "This capability offers first-of-its-kind situational awareness by providing a live feed from the satellites to our Wildfire Safety Operations Center," said Sumeet Singh, vice president of PG&E's community wildfire safety program. "Emerging technologies such as this are another way we are working to reduce wildfire risk and protect our customers and our communities."

    The satellite system is just one layer of PG&E's wildfire defenses: the company performs aerial surveillance during fire season and operates a network of weather stations and high-definition cameras to improve its ability to predict and respond to elevated wildfire danger. By the end of 2019, PG&E plans to have at least 600 weather stations and 100 high-definition cameras in high fire-threat areas. 
  • Southern California Edison (SCE) is partnering with the Orange County Fire Authority on a 150-day demonstration project using a new hover-filling helitanker that has three times the capacity of a conventional water-dropping helicopter. The giant Sikorsky S-61N will be teamed with a second, smaller Sikorsky S-76B reconnaissance helicopter flown by pilots with night-vision goggles and using other advanced imaging systems to operate after sundown. The reconnaissance helicopter will use a laser to target a water source for the helitanker and pinpoint where to make the drop, and will follow up to see how effective the drop was in hitting the fire. 

    It is the first time this combination has been used in the United States to fight wildfires at night. The helicopters, built by Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc., will be available to fight wildfires throughout Southern California.

    The helitanker is able to refill its more than 1,000-gallon tank by hovering above a water source. This enables it to return to firefighting more quickly than a conventional water-dropping helicopter that must land and use ground crews to refill.

    "This project will demonstrate a firefighting capability that is not currently available in the United States and provide additional resources to fire agencies across Southern California," said Chris Thompson, SCE’s vice president of local public affairs. "This is an example of the most recent of SCE’s many significant investments to reduce catastrophic wildfire risk using innovative technology."

Read more about the wildfire protection work of PG&E and SCE​.

​Photo: Maria Hedrick/SCE.
What We're Watching
DTE Energy—Restoring Power Is a True Team Effort
What We're Watching
Thought Leadership
Thought Leadership
North America’s Leading Energy Experts Meet in Toronto to Discuss the Future of the Sector

Barry Perry, president and CEO of Fortis Inc., writes in the latest issue of ​Electric Perspectives: "Sustainability, innovation, collaboration, and resiliency—these are perennial themes for the North American energy sector, and these concepts continue to evolve as the sector undergoes rapid, transformative, and unprecedented change.

"Fortis recently brought together top industry leaders and decision makers in North America’s energy market to discuss these very things at the 2019 Fortis Energy Exchange in Toronto, Canada. Topics included: What are the biggest drivers influencing our collective energy future? How do we create positive change for customers and empower the communities we serve? How do we facilitate cross-border partnerships and opportunities? How do we ensure safety, affordability, and reliability?"

Read more​.

Innovative Partnerships
Innovative Partnerships
Southern Company Teams Up On Energy Storage Research Center

​Southern Company and its partners, which include the nonprofit scientific organization Southern Research, the Electric Power Research Institute, the United States Department of Energy, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have opened the groundbreaking Energy Storage Research Center (ESRC) in Birmingham, AL. The center will allow researchers from across the electric power industry, as well as from academia, government, and technology companies, to study, develop, and test innovative energy storage solutions, including chemical, mechanical, and thermal technologies. 

Energy storage offers multiple benefits for the energy grid and for electricity customers. It facilitates the integration of renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar, into the energy grid by keeping supply and demand balanced at all times. Energy storage also helps to improve electric reliability by providing grid stability services, reducing transmission constraints, and meeting peak demand. Today, electric companies own, procure, or utilize 98 percent of all energy storage in the United States. The ESRC will serve as an industry-wide resource to help researchers evaluate emerging energy storage technologies to bring the multiple benefits offered by storage to the energy grid and customers.

"The ESRC will broaden our work with stakeholders and technology developers from across the industry to better understand energy storage systems and how to fully use this technology to build the future of energy," said Roxann Walsh, Southern Company research and development director.

ESRC's opening comes as Southern Company celebrates the 50th anniversary of the founding of its research and development organization. "Our commitment to R&D has never wavered," said Tom Fanning, chairman, president, and CEO of Southern Company. "These efforts continue to attract and leverage academia and outside technology expertise, solve problems for Southern Company and the entire industry, stimulate critical thinking, and embrace ideas that drive change—empowering us to better serve our customers today and into the future."

Photo: Courtesy Southern Company.

Company Spotlight
Company Spotlight
Solar Joins STEM Curriculum at Minneapolis High School, Thanks to Xcel Energy

​At Thomas A. Edison High School in northeast Minneapolis, students are benefiting from hands-on experience with solar energy, thanks to a grant from Xcel Energy's Renewable Development Fund. The school's new 485-kilowatt solar array will generate enough energy for about half its annual needs, and it also will be an instructional tool in Edison's STEM curriculum. 

In addition, the school plans to include solar energy among its "LEEF" (leadership, entrepreneurship, environment future) program that engages students by helping them explore pathways to careers via visits to training sites. Real-time data on solar production at Edison is available in the classroom and expected to be used in future math and science courses. The nearly $1 million Xcel Energy grant supporting the project also includes electric vehicle charging stations and reinforces Edison's designation as the Minneapolis Public Schools' green campus.

"Xcel Energy is leading the clean energy transition and is on a path to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2030," said Chris Clark, president, Xcel Energy⁠—Minnesota. "As we add more renewable energy onto our system, we’re excited to use some of these projects to also provide teaching opportunities today for the workers we will hire tomorrow."

An earlier version of this story appeared on Xcel Energy Connect.

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