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Security, Reliability & CIP

PPL CEO Interviewed

What are the most exciting things happening at PPL? What were the biggest challenges in that journey? Were there some tough challenges you had to get through?
Author Bio: 

Bill Spence joined PPL in 2006 as executive vice president and chief operating officer. He was named president and CEO in 2011, and chairman in 2012. Previously, he served nineteen years with Pepco Holdings in senior management positions.

We went to Allentown and talked with Bill Spence.

Are We Smart Yet?

Yet another sweltering summer is causing its share of outages and supply problems, with predictable backlash from customers and policy makers. And with the advances we’ve seen in recent years, perhaps again we should be asking whether we’re adequately focused on our most critical mission: keeping the power on.

Author Bio: 

Michael T. Burr is Fortnightly’s editor-in-chief. Email him at burr@pur.com.

Rising expectations in the Dog Days of summer.

Orchestrating Outages

Squeezing plant outage duration by days or even weeks can save the industry billions of dollars in lost running time. The San Onofre outage is just the most visible example of what’s at stake for the industry. New outage management technologies and processes allow generators to coordinate outages and get critical plants back online quickly and efficiently.

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Technology Corridor
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Call of Duty: The Outage
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According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 72 percent of American households play computer or video games. Who cares?

Invensys does.

The company’s EYESIM virtual reality software allows goggle-wearing users to walk through a virtual power plant environment—like they might with a first-person video game. As a training system, it can be used to address virtually any outage scenario. It’s currently supporting an IGCC plant training demonstration program at the National Energy Technology Lab’s AVESTAR Center.

“We see this being used for outage planning,” says Peter Richmond, product manager with Invensys. “With a full 3-D view of the plant, planners will be able to visualize where the equipment is, where to place the scaffolding, where to place outage equipment, and even use it to determine the order in which the work will be performed.”

Further, as the ESA numbers clearly indicate, Invensys believes the next generation power plant workers will be familiar with video technology and consequently will embrace it over traditional training techniques. As such, Invensys is marketing its program for a variety of training purposes, including shut down and start up processes prior to an actual outage.

“A planned shut down and start-up doesn’t occur that often and plant personnel don’t usually get to practice the steps very often,” he says.

It’s a manual process—adjusting valves and controls. If you get it wrong, things can blow up.

“Our system will allow plant personnel to practice in a virtual environment,” Richmond says. “If they make a mistake, the system will tell them what could conceivably happen.”–SMG

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Got Boilermakers?
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When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last December that it had finalized its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, or MATS, it predicted thousands of American workers would be needed to build, install, and operate new power plant equipment to reduce emissions of mercury, acid gases, and other air pollutants.

With roughly four years to comply with the mandate, many within the electric power industry have predicted labor shortages, especially on the power plant installation and construction end of the equation. But as far as the Kansas City, Kansas-based International Brotherhood of Boilermakers is concerned, those fears are unfounded.

Some 10 years ago, when many in the industry were predicting a spike in coal-fired power plant construction, the union began gearing up its apprenticeship and recruitment programs in anticipation of the building boom. At that time it was predicted that enough Boilermakers would be needed to handle 50 million man-hours of construction work by 2010.

But the boom was a dud. Plans for roughly 100 new coal-fired generation units were scrapped. As a result, boilermaker man-hours peaked at 41 million in 2008, with about 31,000 members actively working, and man-hours have been in sharp decline ever since. Boilermakers worked 34 million man-hours in 2009, 29 million man-hours in 2010, and 27 million man-hours in 2011. About 25 million man-hours are projected for 2012.

According to Kyle Evenson, the union’s executive director of construction sector operations, some boilermakers decided to retire or seek other occupations during the industry downturn. “But the average $58 an hour in pay and benefits will bring them back. As the industry recovers, we will meet the needs of the contractors and owners with our apprenticeship and recruiting training programs,” he says.

In the meantime, the workforce should be ample for the expected project demand. “I recently had a guy doing research for a think tank ask, ‘What if 10 power plants all schedule new baghouse equipment installations at the same time?’ I told him that’s roughly 2,000 boilermakers and we have about three times that number right now who are either underemployed or unemployed.”–SMG

Sidebar Title: 
Got Boilermakers?
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When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last December that it had finalized its Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), it predicted thousands of American workers would be needed to build, install, and operate new power plant equipment to reduce emissions of mercury, acid gases, and other air pollutants.

With roughly four years to comply with the mandate, many within the electric power industry have predicted labor shortages, especially on the power plant installation and construction end of the equation. But as far as the Kansas City, Kansas-based International Brotherhood of Boilermakers is concerned, those fears are unfounded.

Some 10 years ago, when many in the industry were predicting a spike in coal-fired power plant construction, the union began gearing up its apprenticeship and recruitment programs in anticipation of the building boom. At that time it was predicted that enough boilermakers would be needed to handle 50 million man-hours of construction work by 2010.

But the boom was a dud. Plans for roughly 100 new coal-fired generation units were scrapped. As a result, boilermaker man-hours peaked at 41 million in 2008, with about 31,000 members actively working, and man-hours have been in sharp decline ever since. Boilermakers worked 34 million man-hours in 2009, 29 million man-hours in 2010, and 27 million man-hours in 2011. About 25 million man-hours are projected for 2012.

According to Kyle Evenson, the union's executive director of construction sector programs, some boilermakers decided to retire or seek other occupations during the industry's downturn. "But the average $58 an hour in pay and benefits will bring them back," he says. "As the industry recovers, we will meet the needs of the contractors and owners with our apprenticeship, recruiting, and training programs."

In the meantime, the workforce should be ample for the expected project demand. "I recently had a guy doing research for a think tank ask, 'What if 10 power plants all schedule new baghouse equipment instllations at the same time?' I told him that's roughly 2,000 boilermakers, and we have about three times that number right now who are either underemployed or unemployed."-SMG

Author Bio: 

Scott M. Gawlicki is Fortnightly’s contributing editor based in Hartford, Conn.

IT systems ease the pain of power plant restarts.

Security and the States

State commissions can select from a toolkit of regulatory approaches to promote desired utility cybersecurity behavior. One approach is to allow the industry to selfregulate, and another approach is to leave the job to the federal government. But sofar, neither the industry nor the federal government have developed and implemented adequate standards for securing the smart grid. States can play a constructive role—albeit perhaps not in the form of traditional regulation.

Author Bio: 

Nancy Brockway is the principal of independent consultancy NBrockway & Associates. Previously she was a commissioner with the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, and served on commission staffs in Massachusetts and Maine before that. Brockway acknowledges the insightful help of Alison Silverstein, but retains sole responsibility for errors and opinions.

The regulator’s role in promoting cybersecurity for the smart grid.