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Posted: Dec. 18, 2012

Get the scoop on three recent initiatives

by Randy Wilkerson

Western has been involved with several initiatives and studies lately, all with a similar purpose, but with different focus and objectives. They all look at ways to improve the way we do business in different areas. Maybe you’re having a hard time remembering the difference between JOT, TPOT and the Operations Study. Here’s a short summary of these distinct efforts:

Joint Outreach Team, or JOT

 Scott Parsley, East River Electric Power Cooperative, speaks at the “Design of transmission services” break-out session, Aug. 2.

Scott Parsley, East River Electric Power Cooperative, speaks at the “Design of transmission services” break-out session at the Sioux Falls, S.D., Joint Outreach Team public workshop, Aug. 2. More than 70 people attended the workshop and about 100 attended the listening session to discuss Secretary Chu’s March 16 Memorandum and possible recommendations for the JOT. (Photo by Lisa Meiman)

Secretary Chu’s March 16 Memorandum called on the power marketing administrations to take the lead in facilitating the transition to a more resilient and fle xible grid while reducing costs to consumers. Embracing that challenge, the Department of Energy and Western chartered the Joint Outreach Team to identify opportunities and develop strategies to ensure Western can continue to meet its core mission and respond to the industry challenges of the 21st century.

The team, co-led by Transmission Services Manager Ron Moulton of Western and Jennifer DeCesaro of DOE, held a series of five workshops and six listening sessions across Western’s service area to gather input from tribes, customers and stakeholders in three specific areas:

  • Transmission operation and planning
  • Design of transmission services
  • New transmission authorities

In a Sept. 7 webinar, customers, stakeholders and Native American tribes heard a summary of what JOT had heard during the workshops, webinars, conference calls and in more than 100 written comments. Draft recommendations were published in the Federal Register, initiating a public comment period on the recommendations. JOT expects to present final recommendations to the Secretary in late January.

Transmission Infrastructure Program Optimization Team, or TPOT

In three years, the Transmission Infrastructure Program went from existing only as a concept to a fully functional program. TIP learned many lessons along the way, continuously improving and making modifications. For TIP to become a mature, steady-state program, DOE and Western assembled a team, called the TIP Optimization Team, to evaluate TIP’s practices and recommend improvements to move TIP from the new kid on the block to a regular part of Western’s mission.

The team’s goals, specific to TIP projects only, were to:

  • Evaluate the project development process
  • Evaluate existing criteria for screening and prioritizing potential projects
  • Increase the transparency of the vetting process for potential projects
  • Improve communication with TIP applicants

The team conducted a workshop with a diverse group of parties, April 2, to receive input and discuss the program’s implementation to date and how TIP can better meet its core objectives. The team also sought comments internally and externally. Based on their analysis and the feedback they received, the team will propose some revisions to Western and DOE senior leadership on TIP’s process and criteria for selecting projects to consider for borrowing authority funds. When finalized, the revisions to TIP’s process will be published in the Federal Register.

Operations Study (fortunately, this one doesn’t have an acronym)

In summer 2011, almost a year before Secretary Chu’s memo, senior managers commissioned an independent study to look at Western’s transmission, operations, settlements and reliability compliance functions related to business efficiency, industry best practices and industry trends. There were no predetermined outcomes.

The study documented Western’s current practices, benchmarked the practices of other utilities comparable to Western, examined future industry trends and presented alternatives for Western to consider.

Western released the Operations Study report Aug. 9. Western hosted webinars Aug. 15 for employees and Aug. 16 for customers to answer questions about the study and listen to comments. Western accepted comments on the study from employees, customers, Native American tribes and other stakeholders until Sept. 28.

With the number and complexity of initiatives facing Western, including the JOT recommendations and comment period, senior management decided to postpone any additional discussion of the Operations Study alternatives with employees and customers until after the final JOT recommendations have been delivered to the Secretary of Energy.

Acting Administrator Anita Decker said, “This will help us give proper attention to the final JOT recommendations, compare those recommendations to the Operations Study and determine how to get the most benefit from both to support our core mission.”

Note: Wilkerson is a public affairs specialist in Corporate Communications.