I’m taking off for two weeks and Steve Wilent has graciously volunteered to administer TSW in my absence.
- I ran across this about “crown shyness- see photo above.
- The experts in this essay by a grid expert sound like the ID team from Hell. Working on a fuel treatment project, for example, sounds mild by comparison. And this is when the experts agree on the ultimate desirable outcome!
“Utilities Are Not Experts, But Rather a Collection of Experts
There is not a common single body of expertise commonly shared by the many experts that make up an electric utility. Rather than are many experts with differing areas of expertise with demands that can place them at conflict with those operating within other areas of expertise. Effectively managing an electric utility is highly dependent upon balancing the input of many competing “experts”. The goals and priorities of large areas such budgeting, rates, maintenance, operating, environmental, planning, construction, compliance, marketing, R&D, legal, strategic planning. as well as sub areas within these, will often be in conflict as to the actions a utility should take. Leaders have to weigh the inputs from these areas to provide direction and make decisions.
Competing Experts and Goals
Healthy competition is good and necessary. The goals of maintenance are worthwhile, but sometimes in order to best utilize our resources and address other concerns, utilities might need to temporarily depart from what the maintenance experts advocate. The experts in projects tell us how long it should take to complete a project. But in emergencies, other experts might insist that this project must be completed in a much shorter time frame to allow for an upcoming summer peak. Transmission planning and distribution planning experts within the utility might favor different solutions for correcting an area problem: do you beef up the area distribution or do you add more support from the transmission system? With conflicts of this sort, sometimes you find a compromise, but in others one set of experts must give in.
Specialization and Silos
In additions to problems of breadth of expertise, problems around specialization also confound attempts at expert consensus. Understanding the full extent of emerging grid reliability problems requires an understanding of generation planning, transmission planning and systems operations. Intermittent, asynchronous wind and solar energy sources impact generation planning, transmission planning and system operators. These three areas have differing expertise and experts within these areas that are not always well informed of the concerns of the others. Generation planners are concerned with providing generation 24 hours a day 367 days a year far into the future. They assume transmission planners will take care of delivery problems. Generation modelling is focused on energy production and they look at megawatt-hours. Transmission Planners are worried about the transmission system during peak times of stress. They make efforts to understand the implications of potential generation, but intermittent sources make that challenging. Their focus is based on demand levels so they look at megawatts. System Operators worry about issues of generation and transmission but they operate day to day and in the near term. Their focus is on dealing with the system as it is, not determining what it might be or handle scenarios in the far future. Further within these areas, there are specialists who go deep and do not well understand the problems within their own broader area.”