On the Road Again

September 25, 6:00 pm

It is now September 25, and I am at Dulles airport outside of D.C. awaiting my flight to Frankfurt for the European UTC (“EUTC”) annual meeting. Since I last wrote, I have been to Spokane, Washington for the U.S. Region 9 Technical Conference and to Toronto, Ontario, Canada for the UTC Canada (“UTCC”) annual conference.

I am starting to live in that twilight zone of frequent travelers where it is hard to remember which day it is. ‎As an example, I viewed the reminder to an online birthday party invitation the morning after I returned from Toronto. It had some updates about “tomorrow’s” birthday party. Since I was reading it on Saturday, I assumed “tomorrow” meant Sunday even though the date clearly stated September 24. Fast forward to today, September 25, and me pulling up to the party with my 8-year-old and 4-year old in tow, having bought the present on the way, and to be sure, I had my luggage with me so I could head straight to the airport from there. When you pull up to a house where an 8-year-old birthday party is supposed to take place and there are no balloons or other cars outside, you figure out pretty quickly that you messed up. Lesson learned (I hope!). At least we were able to drop off the present and I had some precious extra time with my family…

I last wrote about the Global Advisory Committee‎ meeting earlier in September and the Regions 1 and 2 Conference, so this blog will touch on some impressions from Region 9 (Pacific Northwest) and UTC Canada.

Region 9 has a technical conference in the fall because they join forces with Regions 8 and 10 for a big meeting each spring — so I was expecting a low-key event. I was mistaken in the sense that the meeting was high-energy with excellent input from the utility attendees and the vendors throughout. The agenda began with an evening networking event ‎(that I could not attend) and then a full day of presentations, a sponsored reception/dinner and a breakfast and roundtable discussion the following day (all of which I did attend). The program had a good mix of utility case studies and vendor updates, and the roundtable event involved robust dialogue on issues of concern, including much discussion about distributed generation and various opportunities and challenges associated with the technical, safety and rate design issues involved.

While members are highly engaged in Region 9, I heard the same concern about the need to attract new members that was voiced in New England‎. The folks involved offered some ideas about outreach in the region that UTC staff will follow-up on and ultimately incorporate into our strategic membership plan.

for-blog-09252016-02The event will again be held in Spokane next year, which as I found out, is a lovely medium-sized city. Before I left, the city kicked off a “lantern festival” on the river that celebrates the Chinese heritage of some of the people in the area. Here’s one of my pictures from the lantern festival.

In Toronto, I got to experience my first international trip with UTC, and it was great. I had been to Toronto previously, and this time the weather was excellent and the city was hopping. The meeting took place in the heart of downtown, offering great restaurants within minutes.

In Canada, the marketplace is different from the U.S. in terms of the size and number of electric utilities — there are significantly fewer utilities, many owned by provincial governments. ‎Therefore, membership was also a focus, but it is clear that the value proposition in Canada is slightly different than in the U.S. Not unexpected, but I learned a bit about the specifics of those differences and look forward to learning more as we work with our Canadian colleagues to better communicate to the existing and potential members about what UTC offers. The folks I spoke to really emphasized the need to communicate our value to the “C-suite”/deciders.

The meeting itself was a demonstration of the benefit, in my opinion. Excellent utility and vendor presentations on a variety of technical issues involving spectrum, security, and packet networks, ‎to name a few. There were also a couple of panels discussing higher level issues as well as a presentation about a UTC international project involving determining key performance indicators for private communications networks. Also there were two very informative tours, in advance of the meeting, to Cisco and GE, with the latter being at their manufacturing facility. And, much work was accomplished at the vendor expo and other networking events. Kudos to Geoff Trofimuk of SaskPower, chair of UTCC, for all of the work he has put into this group as well as to the UTC U.S. staff who support the conference.

The bottom line here is that we in the U.S. need to help develop strategies for UTCC to communicate its activities and benefits both internally and externally. The cross-border collaboration should, by all means, continue and become more robust.

Until we meet again…