Course Duration: 1 Day
Course Format: Lecture type format with extensive interaction through example discussion.
Target Participants: Utility executives, vegetation managers, operations and asset managers, engineers, technicians, compliance managers, legal and regulatory personnel, land management and real estate/easement personnel.
Key Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this training course, participants will have a basic understanding of the following: Trends in utility vegetation management (UVM)
, Key components of a UVM program, Primary cost drivers of a UVM program, Measuring program success.

Course Instructor

Will Porter is the principal project manager for benchmarking and research. Porter graduated from the University of Illinois and is an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist and ISA Certified Arborist Utility Specialist. With more than 20 years of experience in the utility vegetation management (UVM) industry, Porter has direct knowledge of all aspects of UVM work. Since joining CNUC in 2008, he has directed many program and compliance reviews and special projects, and has performed analysis of a wide range of UVM metrics. Porter was the principal author of the 2010 CN Utility Consulting Utility Vegetation Management Benchmark and Industry Intelligence and has been published in the Utility Arborist Newsline, Transmission & Distribution World and will be published in the upcoming Environmental Concerns of Rights-of-Way -10th International Symposium Publication. He often presents on UVM benchmarking and LIDAR projects and other industry topics in the U.S. and abroad. He also continuously monitors and evaluates legal and regulatory changes, issues and trends related to UVM around the world. Currently, Porter is performing a research project for CEATI on Data Analytics and Modeling Tools Applied to UVM Programs. Porter has a unique understanding of UVM programs, best practices and research intersections.

Course Highlights:
Primary Reasons for a Utility Vegetation Management Program

Electric utilities must manage vegetation around power lines for a multitude of reasons. Vegetation is one of the leading causes of outages on both distribution and transmission systems. Outages lead to increased costs, decreased revenues, and dissatisfied customers. In addition, tree and power line conflicts and downed power lines pose serious safety issues for both utility employees and customers. There are also issues regarding wild fires caused by tree and power line conflicts. These types of fires create serious liability issues for the utility. Finally, increasing regulations regarding vegetation around power lines have made compliance a primary reason to manage vegetation. This training course will explore each of these areas in depth, and participants will gain an understanding of the costs and benefits of a well run UVM program.

Trends in Utility Vegetation Management

Within the last decade, UVM activities have come under increased scrutiny from the public, regulators, and lawmakers. As a result of tree and power line related incidents, such as the 2003 Northeast Blackout, the 2006 European blackout, and the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, new laws and regulations have been adopted around the globe. The public, regulators, and lawmakers have increased expectations of utilities regarding the prevention of future tree and power line related incidents. In this section of the training course, the implications of this trend will be discussed.

Key Components of a Utility Vegetation Management Program

Despite variability in size and scope, successful UVM programs have common key components. These components include professional management by ISA Certified Arborists, ISA Certified Utility Specialists, and graduate foresters, pre-planned line clearance contractor work, and a formal auditing program. A successful UVM program has a formal management plan for both distribution and transmission systems. Programs have tools in place to measure productivity and performance, and they also utilize industry best management practices. The final key component is notification and education of customers and measurement of impact on customer satisfaction. Vegetation management is one of a utility’s most publicly visible programs. There is no one who has more face to face contact with customers than vegetation management department staff members and contractors. Customer notification and education are important investments and can have a large impact on a utility. In this section of the training course, each of the key components will be examined in depth to enable participants to gain an understanding of its significance to the success of a UVM program and how substantial investment in each will benefit a utility in the long run.

Primary Cost Drivers of a Utility Vegetation Management Program

There are many factors that affect the cost of managing vegetation for a utility. Location based factors include terrain, tree density and species, customer density, and weather. These factors will influence key program cost drivers such as scheduling methodology, program size, crew type, productivity, customer interaction level, and the ratio of maintenance work to storm damage and new construction. In addition, key decisions by management will influence costs, including contracting methods, contract length and incentives, the amount of work that is pre- planned, and auditing procedures, among others. Each of these cost drivers will be examined, especially regarding its impact on a utility’s bottom line. Advantages and disadvantages of management decisions involving contracting method, contract length and incentives, and other factors will also be discussed.

Measuring Program Success

In many cases, the expense of a UVM program is one of the largest single line items in a utility’s operations budget. Therefore, it is important to understand the mechanisms that can be used to measure success. These mechanisms include statistical outage changes like reductions in SAIDI and SAIFI. Additional measures should include customer satisfaction, production, and reduction in overall workload. Program success can also be measured with external processes such as benchmarking. In this section of the training course, each of these tools will be discussed, along with appropriate guidelines for interpreting results. Final discussion will include tips for communicating the success of the program to key stakeholders.

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