LEAP

Local Government Energy Assurance Planning

Best Practices: Heber, UT


Focus on Heber Light and Power and Utah's Local Government Energy Assurance Plan

Photo courtesy of HL&P

The City of Heber UT took an unconventional approach to energy assurance planning. Its service provider – Heber Light & Power (HL&P) – is the project lead for the local government energy assurance plan (LEAP). HL&P provides electricity to more than 9,500 customers in scenic Heber Valley east of Salt Lake City.

To develop the plan, HL&P has collaborated with the Utah Division of Emergency Management; Wasatch County; the cities of Heber, Midway and Charleston; and the region's natural gas supplier.

The electric utility works most closely with the county staff because HL&P is one of the entities responsible for handling the energy Emergency Support Function (ESF-12) for the county. In addition, city mayors, city managers, and police and fire chiefs have also been actively involved in directing the energy assurance planning process. HL&P's plan will be incorporated into the county plans.

Challenge

Water companies with hydroelectric capacity are not generally permitted to release water to generate extra electricity in case of an energy disruption.

HL&P is working with its water companies and legal teams to find acceptable solutions. HL&P owns its own hydroelectric power plants and has conducted a feasibility assessment of pumped storage hydropower.

Using stored water to generate electricity may be an option in the event of an emergency.

As part of its planning effort, HL&P reviewed vulnerabilities in the region's electric grid, identified critical facilities, and developed policies for the restoration of electrical services to those facilities in the event of a disruption in energy.

The company is updating its own electricity outage management system, having already conducted an assessment of backup generation equipment. Heber located backup generators and assessed their capacity and the energy needs of the facilities they serve. In light of new EPA air quality regulations related to the use of generators, HL&P also evaluated and ranked generators to identify ones that might need to be upgraded or replaced.

HL&P's outage management system is tied to the geographic information system (GIS) for its service territory, and it includes all of the utility's energy distribution systems. The outage management system is also linked into the area's Smart Grid. Smart meters are being installed in Heber's service area; these and other Smart Grid technologies will be designed to alert the energy systems operator whenever a power outage occurs.

The system will allow HL&P to pinpoint where the electrical outage is so that field staff can quickly go onsite and resolve the issue. Using the smart meters, HL&P can see when power is restored to each individual meter. The company also maintains a net-metering policy, allowing customers to connect renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, and hydropower to HL&P's system.

HL&P's new outage management system will improve HL&P's response time to outages, while increasing resiliency.

Among many other benefits, the LEAP process helped pinpoint a communications glitch. During one of the energy assurance planning committee meetings when the group was discussing communication systems, staff from HL&P realized that their emergency radios were not on the same frequency as the radios used by other local emergency management personnel.

Recognizing the importance of maintaining communications with diverse emergency responders and staffs during an energy disruption, HL&P replaced its radio equipment so that all company personnel could switch to the emergency management frequency as needed. This will also allow the company's highly skilled staff to assist city and county officials with other emergency response needs, such as helping to clear debris from roads when needed.

Best Practice:
Using social media to engage the community

HL&P recently began using social media outlets to broadcast news of power outages and give customers energy saving tips. HL&P plans to include links to its social media accounts on customer bills to increase awareness in the community. Visit Heber's website, or follow the EAP news on Facebook or Twitter.

Best Practice

HL&P and local emergency services staff have a long-standing policy – all vehicle gas tanks are filled up at the end of the day. This ensures that vehicles are ready to go in case of any energy emergencies or disruptions.