When ‘zero’ is the best you can do!

Two people hold a framed safety vest

Acting Administrator Anita Decker, left, accepts a safety vest from Maintenance Manager Will Schnyer, Feb. 20, at the RMEL workshop. The vest is signed by all the Western employees who helped restore power in the northeast after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in late October 2012.

We want 100 percent efficiency and 100 percent reliability at Western; but the one category we always want to see zeros in is accidents and injuries.

Safety is part of the job, planning and culture at Western. From senior and direct managers to office and field workers, employees know how important it is for everyone to go home at the end of the day.

The long days Western crews put in helping with the restoration efforts in the northeast after Hurricane Sandy were no exception. “All together our guys worked more than 18,500 hours in the 10 days we were out there,” said Will Schnyer, a maintenance manager out of Montrose, Colo. “That’s like one person working 40 hours a week for almost 9 years! And our crews did it without a single accident or injury.”

To celebrate the success, all 91 Western employees who responded to the call after Hurricane Sandy signed a safety vest. Schnyer presented the vest to Western’s Acting Administrator Anita Decker at RMEL’s “Electric Utility Emergency Response—Hurricane Sandy and Beyond” workshop, Feb. 20, 2013.

“We appreciate all the support we received while we went to restore the power system in New Jersey,” said Schnyer. “Our success is really marked by our safe working record. We are really proud of that record and of our team.”

“I’m honored to be recognized by the Hurricane Sandy responders,” said Decker, “but I’m truly most proud of what it represents in regard to the collective safety of each and every person involved.”

How do you recognize your employees’ safety efforts or achievements?

Helping Federal agencies in their quest to get “green”

To help our Nation meet its environmental targets for renewable energy generation the U.S. Department of Energy, Western Area Power Administration and Federal Energy Management Program announced Feb. 14 the 2013 renewable energy certificate (REC) solicitations to Federal agencies interested in meeting their renewable energy goals and mandates, improving the environment and supporting national energy security.

For those of you who are not familiar with the term, RECs represent the environmental aspects of energy generated by renewable resources such as solar, wind, biomass or landfill gas, physically delivered into the electric grid.

For more information and to participant in this solicitation, download and complete the Statement of Intent for Federal Agencies to Purchase Renewable Resources

On March 14, 2013 at 11 a.m. MST, the partnering agencies are hosting a 45-minute webinar covering the key requirements and steps associated with this REC purchase. Register for this event at https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/436724072.

Construction work starts on ED5-PVH Project

3 employees work in a trench on substation footer

Employees with Tri-Technic Inc. prepare footer for an ED-5 Substation retaining wall, Feb. 11, 2013.

Construction work started on a project that will connect renewable energy south of Phoenix, Ariz., to a major trading hub. This is the first major construction step for the Electrical District No. 5 – Palo Verde Hub Project.

“It’s great to see that construction work has started on this important project,” said ED5-PVH Project Manager Todd Rhoades. “Hurricane Sandy and the recent northeast blackouts really highlight how important our energy infrastructure is to our everyday lives. This project is an investment in improving our system in the desert southwest area.”

Western awarded the construction contracts in fall 2012. These projects are being funded through Western’s Transmission Infrastructure Program.

What benefits do you see from projects like ED5-PVH in support of the utility industry?

Employees volunteer, cheer for students, science

When you work in an administrative capacity or for a support function at Western, you can feel quite removed from the technical side of the business, quite removed from Energy, quite removed from Science. At least, that’s how I sometimes feel working in Public Affairs.

Members of the winning Helena A Team, Katie Chamberlain, Thomas Culver, Mark Sargent and Joe Whitney, ponder a question on their way to winning the Big Sky Regional Science Bowl Feb. 2, 2013.

But every year, Western employees, regardless of their position have a chance to get just a little bit closer to the science of it all, through volunteering at one of six regional Science Bowls, hosted by Western’s regional offices.

Employees from across Western’s service territory volunteer as judges, timers, runners and announcers. In an enthusiatic email to employees at our Corporate Services Office, Colorado River Storage Project Management Center Manager Lynn Jeka shared, “I have served as a volunteer scorekeeper for the Southern Colorado area [Department of Energy] High School Science Bowl…since joining DOE in 1996. It never ceases to amaze me how extremely bright and talented these high school students are.”

She went on to encourage other employees to volunteer and joked about how intimidating the rapid-fire science and math questions could be.

On Feb. 2 Helena High School took first place for the third year in a row, beating 27 other teams, at the Big Sky Regional Science Bowl in Montana while Ridgeview Classicals Schools Team 1 from Fort Collins, Colo., won the Rocky Mountain Science Bowl, beating 22 teams from Colorado and Nebraska. Both winners will advance to the National Science Bowl in Washington D.C., April 25-29.

Western will sponsor two more regional science bowls in February and two more in March. Stay tuned to read about the winners.

How well do you think you’d fare answering questions about biology, chemistry, earth science, space science, math and physics?