Welcome Mike Beehler: New Expert in the Transmission Professionals Community - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Expert Interview]
- Sep 11, 2020 10:51 am GMT
Transmission infrastructure across the North American grid continues to get a good hard look. Aged towers, poles, conductors, and substations need to maintain high reliability and increased resiliency while the need for new transmission to connect utility scale renewables to load increases with each new year. In addition, the serious risk and concern from annual wildfires in California and the Western United States demonstrate just how critical our focus on the transmission & distribution grid must be. And finally, emerging technologies, FERC regulations, NIMBY hurdles, and distributed energy resources make the 21st century transmission system an exciting and challenging industry at this moment in time.
That’s why at Energy Central we’re so grateful to have as a part of our Network of Experts numerous renowned thought leaders in the transmission space who can help guide the conversation, provide fresh and informed perspectives, and elevate our collective knowledge and attention. As a part of that network of experts, I want to welcome Mike Beehler as our latest expert in the Transmission Professionals community. Mike is the COO of Mike Beehler & Associates, LLC, and his experience has taken him across the power industry through many different states and roles, providing him a unique overview perspective of the past, present, and future of utility transmission.
To welcome him to the Network of Experts, we invited him to answer some questions as a part of the Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’
Matt Chester: Thanks so much for agreeing to be a part of our Network of Experts, Mike. The community at Energy Central really benefits from the experience and knowledge that our experts bring to the table. To kick off your introduction as an expert to the group, can you give an overview of your background in the utility sector and where your areas of expertise lay?
Mike Beehler: I gained experience in the utility industry through a variety of roles across Tuscon Electric Power, Hawaiian Electric Company, and Burns & McDonnell. Throughout my career, I have always followed emerging technologies and if I heard about something three times, I took the initiative to study and learn more about it.
MC: Given your vast experience in the area of designing transmission lines and substations, I was wondering if you could comment on what you think are going to be the big stories in this area in the coming years. We’ve all heard a lot about the smart grid and the need to rebuild the aging infrastructure, but are there other new innovations or opportunities that are on your radar?
MB: A unique discovery in material sciences will lead to better super conductors or battery storage. Additionally, building the virtual twin of all assets will be key to allow for 3D printing, augmented reality and virtual reality, and lifecycle modeling to be integrated.
And of course, artificial intelligence will be a tool used to deliver new energy products and services, but it remains to be seen whether utilities will offer it or if nimble third parties will sweep in for the opportunity.
MC: In your Energy Central bio, you note that “strategically positioning for success and growth in the electric utility industry will require entrepreneurial creativity, intellectual genius and the very best from other industries.” What are the key other industries that you’re thinking of when you say this, and how can utility leaders best position themselves today to take advantage of the opportunities that will be coming from these other industries?
MB: Companies like Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and others that can use AI will be able to offer new energy-related products and services. Utility leaders should be positioning themselves now by piloting projects and looking at early adoption technologies that capture these companies’ attention and make sure they are at the table when new businesses are developed. Simply put, fast followers may not be fast enough.
MC: Given your many years working across different areas of the utility sector, what industry-wide development has surprised you the most? Did you anticipate utility businesses would look the way they do today, or have you seen a real pivot away from the once assumed trajectory? And can that inform where you anticipate utilities moving next?
MB: When I joined Tucson Electric Power in 1981, we were converting natural gas turbines to coal. Notwithstanding being energy independent for the first time in our adult lives with a 100 year supply of coal and a 100 to 200 year supply of oil and natural gas, we are moving towards a goal of 100% renewables at all costs.
The business model of the regulated electric & gas utility remains unchanged. Utilities make a reasonable guaranteed rate of return on a prudently invested dollar. Investing in infrastructure has remained unchanged in my career.
In the near future, post-COVID, regulators will be cautious about big initiatives that will impact customer bills. Longer term, more investment in the grid to add reliability and resiliency. The grid will allow access to 3rd party sources of utility and residential scale generation with a heavy emphasis on renewables. Utilities will move heavily to electrify everything at the expense of natural gas and gasoline.
MC: As you get more involved with the Energy Central community, what do you think is the value you’ll be able to bring to the community? And what aspects of importance are you getting out of being a member?
MB: I am a creative and strategic thinker with a strong entrepreneurial drive, so I look forward to meeting others with similar interests and experiences in the Energy Central Community!
Please join me in thanking Mike Beehler for his time in this interview and for his accepted role as a Transmission Professionals expert in the Energy Central community. When you see Mike engaging with content around Energy Central, be sure to say hi, ask a question, and make him feel welcome!
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