Welcome Steven Turner, New Expert in the Transmission Professionals Community- [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Expert Interview]

Posted to Energy Central in the Transmission Professionals Group
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Matt Chester's picture
Energy Analyst, Chester Energy and Policy

Official Energy Central Community Manager of Generation and Energy Management Networks. Matt is an energy analyst in Orlando FL (by way of Washington DC) working as an independent energy...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Mar 11, 2022

Grid modernization has been top of mind for stakeholders from utilities to customers to even state and federal leaders looking to the future of energy. Transmission infrastructure is the final stage of carrying power from generation to customer, but with the advent of greater levels of distributed generation and pro-sumers, the role of transmission has been in more of a stage of change than ever before.

As Energy Central’s community seeks to stay on top of the trends in technologies, programs, regulations, and more in the world of transmission, the Network of Experts within our Transmission Professional Group are more needed than ever before. We’re always looking to add insightful voices and thought leaders to this esteemed group who will share their experiences and expertise with the community, and today I’m happy to introduce a new member of this circle: Steven Turner, Senior Engineer at Arizona Public Service. Steven has spent his career in various roles building up the transmission infrastructure, so he will provide a key perspective on the evolution taking place today.

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To welcome Steven to the Network of Experts, we wanted to introduce him to the community with an iteration of our Energy Central Power Perspective ‘Welcome New Expert Interview Series.’



Matt Chester: These interviews give us the chance to introduce our experts to the community, so let’s just start broad with your background: what is your role at APS and how did you get started in the world of energy?

Steven Turner: I was recruited by Arizona Public Service to come in and do system protection for their Generation Engineering. I'm actually helping them with a protection project, which is kind of an esoteric subject. I had worked prior with Beckwith Electric for 15 years as an application engineer, and APS had standardized on a generator protection relay made by Beckwith Electric. So, I know it well.

I did a lot of work with APS when I worked for Beckwith Electric. I trained quite a few of their relay technicians and they were all from the Palo Verde nuclear power plant. I got to know them really well. I also worked with some of their engineers as well. So, after I left Beckwith Electric, I went to work with an engineering consulting firm in California. I was there for about a couple years, and then I was contacted by APS - it was great match. So, I came in for the interview. So, now you know, that's how I got to where I am today.


MC: You are quite active in industry groups like IEEE and NERC. Why do you think these organizations are so important to the utility sector?

ST: As far as NERC goes, I'm a vice chairman for a standard draft team. I just felt like it'd be a great opportunity to learn more about NERC. It does deal with generators and generator protection. Basically, you do protection with protective relays, but there may be other devices that aren't classically thought of as a protective relay, but they might have protection functions in them, and there's no maintenance that is required for those. North American Generator Forum, NAGF, wanted that to be addressed. That's why they opened up the appropriate PRC standard and said they wanted it to be changed. If you're going to make a change to a PRC, you basically have to write what you intend to do, and how you want to do it, and basically every utility in the country gets a say. These devices that aren't protective relays, but have protection functions that need to be maintained just like the relays. We do maintenance on the relays so that if there's a disturbance, then everything operates properly. So, why would you not do that for something else that's providing protection?

And then I'm also member of IEEE Power System Relay Committee. They always have about a hundred members, and you can't apply. I have a couple of working groups that I'm in charge of running. You might be writing a standard, telling people how to do a certain type of protection, and it could be more technical. But I was recently fortunate enough to be able to start a working group on using protective relays to perform condition-based monitoring for generators. As far as IEEE goes, you make a lot of really great contacts throughout the industry: there's vendors, manufacturers, people from the utilities, all walks of life that are involved in the industry. And They can all help you. You have some type of issue, and you don't know how to address it. I've done that many times. There are people I can go to that are friends through the IEEE, and they can help me. So, that's a pretty big deal to me, and also being able to work on a standard and influence how people do things, I think that's pretty rewarding.


MC: As you look back on your career to date, what’s been the most surprising lesson you’ve learned about utilities?

ST: That's a pretty tough question, but I'll just say one thing. I've worked for vendors, I've worked for utilities, and I did a little work with the consulting firm. One thing nice about the utility industry versus the vendor industry is that utilities are usually pretty quite open to each other and share information. Competitors would rarely do that, because they're competing against each other. So that's something that's nice about the utility industry is that it's kind of a big family, and people share with each other. If somebody has a storm in their area, it's not uncommon for a neighboring utility to send crews in to help them get the lights back on. It’s a great industry in that way.


MC: Now looking forward, there’s a lot of development in the days ahead of transmission organizations. What do you think should be the top priority for transmission professionals in the next 5 years?

ST: Energy needs are increasing, and we want to use renewable energy, but renewable energy is not always available. You need to have a certain amount of power that is a spinning reserve. That means it's always there, and it's right at your fingertip. So, it's a little concerning about shutting down coal plants for example. We're just assuming that the renewable will take over for all that. If it's solar power, you don't have it at nighttime, right? So, that's something that I think about a lot. Battery storage technology will help make renewable energy more reliable. For example, currently it is possible to store energy for at least 4 hours; maybe 5 or 6 depending on what Resource Planning wants. This equates to anywhere from 1.6 GWh to 2.4 GWh.


MC: Given your long and successful career in utilities, what advice would you give to someone at the early stage of their career?

ST: If someone wants to be a protection engineer, it's harder to get into the utility. Reagan was in office after I was undergraduate, and they reregulated the industry. They called it deregulation, but it was really reregulation. Things changed a lot, instead of being run by engineers, utilities started being run by lawyers and accountants. The utility industry had always been thought of a place where, you never had to worry about losing your job or anything, but a lot of people got laid off and a lot of utilities don't have the engineering resources that they once did.

So, it may not be easy to get into utility nowadays. They don't hire as many engineers as they used to. But the utility is a really great place to start, if you can get a job, because you're right there on the front line. When you go to college, you learn the fundamentals, which are very important, and they're definitely needed. But the on-the-job training is how you advance. For me, I ended up not working for utility and I went to work for a relay manufacturer. You can really learn a lot at a manufacturer because they know how the protection actually operates. So, they have a deeper understanding of the protection, but there's just certain things that you learn at a utility that you can't ever learn working for a manufacturer.


MC: Why did you feel compelled to get more involved in the Energy Central Community? And what value do you hope to bring to your peers on the platform?

ST: As a protection engineer, sometimes people have a question and protection schemes can be complicated. There are simple things and there's complicated things. Sometimes people are asking a question, they don't really understand what they're asking. So, you must ask them more questions to help them understand what they really need. If you could help somebody solve their problem so that they can get their job done, that's a really rewarding feeling. And usually, the simplest the solution is the best solution.


Thanks to Steven Turner for joining me for this interview and for providing a wealth of insights an expertise to the Energy Central Community. You can trust that Steven will be available for you to reach out and connect, ask questions, and more as an Energy Central member, so be sure to make him feel welcome when you see her across the platform.

The other expert interviews that we’ve completed in this series can be read here, and if you are interested in becoming an expert then you can reach out to me or you can apply here.

Richard Brooks's picture
Richard Brooks on Mar 11, 2022

What a great addition to the EC community. Welcome aboard Steve.

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