Electric Utility Fundamentals + Insights (Oct 11)

This program provides utility and service company employees a broader understanding of how the electric utility industry works and a better awareness of their own roles within their organizations. Participants gain a broader comprehension of critical issues affecting the electric industry and the interaction between utilities and their stakeholders. The class is delivered in a one-day format at the WEI office in Portland, Oregon. This course traverses the business of electricity, from the scientific beginnings, to today's generation choices, the modern electric grid, customer engagement, and how utilities make money. The course also includes an overview of federal, state/provincial, and municipal regulations and their impacts on the business model. WEI member companies may also host a class only for their employees to provide a unique, individualized training experience. Contact WEI for more information.

General Details

  • Program Chair(s)
  • Eric Christenson, Sr. Program Manager, Western Energy Institute

    • Program Location
    • Western Energy Institute Facilities
    • 1001 SW 5th Ave, Suite 325
      Portland, Oregon 97204
    • Who Should Attend
    • Wondering if this course is right for you or your staff…

      • Are you new to the energy industry?
      • Have you worked in just one or two areas of the organization?
      • Are you looking for a broader perspective of the business of electricity and emerging issues?
      • Do you work for a service provider to the energy industry who wants to learn more about your customer?

      If the answer is yes to any of these, this course was designed for you.

  • Registration Options
  • Member: $499 USD
    Regular: $999 USD

    Member registration price increases $100 after September 27, 2018. Regular registration price increases $300 after September 27, 2018. Registration includes all course materials, continental breakfast, and a catered lunch.

  • General Cancellation Policy
  • Due to contractual obligations, cancellations received 15 business days prior to the program will receive a full refund. Cancellations received 6 to 14 business days prior to the event will receive a refund, less a $100 administrative fee. No shows and last minute cancellations, 5 business days prior to the event or less, will be responsible for the full registration fee. Substitutions from your organization for the same event are always welcome.
  • Participation Policy
  • Western Energy Institute programs and events are open to energy companies (including gas production and electric generation, gas and electric transmission and gas and electric distribution utilities). Select programs and events are open to energy industry product and service suppliers. Programs and events are closed to all media representatives and to the general public.
  • For more information contact Eric Christenson, Senior Program Manager at (971) 303-2118.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

7:30 AM - 8:00 AM

Registration and Check-In

Continental breakfast provided.

8:00 AM - 8:30 AM

Participant Introductions

Students share their utility industry background and what they hope to learn throughout the day. Please be prepared to share at least one thing you hope to gain from taking this class.

8:30 AM - 9:30 AM

Fundamentals of Electricity

– Key influencers in the history of electricity
– Utility definitions and electricity terms
– Basics of how electricity is generated
– Electricity generation and “the Utility loop”
– Keys to power quality

9:30 AM - 9:45 AM


9:45 AM - 10:45 AM

Western North American Electricity Markets

– Service territories
– Federal regulators and departments
– NERC regions and the WECC
– Energy balancing

10:45 AM - 11:00 AM


11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

How Utilities Make Money

– Types of utilities (IOUs, Munis, Co-Ops, etc.)
– Common organizational structures
– Balancing interests of stakeholders
– Regulation and rate making fundamentals

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Break for Lunch

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Generation Choices

– Number ONE rule of the electric grid
– Fossil fuel options
– Traditional low-carbon generation
– Today's renewables
– Energy storage

2:00 PM - 2:15 PM


WEI – Hosted Lunch

2:15 PM - 3:30 PM

Customers + Emerging Opportunities

– Types and expectations of electricity customers
– Customer care regulations
– Electric vehicles
– Solar programs – utility and customer
– Demand response and Distributed Energy Resources
– The trusted energy advisor model

3:30 PM - 3:45 PM


3:45 PM - 4:30 PM

Strategic Planning

– Forecasting demand
– Meeting demand with resource portfolios
– Scenario planning and Modeling
– Vetting the IRP and preferred portfolio

4:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Q&A and Wrap-Up

We circle back to the original expectations of students to ensure that expectations were met.

5:00 PM - 5:00 PM


Hotel + Travel

  • Reservation Instructions
  • WEI does not have a hotel block contracted for this event. Hilton Portland Downtown is the closest option. There are many other hotels within walking distance of the WEI Office as well.

Meet The Speakers

Jim Nicholson

Nicholson and Associates

Learn More

Jim is the President and Founder of Nicholson and Associates Consulting. He brings hands-on customer expertise and strategic leadership combining a deep understanding of the utility/customer relationship, technology and people required to produce sustainable positive change.

A strategic, results-driven Senior Executive, Jim’s experience spans broad portfolios including: customer care, operations, international sales and marketing, supply chain and human resources. Holding senior executive roles in Utilities, Forest Products and Industrial Manufacturing sectors, Jim is a passionate customer advocate and skilled business leader with success driving and realizing large scale cost savings and improving productivity and performance, while growing employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Widely respected within his global client network, he brings a proven track record of cultivating deep and lasting relationships with customers, vendors and industry partners.

An active member in the business community Jim has served as Board Vice President for the Downtown Vancouver Association, and chaired its Sustainability Committee. He is past Board Vice President for the North Shore Counseling Centre Society and is a longstanding member of the Vancouver Board of Trade and the BC Human Resource Management Association.

Active in Utility industry associations, Jim recently served as a Board member, co-chair and speaker of the 2015 Mobile Utility Summit. He was the Keynote speaker on BPO for Japanese Utilities at an Aug 2015 event sponsored by Accenture and attended by numerous Japanese Utility Executives. Jim was the 2013 Chair of the Western Energy Institute’s Spring Energy Symposium, serves on their Executive Planning Committee and the Customer Connections Board Committee representing customer needs within the Gas and Electric Utilities throughout Western North America. Prior to his retirement in late 2014 as BC Hydro’s Director of Customer Care he represented BC Hydro nationally as an active member of the Canadian Electricity Association’s Customer Council.

Jim is a valued subject matter expert on topics relating to Customer Transformation, The Digital Customer, Conservation and Demand Management, Smart Meter Deployment and Integration and Process Improvement for large Utilities in countries around the world, which include; Japan, Australia, China, Philippines, Canada, United Kingdom and the USA.

A sought after speaker on Customer related topics, Jim is a British Columbia Institute of Technology graduate, Certified Master Trainer and has completed Executive Programs at The University of British Columbia and The Kellogg School of Management in Chicago.