Operations Conference – Virtual (Apr 15-16)

The WEI Operations Conference brings together over 600 electric and natural gas energy operations senior leaders, managers, supervisors, and front-line employees for three days of education and networking, with breakout discussions for specific operations functions, including: (1) Damage Prevention; (2) Operational Leadership; (3) Workforce Development; (4) Safety + Health; (5) Safety Management Systems; (6) Asset Management; (7) NG D&T Construction + Maintenance; (8) NG D&T Emergency Response + Restoration; (9) NG D&T Integrity Management; (10) NG Green Future; (11) NG Operational Excellence; (12) Evolving Grid Operations; (13) Electric Distribution; (14) Electric Substation; (15) Electric Transmission; (16) Wildfire. The breakout sessions are complemented by thought-provoking general sessions by industry leaders and professional keynote speakers. This conference is a must for any professional in the energy business. Limited vendor display booth registrations and sponsorship opportunities are available.

General Details

Western Energy Institute takes the health and safety of our employees and members very seriously. With safety as our top priority, this program is being offered in a virtual format. No hotel or travel is required. If you have any questions, please contact the Program Manager directly.

Program Chair
Lance Elroy, Director, Process Improvement and Operations Technology, MDU Utilities Group

Who Should Attend
Electric and Natural Gas Energy Operations:
• Vice Presidents
• Directors
• Managers
• Supervisors
• Front line employees
• Control professionals
• Engineering professionals
• Planning personnel
• Substation professionals
• Electric transmission professionals
• Asset Management professionals
• Renewable Gas engineering and policy leaders
• Electric personnel responsible for wildfire mitigation, planning, and response

WEI Operations Virtual 2020 Speaker FAQ

Registration Options
Attendee: $299 USD
Registration provides full access to conference sessions, meeting materials, and roster (through conference app).

General Cancellation Policy
WEI will be waiving the standard cancellation policy for this program and other programs occurring in March, April, May, and June 2020. Registrants can receive a full refund of their fee if requested up to the day before the program occurs for increased flexibility due to the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation. This applies both to new and existing registrations. This also applies to any registration fees paid for virtual program formats.

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. Recording is not permitted for any portion of the event.

For more information contact Eric Christenson, Director of Program Curriculum + Analytics at (971) 303-2118.


Tuesday, April 14, 2020

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM (PT)
Virtual Happy Hour and Reception
Throw some snacks in the oven and activate your mic! Grab a beverage and turn on your webcams! WEI will host six separate virtual rooms for people to chat and reacquaint with colleagues and friends.
• General Questions + Chat (come here to test your system and ask questions about the conference)
• Natural Gas Operations
• Electric Operations – Distribution
• Electric Operations – Substation and Transmission
• Safety and SMS
• Other (Asset Management, Workforce Development, Leadership, etc.)

Invitations to conference registrants will be emailed on April 7. If you did not receive an invitation, please email Eric Christenson for details. If you received the invitation but are unable to join any of the virtual rooms, please email us for assistance.

A/V for the Virtual Operations Conference is sponsored by:

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

7:00 AM – 8:00 AM (PT)
Virtual Registration Desk Open
Do you have questions about the agenda? Need information on how to use the App to contact other participants? Come visit the Virtual Registration Desk before the conference opens and throughout the day. If you are unable to join the virtual registration desk, please email us for assistance.

The WEI Virtual Registration Desk and General Sessions will be provided through GoToWebinar. All conference registrants will receive a separate invitation to this session.

8:00 AM – 8:45 AM (PT)
Welcome + Virtual Conference Guide
Speaker: Lance Elroy, Director, Operations Systems and Continuous Improvement, MDU Utilities Group
Lance Elroy will welcome all Conference participants to the premier virtual event in utility operations in North America. We will follow with a brief overview on using the App to augment your conference experience and how-to tips to get the most out of each breakout session.

8:45 AM – 9:00 AM (PT)
Break – Check Your Home Ergonomics

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM (PT)
Concurrent Track Sessions – 1-A
Electric Transmission – Innovative Tools
Evolving Grid Operations – What to do with a DER?
Asset Management – Roadmap for AI-Enabled Asset Management Decision-Making
Safety + Health – Partnering to Grow Safety
Damage Prevention – Using Predictive Analytics to Identify High-Risk Excavations and Prevent Damage
NG D&T Emergency Response + Restoration – How the Coronavirus is Affecting Gas Construction & Operations
NG D&T Integrity Management – Mitigation Tactics for an Aging Pipeline Infrastructure

10:15 AM – 10:30 AM (PT)
Movement Break
Join us for short movement breaks designed to refresh the body throughout the conference! In these sessions, you will follow along with some guided stretches that are designed to encourage more body circulation, relieve tension, and hopefully address any of those knots that have been building up since you’ve been working at home!

Sponsored by MoveSafe:

10:30 AM – 11:45 AM (PT)
Concurrent Track Sessions – 1-B
Workforce Development – Digital Transformation
Wildfire – The Burning Question – How to Quantify Wildfire Risk
Electric Distribution – Cool Tools
Electric Substation – Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) and Switchgear Cubicle Safety
Safety Management Systems (SMS) – Managing by Influence
NG Operational Excellence – COVID-19 NG Ops Excellence Roundtable
NG D&T Construction + Maintenance – Recruiting, Training, Developing and Retaining Great Employees in Construction
NG Green Future – Renewable Natural Gas 101

11:45 AM – 12:00 PM (PT)

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM (PT)
Lunchtime Keynote: Working and Leading a Remote Workforce
Speaker: Beth Ziesenis, Author, Speaker, Nerd
In the spring of 2020, we are all looking at each other at work and saying, “What just happened?!” The changes in the workplace today are prompting teams to learn how to work remotely.

Beth Z, Your Nerdy Best Friend and our upcoming keynote speaker, will share her expertise on how to work remotely successfully and lead your teams. She will provide tech tips and insights into the apps that make remote work fun and productive. And, of course, the session will be remote as well!

Keynote speaker sponsored by:

1:00 PM – 2:15 PM (PT)
Concurrent Track Sessions – 2-A
Electric Transmission – How Utilities Address Wildfires Proactively Through Transmission Line Design
Evolving Grid Operations – DER/DERMS – The Race to Manage DERs Before They Create Operational Havoc
Asset Management – Risk-Based Asset Management
Safety + Health – Hidden Hazards: Wildfire Smoke, Legionnaires, and Indoor Heat
Damage Prevention – Virtual Training on Damage Prevention + COVID-19 Impacts
NG D&T Emergency Response + Restoration – Coronavirus Task Forces: How Are Companies Managing the Overall Response?
NG D&T Integrity Management – Back to the Future of Non-Destructive Examination

2:15 PM – 2:30 PM (PT)
Movement Break
Sponsored by MoveSafe

2:30 PM – 4:00 PM (PT)
Concurrent Track Sessions – 2-B
Workforce Development – Breaking the Sound Barrier to Competency
Wildfire – Take Action! – Best Practices for Wildfire Mitigation
Electric Distribution – T-Connectors Failure Mitigation and COVID-19 Roundtable
Electric Substation – Substation Security: Cyber and Physical Security Threats
Safety Management Systems (SMS) – Creating a Cultural Shift – Socializing SMS and Process Safety
NG Operational Excellence – Your Playbook for Winning the Talent Game
NG D&T Construction + Maintenance – Gas Capture, Cross Compression, Flaring and Blowdowns
NG Green Future – Hydrogen – The Key to Unlocking Methane’s Renewable Potential

Thursday, April 16, 2020

9:00 AM – 10:15 AM (PT)
Concurrent Track Sessions – 3-A
Electric Transmission – What is EPC: A Panel on the Pros, the Cons, and Everything In-Between
Evolving Grid Operations – Achieving Situational Awareness in the Electric Grid: Why should enhanced situation awareness be a priority for your utility?
Asset Management – Battle of the X’s
Safety + Health – The Ergonomic Challenges of Staying Isolated
Damage Prevention – Partnering with Excavators to Reduce Damages
NG D&T Emergency Response + Restoration – Mutual Aid – The Merrimack Valley Incident
NG D&T Integrity Management – RNG – Public Perception, Policy and System Integrity

10:15 AM – 10:30 AM (PT)
Movement Break
Sponsored by MoveSafe:

10:30 AM – 11:45 AM (PT)
Concurrent Track Sessions – 3-B
Workforce Development – Workforce Development from Hire to Retire
Wildfire – PSPS – De-Energization of Electric Circuits for Fire Prevention
Electric Distribution – Reliability + Aging Infrastructure
Electric Substation – Distributed Energy Resource Impacts on Substation Operations
Safety Management Systems (SMS) – MOC Case Studies
NG Operational Excellence – Innovative Gas Leak Investigation/Mitigation Approach
NG D&T Construction + Maintenance – To Permit or Not to Permit
NG Green Future – Methane Emission Reductions: Goals, Commitments, and Strategies

11:45 AM – 12:00 PM (PT)

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM (PT)
Lunch Break

1:00 PM – 2:15 PM (PT)
Concurrent Track Sessions – 4-A
Electric Transmission – Mega-Projects Overview; Challenges and Lessons Learned
Evolving Grid Operations – System Operator of the Future
Asset Management – Utilizing Innovation and Technology to Manage Infrastructure
Safety + Health – A Conversation about COVID-19
Damage Prevention – When Persuasion Fails: Strategies for Changing Unsafe Digging Behavior
NG D&T Emergency Response + Restoration – Natural Disasters – Up the Creek Without a Paddle
NG D&T Integrity Management – Corrosion Integrity Management

2:15 PM – 2:30 PM (PT)
Movement Break
Sponsored by MoveSafe

2:30 PM – 3:45 PM (PT)
Concurrent Track Sessions – 4-B
Workforce Development – COVID-19 Roundtable
Wildfire – Emergency Response – Utility Integration during Fire Events
Electric Distribution – Managing Emerging Customer Connections
Electric Substation – Cultivating the Growth of Substation Personnel
Safety Management Systems (SMS) – Preventing Unplanned Events – Establishing Leading Performance Indicators
NG Operational Excellence – Look Forward Technology: What is the next cutting-edge device?
NG D&T Construction + Maintenance – Best Practices During COVID-19 + Using Social Distancing
NG Green Future – Design and Operation of RNG Interconnect Stations

3:45 PM – 4:00 PM (PT)

4:00 PM – 4:30 PM (PT)
Conference Adjourns
We invite all participants back to the large GoToWebinar format to acknowledge the people who made this conference possible and for Lance to close out the 2020 Operations Conference. We also invite you to join a track Program Development Team for the WEI 2021 Operations Conference scheduled for April 20-23, 2021 at the Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles, California.


This event will now be held in a virtual format. Hotel and travel arrangements will not be required to attend.

If you previously made hotel reservations for this event and need to cancel them, we’ve included the contact information for the hotel below for your convenience. If you have additional questions about this event, please contact the Program Manager directly.

Hyatt Place
1024 W. Bannock St
Boise, ID 83702
Phone: 208.991.5275

Hampton Inn and Suites
495 S. Capitol Blvd
Boise, ID 83702
Phone: 208.331.1900

Residence Inn
400 S. Capitol Blvd
Boise, ID 83702
Phone: 208.424.9999

The Grove
245 S. Capitol Blvd
Boise, ID 83702
Phone: 208.333.8000

Hotel 43
981 West Grove Street
Boise, ID 83702
Phone: 208.342.4622


Platinum Sponsors
Black + Veatch-01Booz-01Burns + McDonnell-01Copperleaf-01 HDR-01Henkels + McCoy-01Honeywell-01Itron-01-01KPMG-01Landis+Gyr-01   Potelco-01Rokstad-01-01SAP-01Sheffield-01

Gold Sponsors
ActiveTelesource-01Acros-01Asplundh-01 Barnard-01Esource-01Energy Care-01HGCA-01 PrintSEL-01-01     snelson_300dpiTDW-03-01The HDD Company-01vertexone logo w-tagline NEWWilson Construction-01

Meet The Speakers

Beth Ziesenis

Your Nerdy Best Friend

Author, Speaker, Nerd
Learn More

Since her first Motorola RAZR flip phone, Beth has made a verb out of the word “nerd.” She’s here to help you filter through thousands of apps, gadgets, widgets and doodads to find the perfect free and bargain technology tools for work and home. Although the only real trophy she ever won was for making perfect French fries at McDonald’s in high school, Beth Z has been featured on Best Speaker lists by several organizations that write best speaker lists. She has written a whole shelf of books on apps and has spoken to more than 100 thousand audience members just like you. And if
you’re puzzling over why she goes by “Beth Z”… it’s because she only finds about three people a year who can pronounce her last name.

Lance Elroy

MDU Utilities Group

Director, Operations Systems and Continuous Improvement
Learn More

Lance Elroy is the Director of Process Improvement and Operations Technology for MDU Utilities Group. His 29+ years of experience includes leadership and management roles in corporate operations, consulting, marketing, industrial services, district management and utility technology. Lance has an MBA from Idaho State University and BA in Business from the College of Idaho. He currently resides in Boise, Idaho.