Wildfire Planning + Mitigation – Virtual (Jun 03-04)

This program will bring together senior leaders responsible for wildfire planning and mitigation strategies at WEI member companies for an interactive peer to peer session. We will focus on sharing and discussing best practices around strategies for planning, operations, technology and various other tactics to mitigate and plan for wildfires.

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General Details

  • Program Chair(s)
  • Joy Mastache, Senior Attorney, Office of the General Counsel, Sacramento Municipal Utility District

    • Who Should Attend
    • Directors and senior leaders responsible for their energy companies wildfire planning and mitigation strategies.

  • Registration Options
  • 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.

    Member: $199 USD
    Registration includes provides access to forum sessions, meeting materials and roster.

  • 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 Diana Zoren, Director of Strategic Initiatives at (971) 255-4965.


Wednesday, June 3, 2020

12:30 PM - 1:00 PM

Virtual Registration Desk Open

Do you have questions about the agenda? Want to make sure you are able to participate in the session, come check us out.

1:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Welcome to Sacramento Municipal Utility District
Speaker(s): Paul Lau, Chief Grid Strategy & Operations Officer, Sacramento Municipal Utility District

1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Group Introductions

Attendees are encouraged to share their name, company overview, general role within the organization and provide a situational awareness related to how wildfires affect their company and service territory.

2:30 PM - 2:45 PM


2:45 PM - 3:45 PM

SMUD Wildfire Mitigation Plan and Projects

3:45 PM - 5:00 PM

Roundtable Discussion

5:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Virtual Happy Hour

Throw some snacks in the oven and activate your mic! Grab a beverage and turn on your webcams! WEI will host a virtual room for people to chat and reacquaint with colleagues and friends.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

7:30 AM - 8:00 AM

Readiness Check-in

Prep and test your equipment for morning sessions.

8:00 AM - 8:45 AM

California Wildfire Safety Board
Speaker(s): Marcie Edwards, Consultant, California Public Utilities Commission

Hear the perspective of the California Wildfire Safety Board on their mission, approaches to Wildfire Management Plans (WMP) and key program measures, perspective on data sharing + analytics, balancing standardized approaches to mitigation planning with the need for flexibility and the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on wildfire planning.

8:45 am - 9:45 am

Situational Awareness
Speaker(s): Shawn Bethel, Director, Business Development, FTS Inc.

Weather monitoring & predictive tools to enhance situational awareness and create a common operating picture to better mitigate wildfire.
Understanding the wildfire risk, use of existing tools to monitoring and predict wildfire threats; lessons learned from wildfire agencies that can benefit the power utility organizations and their WMP efforts.

9:45 AM - 10:00 AM


10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Data Analytics, Active Sensing and Operational Intelligence
Speaker(s): Emma Stewart, Associate Program Leader Defense Infrastructure, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Data Analytics, Active Sensing and Operational Intelligence for Detection, Prevention and Remediation of Failures:
Incipient Failure of devices can impact resiliency, reliability and safety – in particular in regions with high fire and natural impact issues. Proactive prediction of the degradation of components, can benefit significantly from multi-variate multi modal approaches to address local safety, isolate and isolate intermittent failures, and better forecast maintenance and deploy active sensing. This session discusses the development and testing of a multi stage approach for identifying failures, dealing with the local sensing and “on the ground” analytics, and the improvement of detection of growing failures, providing new diagnostic and prognostic indicators, along with the multi-lab development of a national signature library for events.

11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Vegetation Management Using Satellite Imagery + AI
Speaker(s): Michael Germaske, The Weather Company/IBM, IBM Energy & Utility Industry, Robert D'Areinzo, Senior Meteorologist, Global Strategy Leader, IBM Americas

Summer heralds the start of warm weather and also brings with its potential risks for utilities as blossoming trees, plants, and brushes present concerns about vegetation management. Extreme weather events stretch from spring until fall, and any excess of dry vegetation near equipment increases not only the risk of outages but the danger of spreading wildfires. Utilities should look to high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery, artificial intelligence (AI) and geospatial analysis to digitally transform their vegetation management programs. AI-based technologies can rapidly and accurately identify and assess vegetation with frequency across the service territory and pinpoint troublesome vegetation areas near utility assets in a cost-effective way that wasn’t even imaginable a few years ago.

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Lunch Break

1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Operational Roundtable

Specific to wildfire, the group will take a deep dive in to sharing best practices on all topics related to operations. Potential topics include technology application, vegetation management practices, system hardening strategy, etc. Attendees are encouraged to submit questions for this interactive session.

2:30 PM - 2:45 PM


2:45 PM - 4:30 PM

Policy Roundtable

Specific to wildfire, the group continues their roundtable conversations now focused on policy and regulatory topics. We will discuss everything from regulatory activity and proposed decisions and legislation to impact on rates, insurance, etc. Attendees are encouraged to submit questions for this interactive session.

4:30 PM - 5:00 PM

Wrap Up and Planning for Future

5:00 PM - 5:00 PM


Meet The Speakers

Michael Germaske

IBM Energy & Utility Industry

The Weather Company/IBM

Shawn Bethel

FTS Inc.

Director, Business Development

Marcie Edwards

California Public Utilities Commission


Paul Lau

Sacramento Municipal Utility District

Chief Grid Strategy & Operations Officer

Emma Stewart

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Associate Program Leader Defense Infrastructure
Learn More

Emma Stewart is an Associate Program Leader for Defense Infrastructure at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. She leads a research team in providing assured power solutions for critical facilities and advanced sensing and measurement for resilience and cyber applications. She received her PhD in Electrical Engineering in 2009, and Masters in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering in 2005, both from University of Strathclyde in Scotland. During her degrees she worked for two Scottish utilities, in field crew and substation maintenance. Prior to that, Emma was the Group Leader for Grid Integration at LBNL and developed the first micro-synchrophasor network within the US grid, with the data currently in use in many development activities. The analytics work performed on this data for disaggregation of distributed resources from measured grid data received an R + D 100 award in 2017, and over 5 patents. Prior to LBNL Dr Stewart led a distribution modeling and analysis team at DNV GL, performing power systems analysis for large utility clients in the integration of high penetration of DER, work which became the foundation for hosting capacity studies in use today across the country. Dr Stewart has over 20 journals and 40 conference papers presented and published in the past 15 years of focused research in this area. Emma is currently the PI of projects in the GMLC such as CleanStart DERMS and CEDS funded deployments of cyber security technologies with the DOD.

Robert D’Arienzo

IBM Americas

Senior Meteorologist, Global Strategy Leader
Learn More

Robert is currently a Senior Meteorologist and Global Strategy Leader for IBM. At IBM, Robert leads the global Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy for Energy, Environment & Utilities within The Weather Company team. This team sits inside the Cognitive Business Decision Support (CBDS) unit of IBM Services.

Prior to IBM, Robert served as the lead Meteorologist for Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO). At VELCO, he analyzed how the weather and climate impact the reliable operation of the state’s electrical grid through the distribution of daily and seasonal forecasts, as well as historical analyses. Robert also managed the development of weather prediction and observing systems which included the Vermont Weather Analytics Center (VWAC) project.

Prior to VELCO, Robert served as an Assistant Meteorologist for ConEdison in NYC for which he provided forecasting support for impactful weather events such as Superstorm Sandy, numerous severe weather outbreaks, and winter storms.

Robert holds a B.S. in Meteorology from Rutgers University and a M.S. in Business Analytics from Quinnipiac University. His professional affiliations include the American Meteorological Society (AMS) and the National Weather Association (NWA).