ROWSC History

 

 

On August 14, 2003, three transmission lines sagged into trees in quick succession, setting in motion cascading failures as protective relays opened on one power system after another. The result was the largest blackout in North American history followed by a rewriting of the rules under which utility vegetation managers operate.

 

Vigorous enforcement and compliance efforts on the part of vegetation managers have driven improvements in power system reliability and have reduced the liability of potential regulatory citations. Many utility vegetation managers, however, noted that this significant improvement in reliability was often accompanied by some unintended consequences. Increased vigilance and more aggressive vegetation maintenance activities on transmission rights-of-way (ROW) was in too many places leading to unnecessarily disruptive impacts to the environment.

 

The idea of developing formal criteria establishing excellence in Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) on electric transmission systems was first discussed by a small group of practitioners in 2010. The concept was largely based on accreditation initiatives in other industries. The concept crystallized over the next two years. 

 

A survey of Utility Arborist Association (UAA) members showed a very high level of support for the concept and recognition that credibility depended on participation of a broad group of stakeholders extending well beyond ROW managers. Stakeholder meetings were held in March and July 2012 to create a general framework for an accreditation program. A technical committee was formed to draft the ROW Steward Accredidation Requirements reflecting the utility vegetation management industry’s commitment to the sustainable practice of IVM, and leveraging a decade of research and development work by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

 

The conceptual design for the new IVM accreditation initiative called for:

 

  • Establishment of an independent accreditation organization.
  • Development of a formal application based on requirewments, criteria, indicators, and verifiers  establishing excellence in IVM on electric transmission systems. 
  • Verification of application and practices by independent audit.
  • Formal accreditation if the applicant’s IVM program is found to be compliant.
  • Annual requirements to maintain accreditation.

 

The Right-of-Way Stewardship Council (ROWSC) was established on December 11, 2012. It included representatives from Environmental NGO’s, government regulators, academia, the public, electric industry organizations, transmission ROW asset managers, suppliers, contractors and consultants. Action over the next year included the following:

 

  • Establishment of the Technical Advisory Committee to finalize the ROW Steward Requirement standards (March 2013);
  • Adoption of the ROW Steward Mission Statement (May 2013);
  • Selection of Dovetail Partners Inc., LLC as program administrator (May 2013);
  • Approval of the ROW Steward Requirements for the pilot phase (2013);
  • Three Pilot Audits (April-December 2013);
  • First accreditation of a Founding Utility ROW Steward – Arizona Public Service Co. (July 2013);
  • Approval of the revised ROW Steward Requirements (March 2014).

 

The ROW Steward Accreditation Program was fully launched in March 2014. Three applications were accepted and audits are currently in process.