06/18/2020

BY GEORGE HYDE, SENIOR MANAGER AND ANDREW BRYAN, ANALYST

In recent months, there has been buzz around Texas House Bill 4150, often referred to as the “Paddie Bill.” Texas transmission and distribution service providers, which serve more than 26 million customers in the state, are facing a new and unique challenge—achieving compliance with House Bill 4150, The William Thomas Health Power Safety Act.

House Bill 4150, authored by State Representative Chris Paddie, was passed on May 3, 2019, following the tragic deaths of three Boy Scouts, who were electrocuted when the mast on their boat made contact with a low-hanging power line over a lake in East Texas.

In accordance with the bill, electric utility companies are required by law to complete basic steps in order to ensure compliance with National Electric Safety Code (NESC) vertical clearance standards on all electrical lines that cross any of the 178 lakes listed on House Bill 4150.  Electric utility companies must:

  • Identify all lake crossing lines that are affected by the bill
  • Determine if these lines are in compliance with NESC vertical clearance standards
  • Bring all lines not in compliance with National Electric Safety Code (NESC) vertical clearance standards into compliance

The deadline of December 31, 2021, to achieve compliance might seem far away, but electric utility companies need to take action now.

Texas transmission and distribution service providers, which serve more than 26 million customers in the state, are facing a new and unique challenge.

So, what steps do electric utility companies need to take to ensure compliance on a lake crossing line?

Know where lines crossing lakes are located

This is where use of a GIS (Geographic Information System) comes in handy.  A GIS is used to capture and manage geographic data often referred to as “spatial.”  It also provides the ability to visualize assets on a map.  By leveraging a GIS, the lake crossing lines can be determined by comparing the assets in the system to lake shape files.  In the event the electric utility company doesn’t have a GIS, compliance efforts can be tracked manually using tools such as Microsoft Excel or by reviewing paper maps; however, these approaches are labor intensive and take time away from the focus on compliance.

Gather data on the current state

A common industry practice for gathering data on linear assets is to employ the use of LiDAR, a surveying method that measures distance to a target by illuminating the target with laser light, which then can be used to make digital 3-D models of the target. There are companies that specialize in the capture and processing of LiDAR data.

Create computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) models

CAD (Computer-Aided Design) is a software often used by engineers to create drawings and technical illustrations with precise details and measurements. CADD is a type of CAD that offers the user additional drafting features.  CADD models can be created either internally or outsourced to one of many engineering contracting companies.  Once the CADD models have been produced, the engineering team can determine if a line is in violation of NESC vertical clearance standards.

So, what else?

Beyond the steps described above, utilities must be able to understand the language in the bill.  After all, not everyone is an expert in what constitutes a “lake crossing line” or knowledgeable about where to obtain information on 100-year floodplains. They must be able to manage the change associated with new regulatory requirements. This is just the beginning.  There are a multitude of interdependent activities, teams, and vendors to manage, and no single provider can meet all the requirements of the bill which adds a level of complexity to a project that already has an aggressive timeline.

The demands and strain placed on electric utility companies are only increasing, as they seek to continue meeting the energy needs of their customers while also promoting stability of the electric grid.  It is imperative that utilities dedicate sufficient resources and focus to initiatives that promote the safety of the public or their most important asset, the customer.

Urgent action is necessary to meet the deadline of the William Thomas Heath Powerline Safety Act. Knowing where to start is the hardest part. Make sure to download the PDF included below for pointers, and don’t let December 31, 2021 sneak up on you.

Paddie Law PDF

It is imperative that utilities dedicate sufficient resources and focus to initiatives that promote the safety of the public or their most important asset, the customer.

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