IEEE

Q&A with Doug Proctor

By Amy Fischbach | Jan 16, 2019

In the last year, wildfires have caused widespread outages and inflicted damage to electric utility infrastructure. To learn strategies on fire containment, register for IEEE PES ESMO 2019, which will include a special panel presentation featuring Bill Chu from Southern California Edison.

In the following Q&A, Doug Proctor, a veteran electrical engineer and long-time member of the IEEE, talks about his session and why utility professionals should attend the conference from June 24-27 in Columbus, Ohio.

Q: Talk about your education.
A: I earned my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1967 and my master’s degree from the University of Colorado in 1988.

Q: How did you get interested in a career in the energy industry?
A: Jobs were plentiful in 1967, and recruiters descended upon the University of Illinois campus in June. I was interviewed by several companies. At that time, I was a raw novice and was convinced I was probably the only electrical engineering student who graduated who had no clue what he was doing. I talked to electronics firms and power companies alike. Site visits to electronic companies revealed that I would work in a small cubical doing the same job as a bunch of other engineers in other cubicles. That was not the right fit for me. I interviewed with companies that serve the power utility industry, and I decided to take that fork in the road. I have been involved in power projects ever since.

Q: Discuss the early stages of your career and how it progressed.
A: I have been involved in transmission line projects over these past 50 years covering environmental and routing, land acquisition, design and construction and contract administration. In addition, I have focused on project and program administration, microwave and fiber optics communications and network coordination. I gained a true appreciation for the various aspects of major transmission projects between 1985 and 1997 while serving as the director of engineering on the 500 kV California-Oregon Transmission Project. I have also been involved with the IEEE in various capacities since 1978.

Q: What are your favorite and most challenging parts of your job right now?
A: Seeing a project completed and placed in service is the most rewarding as well as the most challenging. The most enjoyable part of my job is using the latest software for tasks we used to do using a slide rule or T square. The Cad and design programs are amazing. I don’t think the new engineers fully appreciate or even understand the level of effort we had to exert to perform our job before computers. One challenging sticking point for me is the annoying and prevalent demand for delivering results “immediately.” Putting the brakes on an overly aggressive schedule is a challenge.

Q: In June, you will be presenting a session at ESMO 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. What is the working title for your session?
A: The title is simply “Fires.” They should learn the latest plans for fire containment in the industry.

Q: Who are the panelists, and what criteria are you using to select them?
A: Bill Chu from Southern California Edison is leading a group to present on measures being taken and/or considered to protect power lines from fire damage.

Q: Why is this topic important to the industry?
A: The West Coast has had numerous outages due to fires this past year and even before. Such outages are detrimental to the operation of the line specifically, and also to the system in general.

Q: What goes into planning a session for ESMO?
A: My first responsibility was to distill a list of topics from a wide range of possibilities. This job required working with a committee of experts in the various areas of interest to electrical safety and maintenance. Sorting through that longer list to select appropriate topics was next. Finding the best presenters is last, and the most challenging.

Q: Why should people attend ESMO and your session? Who do you think would benefit?
A: Folks should attend to learn how planning, materials, design and construction all must complement each other when it comes to safety and maintenance. Every aspect of a project should consider these two paramount issues.

Q: What’s the most important thing you can impart to the readers, a teaser, if you will, for what they can expect to hear during your session at ESMO?
A: If you want to see how what you do is an important component of electrical safety and maintenance, come to ESMO 2019 this June and find out!