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The Spring 1996 Conference was held in Vancouver, B.C. It was hosted by B.C. Hydro, with Dennis Nelson and Peter Chow as member hosts.

The overall theme of the Vancouver conference was that load research is changing as practitioners adapt to the changing environment in the electric utility industry.

Rich Gillman, EPRI - CEED, captured this theme in his luncheon address Challenges and Opportunities for Load Research in an Era of Competition. He showed a traditional load researcher adapting to new issues and new uses of load research in the face of a market environment that is very different from his/her previous experience. Following lunch, Justine Dase led a lively roundtable which explored this topic from a number of angles with many questions and viewpoints. Dennis Nelson, B.C.. Hydro, presented Future Directions of Load Research at B.C. Hydro, a discussion about how to get information to the marketing staff "in time" and how to show the real value of load research to the rest of the utility.

Justine Dase, in Marketing Information Systems: Knowledge + Flexibility = Survival, and Dennis Nelson (above) discussed market information systems as a way of making load research data more accessible. They spoke of marketing information systems as a step toward turning data into information and discussed, from a load research perspective, issues involved in their creation.

Leveraging data is one method for getting better information on new issues to clients in a timely and cost-effective way. Michael Alexander, PG&E, and John Powers (proud new father of twins), Quantum Consulting, presented Efficient Estimation of Commercial End-Use Loads. They described a combined engineering and statistical method of leveraging diverse data sources to provide accurate estimates of end-use load shapes for a variety of applications. Ilene Obstfeld, EPRI - CEED, in her paper Commercial End-Use Data Development Projects: Leveraging Multiple Information Sources, showed how load research can develop end-use load shapes in today's environment "Better - Faster - Cheaper."

Other papers discussed end-use load impact evaluations (Bob Nicholas, Snohomish Public Utility District, Electric Furnace Load Control Impact Evaluation), the cost-of-service of residential space heat customers (Tom Noll, Idaho Power Company, Load Research Analysis of Electric Space Heat Customers) and many other pertinent topics.

At the group dinner at the Prow Restaurant, overlooking the bay, members enjoyed a fine dinner and had a good time. A vendor hour the first evening allowed attendees and vendors to discuss vendors' products and services over hors d'oeuvres and drinks.

The Fall 1996 Conference was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was hosted by Nevada Power Company, with Justine Dase as member host.

One theme of the Fall 1996 conference was the role of research in a market- and customer-driven utility. Elise Sauer, Director of Marketing at Nevada Power, spoke about the new external focus required for research (The Changing Role of Research). She discussed key values and proactive characteristics needed in researchers in this new environment.

Tore Bonanno, Arizona Public Service, and John Powers, Quantum Consulting, in their talk Simple Results from Complex Projects: the Uses of End-Use Information at APS, described briefing books created for their account executives from leveraged load profile, audit and survey data. These briefing books consolidate key information on segments into one simple reference volume which answers the question: how do customers in this segment use energy?

Wendy Weathers, Salt River Project, Ilene Obstfeld, EPRI-CEED, and Jim McCray, RLW Analytics, in their paper Using Load Research Information in Marketing Decisions, discussed the development and use of end-use load shapes for key market segments. They used these load shapes to develop profitability assessments for key customers, national and regional chains, and business and market segments.

Another theme of the conference was the use of neural networks as a research tool. Stuart McMenamin, Regional Economic Research, presented Next-Day Forecasting Using Time-Series Methods. He compared the use of expert judgment, econometric and time-series techniques and artificial neural networks for forecasting load-shapes. David Hamilton, Southern Company, described the Use of Neural Networks to Estimate Commercial Segment Load Shapes. He sees neural network techniques as a tool allowing load research to respond quickly to the market with new answers to complex questions.

In other talks Donna Pratt, Landis & Gyr, spoke of the key role load research data plays in implementation of real-time pricing rates. Bruce Ramsay, Alberta Power, shared his experiences in gathering hourly load data using an automatic meter reading system with billing meters (not interval data recorders).

A vendor hour the first day of the conference allowed attendees to discuss with vendors their products and services. The second night, during a group dinner at the Flamingo Hilton, attendees saw The Great Radio City Spectacular, starring The Rockettes and Susan Anton.

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