Welcome to Trees & Lines: Fresh Perspectives on Utility Vegetation Management

Welcome to the First Episode of Trees & Lines with Tej Singh and Phil Charlton!

Tej Singh currently serves as COO for Iapetus Holdings LLC and its operating companies. Phil obtained his Ph.D. in Forest Science from West Virginia University and has over 40 years of experience creating long-lasting efficiencies for utility companies. He currently serves as Principal Advisor for Iapetus Holdings LLC. Together, Tej and Phil make a great team for speaking on various utility vegetation management topics (UVM). In addition to our wonderful hosts, we will also be joined by industry leaders and utility executives to talk about different themes in relation to vegetation management. We will get to enjoy different perspectives from a diverse set of individuals with rich backgrounds. Our goal is to engage leaders and stakeholders in the industry and bring them into the conversation about the direction that utilities and their investments are going. With the rapid advancement of technology and the growing need for environmental initiatives, we must consider how these two factors will specifically affect the direction of utility vegetation management.

Tej and Phil Background

Tej Singh describes his background as a non-linear one. He began his career working for utilities as an electrical engineer and eventually entered the energy industry through energy finance trading roles. Ultimately, Tej partnered with Craig Taylor, CEO of Iapetus holdings, and helped build the company that it is today. He describes himself as a “professional problem solver” who takes his time to understand and build connections with clients on a deeper level. Tej appreciates individuals who can contribute their talents to the industry and who will develop and grow alongside vegetation management. Phil Charlton’s own start in vegetation management is an interesting one.  His love for hunting and fishing launched him into a career in forestry and ultimately ended up working for Iapetus. He explained to Tej that Iapetus resonated with him because of the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. He was also interested in a “fresh perspective” and enjoys helping the development of the industry through the opportunities the company offers.

The Future of Utility Vegetation Management Education

A concern for both Tej and Phil is that the vegetation management workforce is in grave need of more experienced individuals with a formalized education. Phil hopes for a change in education and is “excited about the program that was put together and is being offered by the University of Wisconsin at Steven’s Point.” This program will offer education to those interested in the industry with more of a focus specifically on utility vegetation management. As utility vegetation management continues to expand and evolve, Phil and Tej hope that more formalized training will be offered to those who wish to advance their career and contribute to the future of the industry.

Implementing Effective Solutions

On a global level, it is interesting to see how North American vegetation management concepts fit in with the unique markets overseas. Phil’s experience with programs overseas has proved that there is a bit of a struggle with the translation of solutions. For instance, a program that was implemented in Ireland was not as efficient as it was in North America. Instead of reducing tree-caused outages, the program did the total opposite. This specific instance proved that it is important to understand other cultures and their operating environments to convert these solutions successfully.

How Technology Fits into Utility Vegetation Management

Despite the emerging technological landscape, people will continue to be a viable resource for the future of UVM. Although technology is a very useful tool, it will not replace the complex work that people can do. Instead, technological advancements will serve as an important complement to industry workers.

Looking Ahead

From an environmental perspective, there are many factors to consider. Wildfires have become an unfortunate disturbance in ecosystems across the nation. To promote a safe and reliable service, utilities must consider the impacts of their work and protect the environment and its habitats concurrently. Although there has been some progress, some of the challenges we must focus on solving are worker retention and recruitment training. Phil has seen some positive changes through his involvement in committees that contribute to the development of the industry. Through this podcast, we hope to captivate the utility vegetation management industry and open a conversation about building sustainable solutions. We are excited to document this journey and hope that you guys enjoy listening along to these important discussions!

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