Research confirms IVM as least costly and most beneficial strategy for electric and gas utilities
The Right-of-Way Stewardship Council (ROWSC) is pleased to share the findings of recent research examining the business case for Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) for electric and gas transmission rights-of-way (ROW). The research follows earlier preliminary studies. The findings of the analysis model confirms IVM as the least costly and most beneficial ROW vegetation management strategy.
“Findings from our least cost analysis present a compelling case for the economic benefit of an IVM-based ROW maintenance strategy,” said John W. Goodfellow, Principle Investigator with BioCompliance Consulting, Inc.
The advantage of IVM was demonstrated across a wide array of benefits including public safety, operational risk, recreational use, public nuisance, site disturbance, water quality, compatible vegetation, incompatible vegetation (density & height), and a range of wildlife species.
There are 450,000 miles of electric transmission line operating at 35-765 kV across North America, with a total land area being managed as electric transmission rights-of-way (ROW) estimated at between 9-11 million acres. There are an additional 306,000 miles of natural gas and liquid petroleum pipeline in North America, representing an estimated 2 million acres of land. Reluctance by some utility vegetation managers to adopt IVM is often based on a perception that it is a more expensive management system than simply "controlling brush" by repeated mowing.
“Broader adoption of IVM is an important strategy for utilities that want to manage costs while also providing important services and benefits to customers and stakeholders”, said Derek Vanice, Chair of the Right-of-Way Stewardship Council and President of CN Utility Consulting.
IVM-based ROW maintenance programs are intended to create, promote, and conserve stable plant communities. A variety of vegetation maintenance methods and combinations of methods are used to promote sustainable plant communities that are compatible with the intended use of the site, and to control, discourage, or prevent the establishment of incompatible plants that may create a variety of risks. Industry standard ANSI A300 Part 7 (2019) and ISA BMP “Integrated Vegetation Management” 2nd Edition (2014) define IVM on utility ROW. The ROW Stewardship Council’s IVM “Accreditation Requirements” (2016) define IVM principles and practices for ROW in detail.
“Utilities that have been accredited to the ROWSC standard have demonstrated a commitment to IVM and are well positioned to benefit from the continued application of IVM methods,” said Vannice.
The ROWSC currently recognizes the following accredited utilities: AltaLink, Arizona Public Service (APS), Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), New York Power Authority (NYPA), Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), and Vermont Electric Company (VELCO).
An earlier project established a preliminary business case for IVM on electric transmission ROW. The scope of that project applied least-cost economic analysis methods that focused exclusively on the direct cost to the utility for vegetation maintenance work practices. That approach limited any consideration of the benefits of IVM to simply avoided cost. However, indirect costs and benefits of IVM are important considerations.
This project included the development of an enhanced least-cost analysis model and broadens the assessment to include consideration of the many benefits of IVM on electric and gas utility ROW. It presents a holistic assessment that includes economic considerations, societal implications, and environmental externalities associated with IVM. In doing so, it established IVM as the least-costly and most beneficial ROW vegetation management strategy.
The full report is available at: