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July 2017

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New industry study shows the cost benefits of using IVM practices

By: Travis Rogers, Market Development Specialist, Dow AgroSciences

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For years, using integrated vegetation management (IVM) practices to manage rights-of-way (ROW) has been considered an industry best practice. However, it’s surprising to learn how many vegetation managers have yet to adopt these principles. While previous research on IVM has largely focused on the effects of vegetation management practices on plant cover types and wildlife habitat or defining the environmental impacts, very limited economic studies are available that quantify the costs and benefits of IVM. Now, a new study is helping to quantify the cost savings IVM practices will produce when implemented. And the early results are eye-catching.

BioCompliance Consulting has just completed a study that was initiated through the Vegetation Management Task Force at the Centre for Energy Advancement through Technological Innovation (CEATI, www.ceati.com). This user group includes electrical utility companies from across North America, Europe, Africa and Australia.

At the heart of the study is usage data from 18 utilities, responsible for managing close to 250,000 acres of transmission rights-of-way. And while the full report is not yet available, John Goodfellow, one of the study’s authors, has hinted at impressive findings.

“The economic results are compelling,” says Goodfellow. “In every case, integrated vegetation management beats mechanical-only treatments handily.”

Making a clear case for IVM
Until now, there’s been very limited economic data available to quantify costs of IVM. And what is available tends to use dated data around cost and efficacy, because many of today’s advanced application techniques and herbicide chemistries aren’t taken into account.

VMinset This new research, which centers on conducting a detailed economic analysis of the costs of a modern IVM-based ROW maintenance program in today’s utility regulatory and business environment, will help define and establish an economic basis and business case for IVM. In turn, it should aid in further adoption of this best practice throughout the utility industry.

A full report of findings will be produced and summarized in a brief white paper, and also presented to CEATI members and the utility research sponsors.

The research team also is set to embark on a second phase of the study designed to quantify the benefits associated with each of the vegetation management practices used. Once completed, it will complement the initial study and provide a comprehensive evaluation of the cost-benefit relationship of IVM. Dow AgroSciences is contributing to this phase, and this portion of the study is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

We hope to present more detailed findings from this important study in an upcoming Vistas™ newsletter.