Duke Energy line technique, talent shine bright as lineworkers capture four awards at International Lineman’s Rodeo

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  • Acclaimed competition showcases skills of top lineworkers from around the world

  • Skilled line teams play integral role in creating a reliable, resilient and modern power grid

BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. – Powered by tenacity, adrenaline and raw skills, Duke Energy lineworkers brought home four awards over the weekend after competing in one of the most prominent and celebrated lineworker events in the world – the International Lineman’s Rodeo. Sandy Barnhill, Keith Griffin and Jay Tipton of Duke Energy’s Carolinas West Division claimed the award for first place overall in the senior division.

Miles Bell, Heath Burrell and Jordan Henderson, also of the Duke Energy Carolinas West Division, placed first in the hurt-man rescue event and fifth place in the pole climb event. Barnhill, Griffin and Tipton also took home a fourth place in mystery event #2.

Approximately 1,300 competitors from across the globe competed at this year’s International Rodeo, including 60 Duke Energy participants who were selected by winning top honors in regional Duke Energy Lineman’s Rodeo events across the company’s service areas earlier this year.

“This type of work is a commitment and it’s not for everyone, but for those of us who work the lines each day it’s a chance to be part of something bigger than ourselves,” said Chet Braden, journeyman lineworker based in Florida who has been with Duke Energy for more than 20 years. “Restoring the power for our communities is one of the best feelings in the world.”

Hitting the high points

The International Lineman’s Rodeo – now in its 39th year – features competition events including “hurt-man rescues,” power line repairs and utility pole climbs. Mystery events involving repairing or replacing equipment require teammates to collaborate to solve problems as quickly and safely as possible.

Events take place on de-energized equipment in a simulated environment, but participants are scored based on simulations of on-the-job work, with deductions for mistakes. Competitors are judged on efficiency, agility, technique and safety procedures.

Team divisions are based in part on tenure. An apprentice is a lineworker with less than four years of utility experience. A journeyman or senior journeyman with Duke Energy has more than four years of utility experience. The senior division in a Lineman’s Rodeo denotes lineworkers who are 50 years old or older.

The International Lineman’s Rodeo began in 1984 thanks to a group of utility industry leaders and vendors as an idea to draw attention to the human element and skills required for power delivery and restoration while promoting safe work practices. Held annually at the National Agricultural Hall of Fame, competing at the International Lineman’s Rodeo is considered an honor and an opportunity to showcase skills used in critical daily work including power restoration – as well as a time to foster comradery.

Big energy, strong commitment

For those who have experienced a lineman’s rodeo, the sight of dozens of side-by-side perpendicular utility poles clustered together in the early morning fog is nothing new. It’s a sight almost as dependable as lineworkers themselves – critical utility team members who bear the daily job of keeping the lights on and restoring power when it does go out.  And as the sun climbs skyward, so do hundreds of line technicians, vying for coveted rodeo awards – tangible tokens of the hard work they do each day.

“On the job, linework comes with many hazards, but the extreme elements of storm damage, freezing cold or sweltering heat can increase the stakes exponentially. It is through the training, experience, adherence to work methods and looking out for each other, that our employees conduct this work regularly without injury,” said Scott Batson, senior vice president and chief distribution officer for Duke Energy.

While the need for tried and true line skills like climbing and working off a pole have decreased in part thanks to modern technology, lineworkers must be prepared for any circumstance. If conditions make it impossible for a bucket truck to reach a job site, line technicians must be ready at all times to secure themselves in a harness, attach their tools and hoist themselves up quickly and safely to complete the work.  

“Our lineworkers underpin one of the most important responsibilities of Duke Energy – caring for our customers by ensuring they have reliable service and restoring that service safely and quickly when mother nature comes calling,” said Harry Sideris, Duke Energy’s executive vice president of customer experience, solutions and services. “The work they perform for our communities and for Duke Energy is critical and we could not be prouder of them as they showed off their impressive skills and shined on an international stage.”

Training tomorrow’s teams

Lineworkers are already playing an integral role in creating a more efficient, modern digital grid – working on projects that are strengthening the grid and hardening it against extreme weather, helping with a smoother transition to cleaner energy, and giving customers more ways to use energy the way they want to use it.

“The need for line technicians continues to grow. Graduates of lineworker training programs at local community colleges are ideal candidates for roles at Duke Energy,” said Batson.

Individuals interested in a career as an electric lineworker with Duke Energy should contact community colleges directly for more information on their specific lineworker training programs, including available funding for tuition.

Duke Energy

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., is one of America’s largest energy holding companies. Its electric utilities serve 8.2 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, and collectively own 50,000 megawatts of energy capacity. Its natural gas unit serves 1.6 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. The company employs 28,000 people.

Duke Energy is executing an aggressive clean energy transition to achieve its goals of net-zero methane emissions from its natural gas business and at least a 50% carbon reduction from electric generation by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The 2050 net-zero goals also include Scope 2 and certain Scope 3 emissions. In addition, the company is investing in major electric grid enhancements and energy storage, and exploring zero-emission power generation technologies such as hydrogen and advanced nuclear.

Duke Energy was named to Fortune’s 2022 “World’s Most Admired Companies” list and Forbes’ “America’s Best Employers” list. More information is available at duke-energy.com. The Duke Energy News Center contains news releases, fact sheets, photos and videos. Duke Energy’s illumination features stories about people, innovations, community topics and environmental issues. Follow Duke Energy on TwitterLinkedInInstagram and Facebook.

Duke Energy media contact: Logan Kureczka