NAES Hosts Enlightening Plant Tour for Regional NERC Leaders

by Mark Gollini – Director of NERC Services

In late April, NAES Director of Corporate Development Duncan Brown and I invited leaders from the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) to tour a power plant and participate in a mutual Q&A session with plant staff. WECC is headquartered in Salt Lake City, so we chose the nearby NAES-operated West Valley Generating Plant.

Voluntarily inviting your NERC Regional Entity into your plant would make any registered entity a little nervous. But NAES and West Valley viewed it as an opportunity to get regulators and generators together to gain a better understanding of and appreciation for one another’s roles and responsibilities. It allowed key members of the WECC team to see up close how challenging it is to balance the often competing priorities of safety, plant performance, reliability compliance – as well as the impact each has on a plant’s budget. It also allowed the plant operators to see what regulators are up against in their complex role as power planner, standards developer, compliance auditor and reliability assessor. Above all, this meeting facilitated open dialogue and exchange of insights between the two parties.

Dave Godfrey, Vice President of Entity Oversight for WECC, and Melanie Frye, WECC Vice President of Reliability Planning and Performance Analysis, both voiced strong enthusiasm for this collaborative opportunity. "We put a high priority on being an informed regulator," said Godfrey. "Any opportunity we have to go out and interact, particularly with plant operators, is invaluable."

Frye concurred. "It was a great opportunity to enrich the education of our newer engineers, both on the monitoring side and for those doing reliability assessments," she said. "It also highlighted for me that we aren’t their only regulator; there are air quality standards, wastewater permitting and safety regulations on their plate as well."

Informed regulators: WECC Vice President of Entity Oversight David Godfrey (left), Vice President of Reliability Planning and Performance Analysis Melanie Frye, and Director of Reliability Planning Branden Sudduth voiced appreciation for the chance to compare notes with NAES staff at West Valley Generating.

Jerame Blevins, West Valley Plant Manager, added, "The WECC group was interested in knowing how we deal with compliance on a daily basis," he said. "I had a chance to ask about issues that I saw as redundant or unnecessary for a small peaker plant like ours. They were receptive to what I had to say and seemed genuinely interested in getting more information from the plant level. I came away feeling that WECC and I are seeking the same thing: reliability."

There’s an ongoing effort within WECC to understand the impact of the Standards on registered entities. Which standards have true value, they’re asking, and which ones are costing more than the value they add? How can they adjust?

I encourage all registered entities to find opportunities for partnering with their NERC Regional Entity leaders and to make their concerns known to them. By taking a collaborative approach, we stand a far better chance of fully realizing the objectives of risk-based compliance monitoring – which have the potential both to improve reliability across the grid and to make compliance less burdensome for us all.

West Valley Plant Manager Jerame Blevins (left) and his staff hosted the WECC leaders and shared their compliance concerns.