NERC Conference Reinforces Need to Balance Compliance and Operations

by Mark Rabuano – Manager, NERC Services, NAES Corporation

In late August, NAES hosted its fifth NERC Conference in Seattle. Our theme this year, ‘Sustaining Reliability: Balancing Operations and Compliance,’ was particularly salient for NAES, given its role as a leading operator of power plants and itself a registered entity responsible for ensuring NERC compliance. This theme has come increasingly into focus as we see a shift in NERC’s reliability risk priorities and its approach to risk-based compliance monitoring and enforcement. The conference drew over 140 attendees, represented by numerous NAES plants, NAES senior leadership, other registered entities across the country, NERC, FERC and leadership from five Regional Entities.

NAES NERC Conference 2018 Photo 1

Our speakers reinforced the conference theme. CEO Bob Fishman kicked off the event with an overview of the NAES organization, its core values and the market trends and drivers currently impacting both the power sector and the grid’s functionality. Jim Robb, NERC President and CEO, placed those remarks into sharper focus in his discussion of NERC’s strategic priorities: the integration of inverter-based technologies, the pace of change in the nation’s resource mix, and cyber and physical security. Among NERC’s future challenges, Mr. Robb cited the need to balance its strategic goals and resource needs with the fiscal realities facing the power industry.

FERC Commissioner Neil Chatterjee offered his own perspective on the industry, noting in his keynote remarks that protecting the reliability of the bulk power system (BPS) ranks among the Commission’s highest priorities, while acknowledging the trend of rapid changes in the nation’s resource mix. In addition, Mark Lauby, NERC Senior Vice President and Chief Reliability Officer, educated the audience on NERC’s reliability risk priorities, which are mapped according to their impact on reliability and likelihood of occurrence. Chief among these are the changing resource mix, BPS planning and cyber security vulnerabilities.

Conference Two

Leaders from many of the Regional Entities underscored in their presentations the respective regions’ compliance monitoring and enforcement program (CMEP) priorities. Midwest Reliability Organization President and CEO Sara Patrick described the attributes of “Highly Effective Reliability Organizations.” Ruchi Shah, WECC Director of Risk Assessment and Mitigation, focused on the value and importance of internal controls. Texas RE Director of Compliance Assessments Curtis Crews offered his views on best practices in communication and effective mitigation. Todd Curl, SERC Senior Manager of Compliance Monitoring, provided his region’s outlook on CMEP areas of focus and the value of industry outreach to reinforce compliance.

Speakers from some of our registered entity peers – including EDF Renewables, Seattle City Light and Sacramento Municipal Utility District – offered case studies on practical compliance and operational challenges they’ve successfully navigated to support their organizations. The conference also featured six breakout sessions where NAES employees and other attendees shared compliance advice and lessons learned on implementation of current and upcoming NERC Standards, including PRC-019-2, CIP-003-6 and CIP-003-7.

Finally, we want to offer appreciation to our attendees, speakers and sponsors for supporting the event and contributing to the lively exchange of ideas. You’ve not only enriched the NAES community but helped to promote continuous improvement in the industry.