Summary: North American Electric Reliability Corporation President and CEO Jim Robb shared 10 priorities for energy reliability at the Electric Power Supply Association’s Competitive Power Summit on March 21, 2023. Reliability remains the top priority for EPSA and our member companies.
NERC President and CEO Jim Robb delivers the keynote address to the audience at EPSA’s 2023 Competitive Power Summit this past March. EPSA
Jim Robb, President and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is one of America’s foremost experts on the energy system. He was also the keynote speaker at this year’s Competitive Power Summit, hosted by the Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA).
Under Robb’s leadership, NERC acts as an essential independent regulatory body and standards setter for the electric grid across the continent with a decades-long commitment to preserving reliability.
In his remarks, Robb highlighted some of the greatest challenges facing the electric grid today—from significant retirements of fossil generation and the essential reliability services they provide, to rising demand, to rapidly changing threats from extreme weather.
Robb ultimately identified ten priorities that he sees as the most pressing challenges facing the industry and the grid today:
EPSA Competitive Power Summit Keynote speaker Jim Robb, President and CEO of NERC, laid out several must-dos for decisionmakers in order to maintain the grid’s reliability in a changing energy landscape. EPSA
Jim Robb’s Ten “Needs” for the Grid:
- The Need to Manage the Pace of the Energy Transition: “A key challenge is the need for better interagency coordination on [environmental] policies that are going to impact generation.”
- The Need to Retain Electric Generation That Can Supply Reliability: “The need for frequency response, the need for dispatchability—none of those are going away any time soon, so we need to make sure we have a clear-eyed view as to what the ability of the grid is to provide those going forward.”
- The Need to Revisit Market Rules: “Regional transmission organizations (RTOs) need to create some way, through market incentives and compensation, to synthetically recreate the obligation to serve that guided this industry for such a long period of time… We need to think [about] how generators get compensated for out-of-market reliability investments… firm fuel contracts, fuel storage, these should be managed on a reliability basis.”
- The Need to Ensure that Renewables Are Contributing to Reliability. “We must be very aggressive with the inverter-based resources coming on to the system and ensure that they are programmed in a way that contributed to reliability.”
- The Need to Plan for a 24/7 Energy Supply: “Your ability to serve demand on peak no longer tells you anything about your ability to supply it the rest of the year. And that’s because generation failures are no longer solely based on random events, which was the planning behind reserve margins. But it’s now driven by common conditions—wide area solar droughts, marine layers, wind droughts, those sorts of things, weather systems that are very broad impact generation in the same way.”
- The Need for New Technologies to Be Deployed at Scale: “The batteries we’re putting on the system are making a tremendous difference… but they’re not going to be nearly enough to ensure reliability.”
- The Need to Reevaluate Extreme Weather Planning: “We need to understand what the planning conditions ought to be for hot weather and cold weather, and it’s probably not looking back over the last 30 years because the conditions are clearly changing.”
- The Need to Invest in Infrastructure: “Electric transmission is going to be necessary to unlock renewables or simply just buttress the system and add more resilience. And we’re going to need investment in natural gas transport and storage to create resilience and manage things like the very aggressive ramp rates we see in markets where solar is such a big part of the grid.”
- The Need for Better Visibility Into Distributed Resources: “We’re going to need much better visibility into distributed energy resources… because, if you think about the role of a grid operator right now, they really don’t know what generation is going to show up at a given point in time.”
- The Need to Maintain the Fundamentals of Reliability: “With all these new risks coming onto the grid that we have to get our heads around, we still have to take all the known and existing risks off the table—maintaining accurate facility ratings, vegetation management. The good hygiene things are still really important.”
America’s power system is facing unprecedented challenges. As experts and grid operators across the country have pointed out, these challenges require an approach that is pragmatic, thoughtful and grounded in current realities. Many regions are struggling with a chaotic morass of different goals and priorities imposed by state and federal policies that don’t always put reliability first.
Robb’s warnings can hopefully be a wakeup call that even the most ambitious policies must prioritize reliable and cost-effective operation of our electric grid above all else. Reliability remains the top priority for EPSA and our member companies and we are committed to working with all parties to find solutions – while continuing the daily operational work of providing safe and dependable electric generation when needed.