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NERC Board Hears Debate over Committee Reorg.

By Rich Heidorn Jr.

QUEBEC CITY, Quebec — NERC’s Board of Trustees got to hear first-hand some of the concerns over the proposed merger of the organization’s three technical committees during the Aug. 14 Member Representatives Committee meeting.

The proposal by NERC’s Stakeholder Engagement Team (SET) would merge the Planning, Operating and Critical Infrastructure Protection committees into a new Reliability and Security Council (RSC). While the three technical committees have almost 120 voting members, the proposal would limit the RSC to 33.

The proposal prompted written comments from a dozen stakeholder groups, who were nearly unanimous in calling for a longer transition and an increase in the number of sector representatives in the new organization. Some also questioned whether security issues should be combined with operations and planning. (See NERC Weighing Concerns on Reorg.)

Jennifer Sterling, Exelon | © ERO Insider

Exelon’s Jennifer Sterling, vice chair of the MRC and co-chair of the SET, opened the discussion by citing a need to become more efficient to respond to the increased pace of change in the industry.

“I’d love to say at Exelon we have infinite people to work on all these issues, but we don’t,” she said. “And so, we need to leverage that scarce talent to solve problems and maximize our return.”

Sterling said the SET will consider several potential changes to the proposal at its meeting Aug. 29, including whether the CIPC should be included, potential changes to the membership of the RSC and a longer transition period.

Asked why the team was reconsidering the inclusion of the CIPC, Sterling said, “It’s just an item for conversation at the next meeting.

“I came out of the operations and planning world, and security is more and more what I’m doing in my work,” she added.

Bill Gallagher, Vermont Public Power Supply Authority | © ERO Insider

Bill Gallagher, special projects chief for the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority and a representative of the Transmission-Dependent Utility sector, agreed on the need for change but said he would have preferred keeping the three committees and adding a Steering Committee between them and the board.

Gallagher said the proposal to have the NERC board select the members of the RSC and set the criteria for membership “turns the NERC process on its head.”

“l don’t think that’s an appropriate role for the board to be playing. I also don’t think it’s an appropriate role for management to be playing,” he said.

Gallagher also said the SET meetings should be open. “These are the stakeholders’ assets we’re talking about. … If you are going to have additional meetings you ought to consider some way of opening them up.”

West Virginia Consumer Advocate Jackie Roberts | © ERO Insider

West Virginia Consumer Advocate Jackie Roberts, a representative of the Small End-Use Electricity Customer sector, said she shared Gallagher’s concern about the selection of the RSC members. “We strongly believe that the member sectors should select their members. … No one knows who should best represent the end-use sectors than the end-use customers,” she said.

“I think we need to be very careful that we don’t make the system more efficient by losing its effectiveness,” she added.

Devin Hartman, CEO of the Electricity Consumers Resource Council, said sector control and the nominating process “will be a sticking point for some of us.”

Lou Oberski, Dominion Energy | © ERO Insider

Dominion Energy’s Lou Oberski, representing the Investor-Owned Utility sector, said the Edison Electric Institute supports the current plan but wants a “measured transition.”

Sylvain Clermont, Hydro-Quebec TransEnergie | © ERO Insider

“There’s no impending need to do it quickly,” he said, predicting the RSC will rival the MRC in importance. “So, let’s make sure we can get it right.”

Hydro-Quebec TransEnergie’s Sylvain Clermont, Canadian representative of the Federal/Provincial Utility sector, said he would like to see a smaller RSC. “I’m a bit scared of a committee with 33 voting members, and probably more,” he said.

Sterling responded: “I too share your concerns that if we get too big, we won’t [achieve the goals] that we set out.”

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