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GridWeek 2007: Balancing Innovation and Regulation -- Interview with NERC President Rick Sergel

This morning marks the halfway point for GridWeek. Denis Du Bois is hosting a daily podcast series featuring the top speakers at the conference. Today he interviews four presenters, including the head of the North American Energy Reliability Council. (podcast)


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To follow the GridWeek daily highlights podcast series, subscribe to Energy Priorities podcasts via RSS, or come back to our Smart Energy department, or go to the Podcast track at the GridWeek site each morning.

When it comes to the smart grid, it's impossible to divorce the technology from the policy issues. Progress will depend on balancing innovation with regulation. Today's sessions will cover both. As usual, I've selected some sessions and speakers to highlight.

Here are my questions for each guest. To hear the interviews, listen to the podcast.

Innovation: Gary Cohen, IBM

Kevin Kolevar will lead a series of keynotes by the COO of PJM, the CEO of PNM, and a GM at IBM, Gary Cohen. Gary is the General Manager for the Global Communications Sector at IBM.
  • Give us a preview of what you'll talk about at your keynote this morning.

  • Utilities aren't known for innovation. Why should they be innovative now?

  • You mentioned innovating business designs -- are utilities motivated to do that?

Progress: Rick Sergel, NERC President & CEO

Attendees have a chance to hear Washington Senator Maria Cantwell lead off a discussion of "Charting Progress Toward a Modern Grid." Rick Sergel, President and Chief Executive Officer of the North American Electric Reliability Council, is one of the panelists.
  • Given the title of the session, Rick, I have to ask, have we made progress toward a modern grid?

  • Are there ways the market itself could be altered today, that would make the grid more reliable?

  • How do the grid's current operating models need to change to accommodate modernizing it?

Technology: Mike Davis, PNNL

In the Technology Overview session, a panel of utility leaders will give their perspectives and talk about lessons they've learned. Mike Davis will moderate the panel. He's the Associate Lab Director for Energy Science and Technology at Pacific Northwest National Lab.

  • Tell me about the panel you have assembled for the Technology Overview.

  • With isolated exceptions, the grid's a one-way infrastructure. The utility sends the power, then they send the bill. How do the technologies and business models need to change?

  • The current incentives seem to encourage more of the same. More central plants, more wires. Utilities are in the business of selling electricity. How can we motivate them to make these investments?

Policy: Guido Bartels, IBM

Then after a short break, down the hall in the Amphitheater, Guido Bartels will lead a session on the policy implications for modernizing the grid.

  • What will you be asking the panel to focus on?

  • You wouldn't have been selected to moderate a panel on policy if you didn't have some views of your own. What are your top policy issues?

Fun: Reception & Dinner

Finally, this evening there's a party in the finest Capitol Hill tradition. The "Annual GridWeek Recognition Reception & Dinner" starts at 7:30. Leave policy and technology behind for a few hours and go have some fun. It should be a night to remember.

Tomorrow I'll interview Kurt Yeager, Executive Director of the Galvin Electricity Initiative.

Yesterday's daily highlight podcast from GridWeek.


GridWeek demonstrates how the public and private sectors can AND MUST work together to build an energy future.

Excellent interview series, thank you!