General Session Focuses on Managing Risk, Applying Innovation

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Elisabeth Braw, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, addresses the PJM 2024 Annual Meeting General Session.

Energy industry thought leaders shared their experience and perspective on risk management and applied innovation opportunities at PJM’s 2024 Annual Meeting of Members in Baltimore.

This year’s May 7 General Session, titled The Future – Challenges and Opportunities (PDF), featured two panels and a keynote speech by Elisabeth Braw, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

PJM President and CEO Manu Asthana opened the event, saying PJM’s mission of keeping the lights on for 65 million people and ensuring reliability for 21% of the country’s economy informed the session’s themes of risk and innovation.

Braw framed her remarks within a new reality that has developed over the past five years, she said, as geopolitics has clashed with the globalized economy.

Western businesses, Braw said, are being targeted around the world as proxies for their home countries’ government. Critical services, such as electricity, are an attractive target because even the suggestion of disruption can harm people’s faith in how their societies operate.

She pointed to the 2021 ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline. The actual damage was manageable, she said, but the public panic in reaction to it caused real repercussions.

In practicing for threats, as PJM does through GridEx and other crisis exercises, it’s important to involve other sectors and government, Braw said, so that when the unexpected happens, communication channels already are built. A united front is also less vulnerable to attack.

From left to right: Carl Coscia, Vice President and Chief Risk Officer for PJM; Elisabeth Braw; Paul Williams, President, Electric Infrastructure Security Council and Former Head, Bank of England, Operational Risk and Resilience Division; and Manny Cancel, NERC Senior Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC).

Risk Management Panel

Braw joined the first of two panels: Risk Management – National and World Events, moderated by Carl Coscia, Vice President and Chief Risk Officer for PJM.

Other panelists were:

  • Manny Cancel, NERC Senior Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of the Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC)
  • Paul Williams, President, Electric Infrastructure Security Council and Former Head, Bank of England, Operational Risk and Resilience Division

The panelists explored what it means to be resilient. Williams described the concept as the ability to absorb shocks and not to contribute to them.

Cancel said reliability and security shore up resilience.

All agreed that resilience is a community endeavor, strengthened by sharing information, drilling and preparing for threats that could come from anywhere.

Coscia left the audience with the takeaway: Think globally; act locally.

Applied Innovation Opportunities

Emanuel Bernabeu, Sr. Director – Applied Innovation & Analytics, moderated the second panel, called Applied Innovation Opportunities.

He was joined by:

  • Arushi Sharma Frank, Principal, Luminary Strategies LLC
  • Jonathan Glass, Deputy Director for Commercialization, ARPA-E
  • Arshad Mansoor, President and CEO, EPRI

Glass said he sees opportunity for innovation in the regulatory and policy world. He and Mansoor cited the British company Octopus Energy’s platform, Winder, which identifies community support for onshore wind placement to find areas that are most friendly to onshore wind while offering rate discounts to customers near wind turbines.

Arushi Sharma Frank, Principal, Luminary Strategies LLC.

Innovation is driven by consumers, said Frank, who worked with the Public Utility Commission of Texas on a virtual power plant pilot allowing residential capacity from battery energy storage systems and controllable electric vehicle chargers to earn wholesale market revenues through their electricity provider.

Much of the discussion revolved around the impact that artificial intelligence will have on society and the grid.

Mansoor emphasized the importance of the next three years in developing a way to power the intense new demand of data centers.

Mark Takahashi, Chair ­­of the PJM Board of Managers, delivered closing remarks.

Reliability, resilience and security are essential to PJM delivering on its mission, he said. Stakeholders are critical to achieving all three, Takahashi said, and he extended his thanks for that to the participants in the three-day Annual Meeting event.

From left to right: Emanuel Bernabeu, Sr. Director – Applied Innovation & Analytics; Arshad Mansoor, President and CEO, EPRI; Jonathan Glass, Deputy Director for Commercialization, ARPA-E; and Arushi Sharma Frank.