Interview with the CEO of NERC on Grid Diversity and Reliability

Public Utilities Fortnightly sat down with Jim Robb, CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), at the recent NARUC Summer Policy Summit to discuss grid diversity and reliability. The full interview appears in the September edition of Fortnightly Magazine, but here are some interesting insights from the conversation:  

On new technologies versus traditional sources:

 “It’s the debate that’s going on in a lot of policy rooms around the continent. I understand it. What people always need to realize though, is that our relationship with electricity is incredibly fundamental.

 “I’ll go back to the quote I shared in San Diego. It’s seven percent of the economy, but it’s the first seven percent because without it, nothing else works. My view is that it’s prudent to be cautious, while I understand the desire to be aggressive in the deployment of clean resources.”

 On the status of battery deployment:

 “But they’re at the megawatts and hundreds of megawatts levels, and eventually we need to get to gigawatts, and eventually a terawatt if we’re going to have batteries perform the function that would enable the grid to be largely based on renewable resources.

 “We’re a long way away from that vision but are making progress. It’s important to recognize the good things that batteries do today while recognizing we still have a long way to go.”

 On the continuing need for existing resources:

 “We won’t have the emissions footprint as if they were running twenty-four hours a day in baseload mode, but they would be there when needed. They become a bit of, in case of an emergency break glass, type capacity. And our regulatory and market practices are challenged to value that kind of insurance.”

 On the need for sound federal policies:

 “Another important aspect that our summer assessment this year has kind of helped catalyze, is making sure that as the federal government pursues sound policies within a functional orientation, that the electric reliability consequences of policy direction will be considered along with the functional aspects.”