LPPC In The News

View recent news coverage highlighting interviews and quotes from LPPC. 

July 22, 2020

By Lisa Martine Jenkins

Utilities Coalition Letter Rallies Congress to Include Support for Public Power in Coronavirus Stimulus

The Large Public Power Council has delivered a letter encouraging House and Senate leaders to support consumer-owned power utilities in future COVID-19 recovery stimulus legislation. 
The association — which represents 27 of the largest consumer-owned power utilities in the United States — flagged for leadership a number of infrastructure-related public power provisions that have already been passed in the House via the now-stalled Moving Forward Act (which is currently being considered in the Senate, though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he won’t bring it to the floor). 

“Without federal support, continued economic distress will make it difficult for public power utilities to continue providing reliable and affordable electricity to our 30 million customers and to invest in the electricity infrastructure of the future,” LPPC President John Di Stasio wrote in his letter to McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

The association’s proposals include restoring advance refunding for municipal bonds, which state and local governments used to lower the cost of borrowing funds for infrastructure projects prior to changes made in 2017. And the group also recommends that lawmakers authorize the Build America Bonds program, which expired in 2010 after they assisted public power utilities to invest over $100 billion on energy infrastructure following the 2008 recession.

Because LPPC represents nonprofit utilities, its members cannot take advantage of the tax incentives available to for-profit companies investing in renewable infrastructure. They must instead partner with third parties in order to monetize those incentives, which the letter said can be “costly and result in public power not directly owning the renewable energy facility.” LPPC instead proposes including credit monetization provisions for renewable energy projects, such as credit refundability, transferability or direct payment, in stimulus funding.

Also among the requests are measures that would support electric grid modernization — in order to increase energy efficiency and lower electricity costs — as well as expand that grid to include vehicle electrification.

Some of these appeals echo another letter LPPC sent in April, which highlighted immediate assistance to low-income customers struggling to pay the bills in the thick of the pandemic as well as using federal emergency funds to cover pandemic-related costs. It also addressed the issue of Build America and municipal bonds, as well as infrastructure support. However, Di Stasio told Morning Consult that the “uneven circumstances” across the country when it comes to communities and states reopening has led LPPC to be more forward-looking.

“Now we’re starting to look at what I would call the ‘reentry activities’” in light of economic and operational fallout from the pandemic, Di Stasio said. “Some of the things that we were asking for in our letter are things that will provide us the ability to provide economic stimulus to our community.”

Di Stasio said he and the rest of LPPC have been in consistent communication with lawmakers, and he believes that the public power sector’s priorities are understood and supported on Capitol Hill, in a broadly bipartisan fashion. 

He describes his outlook as “optimistic” and in fact is already considering what a more official “end” to the pandemic might look like for LPPC members. The association’s next order of business, Di Stasio said, will be opening another conversation with lawmakers: getting essential infrastructure workers such as power utilities employees a coronavirus vaccine as soon as it’s available. 

“Presuming this gets done and some of our interests get satisfied, then we probably will pivot to: ‘What do things start to look like when there is a vaccine available, and how do we ensure that we can maintain the safety of our employees that operate the grid?’” he said.

 

July 16, 2020

By John Di Stasio

A Public Power Perspective on Cybersecurity 

Electricity is an essential element of every life powering homes, businesses and the national economy. In an increasingly digitized world, effectively managing cybersecurity has become critical to the reliability of the grid and the protection of data. While there are many forms of utility business models, public power systems often operate as part of a larger municipality, as a political subdivision of a state and frequently are formed to serve many smaller municipalities. Given these constructs and the realities of operating a public purpose business, the challenges can be unique.

Over the past fifteen or so years, the electric utility industry began moving to a more formal and regulated approach to the reliability and security of the grid. Reliability and security have always been the cornerstone of the industry, but management of the interconnected grid was maintained system by system with regional coordination. In 2007, the national electric reliability was established as a mandatory reliability and security organization to heighten the coordination of the nation’s interconnected bulk electrical networks and ensure best practice through a set of mandatory enforceable reliability standards.

Since that time, the industry, using the mandatory standards as the foundation, has built additional layers of voluntary best practice guidance and significantly expanded the focus on cybersecurity. As public power utilities, this required adaptations in our governance and communications to ensure that we maintained the public transparency and accountability balanced with the security of critical operational information and the reporting of identified risks. Active benchmarking also began to occur, industry coordination and collaboration with government increased and maturity models provided a roadmap to assess an organization’s cybersecurity readiness.

While cybersecurity readiness has grown significantly over the past several years, built upon this platform of mandatory and voluntary actions, the risks continue to evolve requiring continued engagement, assessment and timely actions to ensure that the security gains that have been achieved do not less effective over time. The recent pandemic-related increase in remote working is an example of a changing condition that introduces a new risk given the volume of data being exchanged via remote network access. Proprietary networks have given way to the internet of things with the promise that the number of connected and interactive devices will continue to grow over time.

Public power, like all utility business models, accept that core reliability is the price of entry in our industry and fundamental to everything we do. Cybersecurity has emerged as a significant risk that must be actively managed to ensure that reliability is maintained. We will continue to evolve our capabilities as new threats emerge, build upon our technical expertise and the expertise of the broader collaboration between industry and government and adapt our governance as public entities to ensure that we are secure, nimble and transparent.

John Di Stasio, President, Large Public Power Council (LPPC)

July 10, 2020

By Andrew Coen

Power Utilities Still Plan Capital Improvements 

Financial challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have not slowed long-term capital initiatives at some of the nation’s largest public power utilities.

“Our board, despite the economic times, is not giving me any breaks in terms of what they expect us to achieve,” Long Island Power Authority CEO Tom Falcone said Thursday during a digital forum hosted by S&P Global Ratings and the Large Public Power Council. “We may defer some new things, we may slow down some spending, but we’re not cutting into the bone.”

Falcone said while LIPA is deferring $60 million of capital spending the next two years, the utility remains committed to carrying out future projects aimed at improving the utility’s resilience and clean energy infrastructure. LIPA, which services around 1.1 million customers in the New York City region, is in the midst of constructing a $176 million underground transmission line in Nassau County to meet national reliability standards that will be funded through bonds.

LIPA’s debt is rated A2 by Moody’s Investors Service and A by S&P and Fitch Ratings, with stable outlooks. The utility has the highest credit ratings in its 34-year history following three one-notch upgrades last year ahead of a $485 million electric system revenue bond sale.

Jackie Flowers, CEO and director of Tacoma Public Utilities in the state of Washington, said during Thursday's forum her the power organization is prioritizing capital goals that are “critical” to its operations. TPU, which services around 200,000 customers, is on track to install new smart meters and remains committed to tackling other long-range projects, she said.

“I don’t see it as a long-term impact,” she said of forging ahead with most future capital projects despite the near-term challenges brought on by the pandemic. “With our current projections on declining load we are working to access what projects we want to continue to move forward with this year.”

TPU is rated Aa3 by Moody’s, AA by S&P and AA-minus by Fitch. All assign stable outlooks.

Gil C. Quiniones, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority, said the utility plans to proceed with at least two-thirds of its scheduled infrastructure projects after pausing some capital plans during the onset of COVID-19 in March. NYPA, which is the nation's largest public power utility, issued $1.2 billion of long-term bonds in late April to fund future green energy initiatives and refinance existing debt.

“We wanted to make sure that we were ready to deal with whatever this pandemic emergency will be throwing at us along the way,” he said about the borrowing, which featured around $800 million of green bonds.

NYPA’s bonds are rated AA by S&P and Fitch with a stable outlook. Moody’s Investors rates the utility one notch higher at Aa1, with a negative outlook.

S&P revised its outlook for U.S. public power utilities to negative from stable in April, citing risks that COVID-19 would cut away at already depleted financial cushions facing many agencies. The outlook change occurred just three months after S&P assigned a stable outlook to the sector due to the essentiality of electric service.

“The pandemic’s widespread pronounced and sudden economic declines called into the question the resilience of some key fundamentals of public power utilities’ credit quality,” said S&P credit analyst David Bodek “The pandemic and recession raised questions whether business shutdowns and high unemployment could compromise historically inelastic demand for electricity.”

 
 

July 10, 2020

Megawatt Daily

  • LPPC points to challenges in the fall
  • S&P warns of a hot summer
     

Public power utilities in the US have, like everyone else, faced high unemployment and the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, but they have felt a “relatively small impact,” according to the chairman of the Large Public Power Council. Dan Sullivan, the chairman of the LPPC and president and CEO of Grand River Dam Authority in Oklahoma, said the main message put out during Thursday webcast hosted by the council was that the public power industry has been “resilient and has weathered the storm.”

There have been delays in some capital and O&M projects because public power utilities were reluctant to send large crews out into the pandemic, he said, “but some of this activity has been picking up.”

There could, however, be “challenges” in the autumn shoulder months when outages are typically scheduled.

Sullivan said much depends on the “dynamics of where you are and who you serve.” He said that retail and commercial customers have generally been hardest hit, while heavy industry has generally been deemed “essential.”

During the early months of the pandemic the decline in demand for power ran into the double-digits, Sullivan said. Now, he said, there is 
“minimal degradation of demand—certainly in the single digits.”

He said much depends on the “dynamics of where you are and who you serve,” and what your mix is of retail and commercial customers. The Southwest Power Pool has a 3% to 5% range of demand decline, he said. “Our utility—based in Pryor, Oklahoma is much less.”


May 27, 2020

By Ralph Cavanagh and John Di Stasio

The (Energy) Efficient Road to Small Business Recovery

The road to recovery for the backbone of the American economy, our small businesses, will be long and arduous as the nation continues to grapple with an incalculable public health and jobs emergency. Our federal policymakers took strong actions to address the immediate needs of small businesses and their employees during the economic shutdown.

Now, with the country reopening, our federal leaders must find innovative ways to continue to support these businesses, which deliver half of the country’s GDP and employ half of our workforce, as they claw back from the human and financial devastation wrought by COVID-19. 

This issue is very much on the table as Congress considers its next COVID interventions. We believe that if policymakers approach this problem as an opportunity not only to help our economy recover, but to make it stronger, more energy productive, more equitable and more sustainable, everyone — not just small businesses — will reap the benefits, including cleaner air and lower energy system costs.

One novel approach that meets these goals would be to establish a Small Business Energy Efficiency Grant program, as called for by the Alliance to Save Energy, that would provide federal grants to electric and natural gas utilities (and institutional partners) and supplement available utility incentives to encourage small businesses — especially minority businesses and underserved communities — to make zero-cost energy efficiency upgrades to their facilities.

Such an initiative will immediately and permanently lower their operating expenses, which will help keep paychecks flowing. We will need efficiency workers to implement the upgrades, putting them back to work and improving the general economy.

Fully 75% of America’s utilities already run programs that help their customers, including small businesses, to reduce energy use and lower monthly bills. These programs offer an established conduit for reaching small businesses across the nation. But even in the best of economic times and with substantial incentives, small businesses struggle to come up with their share of the capital needed to make energy efficiency upgrades.

In today’s economic environment, small businesses are unlikely to use scarce internal funding for such work, even when they realize it could reduce their monthly utility bills by 30% to 40%. By providing grants to America’s utilities to take the costs for these efficiency upgrades down to zero, Congress will ensure that the benefits are much more widely shared. 

And because utility energy efficiency programs rely extensively on small businesses, such a partnership between the federal government and utilities also could help their employees get back to work quickly. Sadly, America’s energy efficiency workforce of more than 2.3 million has been hit harder than workers in any other segment of the clean energy industry, with a recent report from E2 and others finding that more than 413,000 efficiency workers lost their jobs in March and April.

A federal grant program to supplement available utility incentives would result in a high leverage of federal funding; small businesses that are better able to afford and pay their utility bills; the reinstatement and creation of energy efficiency jobs; and macro-economic and societal benefits through overall reductions in energy use and its associated environmental impacts.

Such a program represents the type of innovative but practical policy solutions that we believe can not only get our economy going again, but also make it more productive, more equitable and more sustainable for the future. We hope our federal policymakers agree and take action.

May 13, 2020

By John Di Stasio 

Hidden Heroes Keeping The Lights On

When most of us flip on a light switch, we often don’t give it a second thought — we just expect it to work. But imagine if the power went out. In this new socially distant reality of ours, where most of us scarcely leave home, a power outage would create chaos and sever our connection to family, friends and work.

Reliable electricity is the common thread running through our new remote lifestyles, and thankfully there are utility company employees across the country working to make sure our homes, businesses and communities remain powered.

Engineers, systems operators, lineworkers, and the list goes on. Highly trained, these women and men are unsung heroes. They oversee the operation of thousands of power plants and millions of miles of transmission and distribution lines across America. They put their community’s needs above their own and keep us all connected.

Governed by local communities, public power systems are highly in tune with and responsive to the needs of their customers — it’s why we often say that that community is at the heart of public power’s mission to deliver reliable electricity.

The members of the Large Public Power Council, 27 of our nation’s largest nonprofit public power systems, are ensuring continuity of service for their collective 30 million customers while keeping workers healthy and safe, particularly those who are mission-critical and have to remain onsite.

From Seattle City Light to New York Power Authority, LPPC members were on the front lines as coronavirus first hit our country. As participants of our nation’s diverse municipal landscape, they worked with local and state governments, supported their communities, and kept the power on for millions across America.

Our members acted quickly to alleviate the financial burden experienced by families, businesses, and communities as a result of the pandemic. They suspended disconnects voluntarily, reconnected those already disconnected and are now offering a wide variety of options to help their customers through this time of hardship — including the waiving of late fees, expansion of assistance programs, and introduction of flexible payment plans.

However, with over 33 million Americans already filing for unemployment benefits since the pandemic took hold, we know that further financial assistance is needed to ensure families can power, heat, and cool their homes as the economic fallout from the pandemic persists.

LPPC members urge Congress to act and provide federal support for customers paying their bills. One example, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, is a time-tested financial lifeline that helps hard-working Americans keep their lights on during challenging times.

The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association recommends that Congress provide an additional $4.3 billion for LIHEAP in the next coronavirus relief package. The National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition believes that these funds will allow states to serve approximately 11 million households, including newly laid-off workers, low-income families who were already struggling financially before this crisis and households with elderly members or pre-existing medical conditions who are sheltering in place with inadequate cooling measures at home. Just like the passage of direct relief for small business benefited the customers of public power, so too will the passage of this much-needed LIHEAP funding.

In contrast, any federally mandated disconnect or credit and collections policies will place public power systems and, in turn, our customers under further financial strain. While the motivations behind such policies are well intended, there are serious ramifications.

These one-size-fits-all policies limit flexibility and undermine public power’s ability to continue helping those in need. Instead, Congress ought to provide tangible support to struggling Americans through programs such as LIHEAP, offering certainty for both business and consumer.

As the pandemic progresses and the financial implications are brought to bear, the utility industry will experience difficulty reconciling a loss of load and an increase in financially distressed customers in need of aid. While public power, along with our dedicated utility workers, will continue to put their communities first and keep the nation’s lights on, we hope to see Congress act soon and provide federal support for those Americans struggling to pay their bills.

A 35-year veteran of the utility industry and the former general manager and CEO of Sacramento Municipal Utility District, John Di Stasio is the president of the Large Public Power Council, where he advocates for America’s largest public power systems in Washington, D.C.

May 5, 2020

By Bridget Reed Morawski

Municipal Utilities Call For Return of Financial Tools to Get Through Pandemic

Groups that represent public power providers are not waiting for nonpayment data to advocate for various financial tools — such as advance refunding on municipal bonds — they say would unlock much-needed liquidity throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

The extent of service nonpayments likely will not be known until early May, following the end of the first full billing cycle since the pandemic began and most states instituted stay-at-home orders, said Desmarie Waterhouse, vice president of government relations and counsel at the American Public Power Association, or APPA, in a recent interview.

While acknowledging that she had not yet seen information from "a statistically significant number of [APPA] members," Waterhouse said she "would be surprised if, once we see the better data, it won't confirm what [the public power sector is] thinking, which is there is definitely an increase in nonpayments."

Anecdotally, Waterhouse said officials at two utilities in the South separately have told her their bill nonpayment rates are 450% and 150% above normal.

Moody's recently affirmed a stable outlook for the U.S. public power sector, noting that those utilities should be "relatively resilient" despite the coronavirus-instigated economic downturn. However, it did note that those power providers likely will face pressures on liquidity and coverage ratios in 2020 and 2021.

As non-profit entities, public power providers do not hold on to a lot of cash. Certain requirements tied to their bond covenants or factors related to their fuel supply risk are used to define what is tucked away for a financial cushion, according to John Di Stasio, president of the Large Public Power Council, or LPPC.

So few public power organizations have large rainy day funds beyond that. And right now, according to Di Stasio, utilities are making "extraordinary expenditures" and incurring increased operational costs to sequester employees and follow shelter-in-place mandates in the face of reduced loads and revenues.

"Then you add in non-payment of bills … there are certain pressures on the finances, but this is going to be a question of, how long will we be in the circumstances that we are in currently?" Di Stasio said.

How public power providers say they could build extra liquidity

One way for the federal government to help public power providers build liquidity right now would be to reinstate advance refunding on municipal bonds, both Di Stasio and Waterhouse said. Advance refunding essentially is the act of paying off older bonds with newer bonds that have better financial terms, such as lower borrowing costs. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 disallowed tax-exempt advance refunding on municipal bonds.

"As we raise our capital in the municipal markets, the loss of advance refunding basically limits our ability to refinance our outstanding debt when times are favorable to do that," Di Stasio said. "That is generating a significant amount of cash for our members as they watch the market and refinance when it makes sense."

APPA and LPPC representatives also said their organizations' members would like to see the end of mandatory sequestration of Build America Bonds.

The Build America Bonds program was created by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to provide a deeper federal subsidy to state and local governments than traditional municipal bonds. The Treasury made direct payments to the state or local government issuer equaling 35% of the interest payment on the bonds.

But municipal utilities have not been able to issue those bonds since the program expired at the end of 2010, and the federal government since has mandated sequestration of already issued-bond subsidies. Public utilities that issued the bonds with the understanding that a subsidy would be provided have been left holding the bag, LPPC and APPA argue.

The APPA also wants to see the small issuer exception — a legal carve out that the organization says allows banks to deduct the carrying cost for tax-exempt bonds — raised from $10 million to $30 million. Waterhouse said that would help "smaller utilities … that may not need to go out and issue bonds for projects, so they can go maybe to a local bank to get funding."

Creative tools to carry on

In the meantime, public utilities are looking to trim the fat wherever possible or practicable. Most are promoting energy efficiency and energy savings programs to minimize final bills, and Di Stasio said that all of LPPC's member companies have "active programs" in place.

"If we can help our customers and consumers invest in energy efficiency, that's going to also lower their bill and enhance their ability to ultimately pay their bill," said Di Stasio. "That's another big way to help Main Street and to help economic recovery."

But in Texas, public power provider City Public Service of San Antonio, or CPS Energy, is unlocking liquidity by suspending an employee performance incentive program for certain workers, including executives. That program was set to pay out roughly $13 million in May, according to a company news release. Most hiring outside of critical roles at the multi-utility also will be frozen for now.

CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams acknowledged the "increased challenges" stemming from the health crisis that led to the suspension of future program payments and said, "suspending the incentive of almost $13 million is a prudent action in this extraordinary time."

April 12, 2020

By Dan Sullivan

Business Viewpoint: Utility Workers — A New, Unsung Hero Emerges During Times of Crisis

During the difficult time we are currently facing, our societal “norms” are challenged. In a recent interview, a pundit expressed his belief the changes we are making today may become the “new norm” of the future. Working from home and changing our social patterns will likely become the new way we interact once this crisis has diminished.

Another change likely to emerge is who society typically labels a “hero.”

My definition of a hero is an ordinary person willing to do something extraordinary to have a positive impact on others. We have always thought of our first responders and military personnel as heroes because they charge toward the threat rather than retreat.

In the crisis today, the hero label certainly extends to the thousands of health care workers waging this war in our hospitals. Each one knowingly is subjected to harm and, yet, returns day after day to face the challenge.

Today, as we sit in our homes in some form of social isolation, we must consider another unsung hero during this crisis — utility workers.

Each time we turn on a water tap or flip a light switch, we automatically expect it to work. Now, possibly more than ever in our nation’s history, a simple resource we take for granted every day is a vital lifeline, whether it’s running water to wash hands or ensuring citizens remain connected to work and critical news or, most importantly, ensuring the power supply for hospitals and clinics is not disrupted.

As we move into our season of severe weather, planning and preparing for all scenarios means we also must be ready with a healthy team of workers to respond. The majority of typical workforces are able to remain in the safety of their homes, but a portion of our employees must report to work, in person, to maintain our utility services. At the time of this writing, plans are being finalized to retain many critical positions sequestered at his or her work stations for days at a time.

A great deal of personal sacrifice from electricians and line workers is required. These heroes will spend days and weeks away from their own families to protect our critical infrastructure and ensure essential, life-saving resources are available.

These are uncharted waters and require extraordinary steps to keep the lights on. The capable men and women being called upon to take extraordinary steps are prepared and ready to do so. Each and every worker recognizes the value of the service they provide to citizens in our communities.

Today, when you flip the electric switch or turn on the water tap, please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers as they encounter the stress of being away from loved ones during these difficult times. In the future, when you see a utility worker, take the time to say thank you and share your appreciation of these unsung heroes.

Dan Sullivan is president and CEO of the Grand River Dam Authority.

 

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October 17, 2019

By John Di Stasio

LPPC Calls for Federal Action on Infrastructure, Grid Modernization & Carbon Reduction

At the Large Public Power Council (LPPC), our members are consumer-driven utilities, committed to reliability, affordability, environmental stewardship and economic development. Their commitment to their customers, communities and the environment has seen our members take proactive steps to improve air quality, reduce carbon emissions and shift towards a cleaner energy future.

Every day, our members are innovating and adopting new technologies and practices to decrease their carbon footprint. From Seattle City Light offering customers 91 percent carbon-free electricity to Orlando Utility Commission spearheading Florida’s largest solar project, public power is at the forefront of addressing threats from a changing climate.

LPPC is proud of the leadership taken by our member companies, however, we also recognize that climate action needs a comprehensive solution. In September, LPPC ratified new policy principles that call for federal action on carbon reduction provided there is flexibility, consistency and recognition of regional differences. Our 27 members, the largest public power systems in the nation, collectively support this call to action.

We support an economy-wide and performance-based approach that allows utilities to build clean portfolios from a broad range of supply resources that best support their communities. LPPC urges Congress to support the commercialization of new emission-reducing technologies and provide public power communities with financing tools to invest in system modernization. This will ensure that as we go greener, we remain resilient and reliable.

LPPC members have a rich tradition of embracing challenges to better their communities, and climate change is no different. While we await a consistent federal approach, LPPC members will continue their efforts to shrink their carbon footprint and create a healthier environment for their customers.

John Di Stasio, President, LPPC

LPPC represents 27 of the largest locally governed and operated not-for-profit electric systems in the United States. Our member utilities are located in 21 states and Puerto Rico, and own and operate more than 71,000 megawatts of generation capacity and more than 30,000 circuit miles of high voltage transmission lines. LPPC member utilities supply electricity to some of the largest cities in the country including Los Angeles, Seattle, Omaha, Phoenix, Sacramento, Jacksonville, San Antonio, Orlando and Austin.

August 29, 2019

By Aaron Larson

Largest Public Power Systems Are Evolving [PODCAST]

The power grid is changing across the U.S. More distributed energy resources are being added every day. That brings challenges for power utilities, but also opportunities.

John Di Stasio, president of the Large Public Power Council (LPPC), which represents 27 of the largest locally governed and operated not-for-profit electric systems in the U.S., was a guest on The POWER Podcast and discussed how the changes are affecting his organization’s members.

As large infrastructure developers and asset owners, the LPPC’s members are uniquely affected by certain policies in Washington, D.C. Di Stasio, who previously served as general manager and CEO of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) from June 2008 through April 2014, said his group has been focused on tax, infrastructure, cybersecurity, environmental regulation, electrification, and grid modernization initiatives.

Di Stasio noted that the U.S. power grid was originally designed as a central station system with one-way power flow from generators to consumers. “Now, we’re looking at much more distributed generation potentially, and also the fact that two-way power flow provides some additional opportunities and capabilities for consumers, also some additional complexity,” Di Stasio said. He suggested the benefits of digitization should be taken advantage of, which could allow a communications or digital network to be incorporated on top of the grid’s physical network to allow more interoperability. “I think a lot of that’s already underway,” he said.

However, “it’s very hard to do something like that on a top-down basis given the fact that the grid is designed and operated differently all over the United States,” Di Stasio said. “My argument would be you should start with the building block of local distribution grids and actually build from the ground up rather than the top down in order to modernize the grid in the most effective and kind of no-regrets fashion, if you will.”

Di Stasio noted that distributed generation is becoming more prominent not only in states like California and New York, where there have been strong policy pushes to develop distributed resources, but also throughout other regions of the U.S. “The economics warrant that these kind of investments get made all over the country, and I’m seeing that as a significant change than maybe just a decade ago,” he said.

Concerning cybersecurity, Di Stasio said, “We need good practices. We need good principles. We also need flexibility and we need significant coordination.” He noted that with more interoperability and more devices on the grid, more surfaces for entry exist, but he suggested advances have been made to protect industrial control systems, and a lot of “best practice sharing” is taking place across industry sectors.

Hear the entire interview on The POWER Podcast.

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