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IncSys at the SE APDA

Jakob Liljenwall

We had a busy couple of weeks last fall when our own Jackie Perlette and Robin Podmore went to Richmond, Virginia where they were provided training at the SE APDA Fall conference. We regularly provide NERC-approved continuing education to dispatchers all over the country and it’s always a pleasure to catch up with old acquaintances and see new faces. Seeing system operators with different experience levels think through tough scenarios together is always interesting, and this time was no exception. The Southeast region has some very bright and friendly people and we look forward to seeing them again.

Choosing a topic is always a challenge, and we ultimately decided to go with one session on generation capacity and another on transmission capacity—twelve hours altogether. Physical and cyber threats present major problems these days and the stakes can be very high for the operator on duty when an emergency occurs. With increasingly sophisticated software exploits and crude but devastating physical attacks (like the 2013 Metcalf substation incident), quick thinking and a mastery of data may be the only things preventing a disruption from becoming a disaster.

As it happened, many of the other sessions covered similar themes. The result was a conference with a very unified and focused feel. And despite the discussion of threats and difficult decisions, the general mood was not pessimistic or fearful. While threats grow in scope and ingenuity, so do our tools for identifying and confronting them—as well as preparing our operations professionals through training and mentorship. The attendees we spoke with take their work seriously and are eager to help one another succeed; it was a joy to facilitate their discussions and see them solve problems together.

We were also thrilled with the positive feedback we received from them. Everyone rated their sessions very highly; many remarked on being exposed to a variety of experiences and viewpoints, and our simulation tools got lots of love as well. We find it extremely helpful to be able to put operators in the middle of a realistic scenario to see how decisions are made in the heat of the moment—particularly when discussing situations that have no textbook procedure. As one attendee said “I actually felt as if I were running a system.” Any day we hear that is a good day for us!

Many thanks to the unfailingly hospitable and professional officers of the SE APDA, particularly David Plum, who put so much work into this event. We love providing these in-person workshops and Jackie and Robin had a great time in Virginia. We work hard to provide an online curriculum with many of the same benefits of our in-person training, and we have some major updates to that coming this year. If you want more information about that or would like to be notified when we launch the new program contact David Miranda to get in the loop.