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Third Quarter Letter to Members

Brad Cox
Generator and/or Power Marketer Sector and MRO Board Chair
Sara Patrick
MRO President and CEO

From the Board Chair and President and CEO

Dear Members and Stakeholders:

Risks to reliable and secure operations of the North American bulk power system remained the primary focus of MRO’s Board of Directors at its third quarter meetings this week in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

During a closed risk roundtable, the Organizational Group Oversight Committee (OGOC) continued discussions from last quarter on energy reliability planning during the grid’s transformation of resources. The roundtable was attended by members of the board, key staff, and the leadership of MRO’s three advisory councils (Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Program, Reliability, and Security). Because of uncertainties in fuel supply, coupled with increasing and hard-to-predict electricity usage and extreme weather, assuring that energy will be available to serve demand has emerged as the most significant reliability risk for grid planners and operators. MRO and the ERO Enterprise are an important part of the solution as independent voices for reliability during discussions with federal, state and provincial regulators and policy makers.

During closed session, the board was informed of the status of goals that support MRO’s three-year strategic plan objectives and the priorities of People, Processes, and Partnerships. The organization is on track to complete all but one target and one stretch goal by year end, which are behind schedule because of redefined outcomes or a shift in priorities. We are pleased with the progress made on the metrics, which reinforce our overarching objective to become a more efficient, effective and collaborative organization aligned with the ERO Enterprise vision of a highly reliable and secure North American bulk power system. Reports were provided on staffing impacts related to the Interregional Transfer Capability Study, employee safety, corporate security, and statistics related to MRO’s Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Program.

Also in closed session, Matt Duncan, Director of Intelligence at the Electricity-Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC), briefed the board on specific risks and vulnerabilities affecting the electricity and other critical infrastructure sectors. Nation state and ransomware attacks remain a significant threat because of the current geopolitical climate and raising awareness of adversary capabilities is a key component of E-ISAC and ERO Enterprise risk mitigation efforts.

Duncan provided a higher-level briefing to attendees at the open board meeting later in the day on the security threat landscape, calling attention to areas where industry action is needed. He stressed the importance of coordination and collaboration to address cyber and physical security threats to critical infrastructure and encouraged attendees to participate in the upcoming grid security conference (GridSecCon) in October and grid security exercise (GridEx) in November.

Kal Ayoub, Critical Infrastructure and Resilience Advisor to the Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), shared FERC’s top priorities of reliability, transmission reform, and environmental justice. He reiterated Chairman Willie Phillip’s sentiment that reliability remains job number one for the commission. Because cybersecurity is inextricably linked to reliability, Ayoub noted activities FERC is undertaking to protect the grid from cyber and physical attacks. He also communicated efforts related to the changing resource mix, extreme weather events, the joint inquiry into Winter Storm Elliott, improving interconnection procedures and agreements, and reducing barriers to participation for underserved communities. Ayoub called attention to the alignment between FERC and ERO Enterprise priorities and expressed appreciation for the work MRO does to support a reliable power grid.

Each board committee provided reports on the various activities those committees are undertaking. During the OGOC report, chair Joann Thompson asked board members to consider submitting nominations from within their organizations for MRO’s Annual Hero Award.

The nomination period for the HERO Award begins on September 18 and closes on October 2, 2023. More information about award qualifications is on MRO’s website.

As a result of the Governance and Personnel Committee report, the board acted to recommend the following candidates to the MRO members for election to the board:

  • James A. Nail, Director, City of Independence, Power & Light (Regional Director)
  • Dana Born (Independent Director, incumbent)
  • Thomas Graham (Independent Director, incumbent)

You can read more about the discussions and actions taken at the third quarter board meeting in the full meeting minutes, which will be available on MRO’s website calendar soon.  

In closing, we would like to express gratitude to all the industry stakeholders that worked hard to keep the lights on in what proved to be a particularly challenging and HOT summer. Thank you for your commitment to grid reliability and resiliency.