Founded in 2007 to assist companies with their obligation to demonstrate compliance and operating reliability to performance requirements approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Utility Services, has recently celebrated a decade of successful growth.
However, keeping up to date with regulations, industry trends and new technology across all of the eight NERC regions in America and Canada, while providing individually customised solutions requires proactive planning and foresight. Here, Brian Evans-Mongeon, CEO and President of Utility Services, Waterbury, Vermont, USA, offers us a unique insight into how his company have successfully undertaken more than 200 audits, guided self-certifications and spot checks in its ten-year history, as well as sharing his vision and strategy for the future.
What is NERC and what are its responsibilities?
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) is a not for profit international regulatory authority which assures the reliability and security of the bulk power system in North America. It oversees eight regional reliability entities and encompasses all of the interconnected power systems of the United States, Canada and a portion of Baja California in Mexico – serving more than 334 million users in total.
NERC’s major responsibilities include developing standards for power system operation, monitoring and enforcing compliance with these standards and providing educational and training resources as part of accredited programmes to ensure operatives are suitably qualified and proficient.
How does Utility Services help its clients meet these obligations?
Keeping pace with a constantly changing market is vital. Since the company’s inception in 2007, compliance and reliability programmes have steadily increased in scope and the associated requirements have demanded greater resources year upon year.
Utility Services has an established and dedicated work force, including a nationwide network of consultants with specialist expertise and an accumulation of over 300 years’ experience in the electric industry. Many of its customers have limited time, personnel or the appropriate resources available to demonstrate compliance and meet reliability objectives. The role of Utility Services is pivotal in assisting with any obligation imposed on an entity – whether that be the collection, analysis or submitting of data or indeed individual performance obligations and there is little doubt that the unrivalled knowledge and expertise of its staff and partners have undoubtedly contributed to its excellent service sector reputation.
Education and Awareness
Education plays an important and ongoing function. Utility Services organises ‘Client Days’ which give customers an opportunity to either attend in person or online and receive up to date awareness sessions with regard to NERC activities and requirements. Technical staff are also on hand to answer any queries which may arise.
Additionally, the organisation provides a tailor made NERC Compliance Education and Awareness Programme in the form of weekly, bi-weekly or monthly calls and presentations to entities who wish to understand more about their NERC requirements. Customising information in this way enables clients to devote time, energy and resources on their day to day business operations as well as fulfil their NERC obligations through the most relevant and cost-effective methods. All Utility Service clients can opt to receive a bi-weekly newsletter – ‘The US News & NERC Report’ which addresses current compliance news and topics, upcoming meetings and general ‘need to know’ information.
Collaboration and Communication
Collaboration and communication are the key ingredients in Utility Services’ recipe for success. The organisation’s strong industry partnerships provide capacity to offer a broader spectrum of services without compromising on efficiency. Creating long lasting relationships by treating all clients with the respect and professionalism they deserve has been, and will continue to be, an established work ethic.
Brian explains how communication is vital to ensuring that his organisation offers clients the exceptional quality service they expect. “With our customers based all over the US and Canada, our staff utilise telephony systems, a virtualised server network and other forms of video and communications systems to achieve this.” His staff are actively serving on standard development teams, working groups and task forces to remain informed of new trends and ongoing compliance and reliability requirements.
Their knowledge and expertise provide invaluable guidance to customers and gives Utility Services a competitive edge in the market – the company having prepared more entities for audits and led more compliance audits than any other organisation in the sector.
Future plans, vision and expectations
Utility Services operates in a niche service industry where there is neither room for complacency nor stagnation. The organisation is determined and focused to both anticipate and competently respond to ongoing market demands, developing strategies for new obligations and ensuring all their clients continue to receive high quality solutions based on their specific requirements.
Advancements in technology will highlight a need for a greater awareness of both cyber and physical security protection. Research shows that cyber attacks on the utility industry have increased by 24 per cent since 2012 and that the energy sector leads all others in the amount of attacks sustained. As both the size of the industry and the use and capabilities of technology continues to expand, a far greater resilience to protect electric systems and devices will need to be deployed to cope with more frequent and sophisticated attacks. Proactive planning and response preparation is crucial.
“Most of Utility Services’ growth has come from the success of our customers,” Brian is keen to point out. In the last year alone the organisation has worked with 15 new transmission owners to construct and implement new compliance programmes. With a client base consisting of entities predominantly registering as transmission owners, generation owners and operators, distribution providers, reliability co-ordinators and balancing operators, Utility Services aim is to remain industry innovators and ensure all clients receive the very highest standards of solution which meet their exact requirements.
Further information regarding Utility Services range of products and services, together with current industry news can be found at www.utilitysvcs.com