Plenary Speakers

Day 1 – Operational, Regulatory and Policy Needs to Facilitate Cost Effective Integration of Large-scale Renewables

Ahad Esmaeilian

Ahad Esmaeilian
ISGT 2021 Conference Marketing Chair
Director of Business Development, Avangrid

Dr. Ahad Esmaeilian is Director of Business Development at Avangrid. He leads Avangrid’s business development team across Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) region. In this role, he works across the industry sector with technology providers, developers, local and regional regulatory agencies to advance Clean Energy through interconnection of offshore/onshore Wind, Solar and other utility-scale renewable energy resources.

Ahad joined Avangrid in 2019, as the Manager of Smart Grid Innovation. Before Avangrid, Ahad was leading New York Power Authorities Smart Grid projects for 2 years. Prior to that, he was a lead scientist at Smart Grid Center at Texas A&M Engineering Lab for 5 years and has an additional 5 years of experiences in various roles including Transmission Planning, Substation & Transmission EPC and Project Management during the time working in his home country, Iran.

Ahad holds B.Sc. & M.Sc. degrees in Electrical Engineering from University of Tehran, Iran. He earned his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Texas A&M University, in 2017, and recently graduated with an MBA degree from Clackson University, NY. He is a Senior Member of the IEEE.

Sebastian Libonatti
Vice President of Business Development at Avangrid

Sebastian was appointed to the role of Vice President Business Development of Avangrid Networks in January 2019 and is responsible for delivering growth opportunities in transmission. Prior to that role, he held similar positions in developing growth opportunities for Hydro-Quebec, a large vertically integrated utility. During his previous 10 years he was part of energy trading activities, structuring and negotiations of power purchase agreements as well as development of growth opportunities internationally.
Sebastian holds a degree in business with a concentration in finance from the Universite de Sherbrooke in Canada and a master’s degree in Management and Economics of Network Industries from the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Spain.

Jenny Erwin
Marketing Director at Smart Wires

Jenny Erwin currently serves as the Marketing Director at Smart Wires, responsible for all strategic marketing for Smart Wires solutions globally. Her team works closely with utility partners across North and South America, Europe and Australia, as well as managing industry partners and other key stakeholder groups. Her group is also responsible for regulatory strategy and engagement in the Americas and has been heavily involved in energy policy development at the Federal level. She joined Smart Wires in 2015 and has grown her team and mandate every year. Jenny has nearly a decade of experience in the energy industry. Jenny holds an M.S. in Civil Environmental Engineering from Stanford University and a B.A. in Physics from Middlebury College.

Neil Millar
Vice President of Infrastructure & Operations Planning at CAISO

Neil Millar, Vice President of Infrastructure & Operations Planning at the California ISO, leads the division responsible for its transmission planning, infrastructure contracts, operations engineering services, and generation interconnection processes.
Prior to joining the California ISO in November of 2010, he was with Alberta’s Utilities Consumer Advocate, the Alberta Electric System Operator, and TransAlta Utilities, then a vertically-integrated utility.
Mr. Millar earned his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree at the University of Saskatchewan and is a Professional Engineer registered in Alberta, Canada.

Eric Vandenberg
Deputy Director of the Office of Energy Policy and Innovation at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)

Eric Vandenberg is the Deputy Director of the Office of Energy Policy and Innovation at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Prior to joining the Office of Energy Policy and Innovation, Mr. Vandenberg served as the Technical Advisor to Chairman Neil Chatterjee from with primary responsibility for wholesale electric market design, electric reliability, and cybersecurity issues. Prior to joining Chairman Chatterjee, Mr. Vandenberg served in various positions throughout the Commission in the Office of Energy Market Regulation, the Office of Electric Reliability, and with Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur. Mr. Vandenberg joined FERC in 2009 as an Electrical Engineer in the Office of Electric Reliability. Mr. Vandenberg earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering and Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Ohio University.

Day 2 – Key Success Factors for Resilient and Decarbonized Grid

Veronika A. Rabl
ISGT 2021 Plenary Chair
Principal, Vision & Results Consulting

Veronika Rabl is a consultant in the Washington, DC, area, specializing in energy technology and policy. She has advised electric energy companies and governments around the world and has been an invited speaker at many events in the U.S. and abroad. She is an author, coauthor, and editor of numerous publications.

Until 2001 Dr. Rabl served as General Manager and Director at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). She established EPRI’s demand response research program and technology portfolio, including energy storage, energy management, and distributed load control systems.

Veronika’s work includes policy papers on energy efficiency, electric transportation, clean power supply, and electric grid modernization, as well as energy and environmental life cycle assessments. Most recently she has been a team lead and coauthor of the IEEE PES (Power and Energy Society) Energy Storage Primer. She helped launch the Engineering Founder Societies’ Technology for Carbon Management Grand Challenge Initiative; assessed EPA Clean Power Plan implementation options; reviewed ISO/RTO market rules and processes; served as co-chair of IEEE Joint Task Force on the DOE Quadrennial Energy Review (QER); co-chaired development of report on demand management alternatives for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Dr. Rabl is a Senior Member of IEEE, past Chair of IEEE-USA Energy Policy Committee, and member of the IEEE PES Industry Technical Support Leadership Committee. Veronika is a recipient of the IEEE-USA Professional Achievement Award for Individuals.

Veronika holds a Ph.D. from the Ohio State University and an M.S. from the Weizmann Institute, Israel.

Damir Novosel

Damir Novosel
Chair, IEEE PES ITSLC, and President, Quanta Technology

Damir Novosel is president and founder of Quanta Technology, a subsidiary of Quanta Services, a Fortune 300 company. Previously, he was vice president of ABB Automation Products and president of KEMA T&D US. Dr. Novosel is also an adjunct professor of Electrical Engineering at North Carolina State University.

Dr. Novosel was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2014. He served as President of the IEEE Power and Energy Society and VP of Technical Activities. Damir is a member of the IEEE Standards Association Standards Board. He also chairs IEEE Smart Cities Initiative and Industry Technical Support Leadership Committee. Damir is a member of the CIGRE US National Committee and received the CIGRE Attwood Associate and the Distinguished Member awards. Damir holds 17 US and international patents and published over 180 articles and reports. He contributed to 5 books.

Damir is an IEEE Fellow since 2003, holds PhD, MSc, and BSc degrees in electrical engineering from Mississippi State University (where he was a Fulbright scholar), the University of Zagreb, Croatia, and the University of Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, respectively. Dr. Novosel was selected as Mississippi State University Distinguished Engineering Fellow.

David Ortiz
Deputy Director of the Office of Electric Reliability, FERC

David Ortiz is the Deputy Director of the Office of Electric Reliability. Prior to joining the Commission, David was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Infrastructure Modeling and Analysis at the U.S. Department of Energy, where he directed a wide range of research and development on electricity transmission systems and energy system risk. Key research areas included: transmission system models, advanced control systems, computation, mathematics and algorithms, synchrophasors, and geomagnetic disturbances, among others.

He represented the Department as the Federal nonvoting member of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s Member Representatives Committee and led interagency outreach efforts. From 1998 through 2013, David worked at the RAND Corporation, where he built a program of energy policy research and analysis. David earned his doctorate in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan. He graduated from Princeton University. David lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife, Nicole, and two children. He is an avid cyclist, home cook, and musician.

Michael Pesin
ISGT 2018 Conference Chair
Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Energy

Michael Pesin is Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Advanced Grid Engineering Research and Development Division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability. Mr. Pesin has over 30 years of experience in the electric utility industry directing development and execution of advanced technology programs.

Prior to joining the DOE Mr. Pesin spent most of his career leading technology organizations at electric utilities where he led technology strategy development, managed research and development programs, and directed strategic programs and demonstration projects. These included substation and distribution automation, advanced metering infrastructure, communication networks and cybersecurity, energy storage, distributed generation, microgrids, electric vehicles, transactive energy, energy management and distribution management systems.

Mr. Pesin also founded and led a management consulting company working in the US and internationally with electric utilities, technology companies and investors. He was a board member at a number of technology organizations, is actively involved with many electric power industry groups, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.

Christopher Root

Christopher E. Root
COO, Vermont Electric Power

Mr. Root has over 35 years of utility operations and engineering leadership experience. He is currently the Chief Operating Officer for Vermont Electric Power Company in Rutland, VT. He is responsible for the engineering, construction and operation of the transmission system in the state of Vermont, USA.
Previously, he was the Senior Vice President of Network Strategy at National Grid USA responsible for engineering and asset management of the electric and gas networks in the US. He was a Senior VP for 17 years in various roles in Transmission and Distribution Operations, Engineering and Construction for operations in MA, RI, NH and NY. He oversaw several operational mergers and was Emergency Director for over 70 significant events through the years.

Mr. Root has a BS in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University and a MEng in Electric Power Engineering from Rensselear Polytechnic Institute. He attended the Program for Management Development at the Harvard Business School. Mr. Root is a registered Professional Engineer in the states of MA and RI.

Mr. Root has been the elected Treasurer, Secretary and Member at Large of the IEEE Power and Energy Society Governing Board. He has been member of the North American Transmission Forum Board of Directors and is on the Executive Committee of the US National CIGRE Committee. He is on the Editorial Board of the Power and Energy Magazine. He was awarded the 2009 Outstanding Engineering Award by the Boston Chapter of the Power and Energy Society. He will be the President of the CIGRE US National Committee starting 2021. Chris is also the recipient of the CIGRE 2020 Atwood Associate Award and the IEEE PES Meritorious Service Award. He has given many technical presentations throughout the world on various utility topics.

Day 3 – Success Factors on the Path to the Smart Grid

Ron Melton
Senior Power Systems Researcher and Project Manager, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Dr. Melton a Senior Power Systems Researcher and Project Manager in the Electricity Infrastructure Group at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). He is the administrator of the GridWise® Architecture Council and the Principal Investigator for the DOE Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium project for an ADMS Open Source Platform. He was Project Director of the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration that concluded in June 2015. He has 10 years of experience in cyber security for critical infrastructure systems and over 30 years of experience applying computer technology to a variety of engineering and scientific problems. Dr. Melton is a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and a Senior Member of the Association for Computing Machinery. Dr. Melton received his BSEE from University of Washington and his MS and PhD in Engineering Science from the California Institute of Technology.

Thomas Owen Bialek
Chief Engineer, San Diego Gas & Electric

Tom received a Bachelor and Master of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Manitoba in 1982 and 1986 respectively. He also obtained a Doctor of Philosophy in Electrical Engineering from Mississippi State University in 2005.
He is currently employed by San Diego Gas & Electric Company (“SDG&E”) as a Chief Engineer. His present responsibilities involve technology strategy and policy for transmission and distribution issues including equipment, operations, planning, distributed generation and development of new technologies. He was also the Principal Investigator on DOE and CEC funded Micro Grid projects. He is also a frequently requested external speaker and DOE R&D peer reviewer. Tom was also recognized by Greentech Media in its inaugural 100 Top Movers and Shakers in Smart Grid. In 2009 Tom was recognized with SDG&E’s Cornerstone award and in 2010 received the Outstanding Engineer award from the San Diego County Engineering Council.

He has held various positions with other North American utilities and equipment manufacturers since graduating in 1982. His experience includes electric utility design, planning and operation and equipment design, development and manufacturing.
Tom is an IEEE Senior Member. Tom sits on the DOE Electricity Advisory Committee as the Smart Grid Subcommittee Chair. Tom also chairs the NREL’s Electric System Integration Technical Review Panel. Tom is also a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society. He is also a registered Professional Engineer, Electrical Engineering, in the State of California. He has authored a variety papers on a diverse of subjects such as distribution fault location, surge protection of equipment and testing of cables and has been awarded three patents.

Summer Ferreira
Sandia National Laboratories

Dr. Summer Ferreira is the Manager for the Renewable and Distributed Systems Integration (RDSI) program at Sandia National Laboratories. Her research group promotes the research and development of technologies that enable grid modernization and resiliency, along with the large-scale deployment of renewable and distributed energy sources through grid integration research including resilience planning and analysis, microgrid design, electric vehicle charging, power electronics and controls, protection, advanced modeling and simulation and distribution cybersecurity. Prior to her role at RDSI, beginning in 2011, Summer led the Energy Storage Analysis Laboratory at Sandia in support of the DOE Office of Electricity Energy Storage program and the program area of energy storage safety. Summer received her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Lorenzo Kristov

Lorenzo Kristov is an independent consultant working to transition the electric power system to high levels of renewable generation and distributed energy resources, applying grid architecture to advance power system decentralization and designing DSO models for the distribution utilities of the future. From 1999 to 2017 he was a Principal in market design and infrastructure policy at the California ISO, where he was a lead designer of the CAISO’s nodal wholesale market. He is currently a member of the Gridwise Architecture Council.

Thomas Pierpoint
Austin Energy

Thomas Pierpoint is currently serving as the Vice President of Engineering at Austin Energy, a utility serving the Austin, Texas region. This group has responsibilities for system planning, system engineering, system and control center operations, emergency management, real estate, and asset management.

Prior to this, Tom was an executive Director at Exelon. Exelon is a FORTUNE 100 company that serves 10 million electric and gas customers and employs approximately 33,000 people nationwide with revenues of $34 billion.

Tom is active with the IEEE and IEEE USA, serving as the Chair of the IEEE USA Energy Policy Committee

Tom holds an MIT Sloan Advanced Certificate for Executives in Management, Innovation and Technology. Tom holds a Certificate in Design Thinking from the UVA Darden School of Management. Tom also holds a Masters in Business Administration, a Masters degree in Project Management, graduate work in Software Engineering, a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering Technology, an Associates in Electronics Technology and five years of formal training as an Electronics Technician.