A great podcast with a discussion about the U.S. energy, grid, and significant issues facing the delivery of electricity. Adrienne Lotto is the Senior Vice President of Grid Security, Technical & Operations Services at the American Public Power Association.
Adrienne knows grid security, operations, supply chain issues, and potential risks that the APPA helps its members prepare for all contingencies. They also work with legislative bodies and with government regulatory agencies.
Thank you, Adrienne, for stopping by the ENB podcast. It was a blast, and I was grateful for your time. – Stu
Please connect with Adrienne Lotto on her LinkedIn HERE
0:00 – Intro
01:00 – Introduction about American Power Association
03:59 – Talks about Grid Security
a.) 06:11- Talks about Transformers
b.) 08:44- Talks about the legislature
c.) 10:57 – Talks about grid balancing authorities
14:15 – Talks about natural gas and nuclear available for renewable funding
17:59 – Talks about homeowner’s association at the Manufacturing Homeowners Association
21:33 – Talks about cyber attacks on the grid
26:17 – Talks about supply chain constraints
30:05- back to the cyber attack topic
Automatic Video Transcription may be edited for grammar. We disavow any errors unless they make us look better or smarter. – Check out the YouTube or podcast for the actual language. (I am from Texas and Oklahoma, so I talk funny).
Stuart Turley [00:00:03] Hello, everybody. Today is just a great day. It’s not only a great day. It’s a fantastic day because I get to talk to some, Really cool today. I get to visit with Adrian Lato. She’s the senior vice president of Grid Security Technical Operations Services for the American Public Power Association. Welcome and thank you for stopping by the podcast.
Adrian Lato [00:00:33] Thanks so much, Stu. I appreciate you all having me today.
Stuart Turley [00:00:36] I’ll tell you what you know when people sit back, Adrian, and you’re the security and the vice president there. We want to hear a little bit about what you do there, because when people, you know, you walk into your room and you expect to flip the switch, but there’s a ton of stuff that goes on with the grid. So what do you do basically there at the American Power Association?
Adrian Lato [00:01:02] So EPPA is the National Trade Association representing public power members all across the United States not for profit electric utilities. And we serve about 49 million Americans, as you said, who want to walk in and around that switch and want that want the power on a EPA And our members have some of the most reliable power in the United States. So we serve a large majority very different communities some very large/some very small. And we’re throughout all 49 states. The only one we’re not in is Hawaii. So unfortunately, that remains on my bucket list of places to visit, because I won’t be going there for work any time soon.
Stuart Turley [00:01:49] Oh, now that’s funny. I mean, why don’t you try to get that into your territory? Now, if you guys cover Alaska, correct?
Adrienne Lato [00:01:57] That’s correct. Yeah. Alaska is also has the public power as well.
Stuart Turley [00:02:02] Oh, boy. I’ll tell you, I’ve done a lot of time up in Alaska and there really a lot of grid around here. Yeah. Microgrids all over the place.
Adrienne Lato [00:02:13] So microgrids. That’s right. I’ve spent some time up in the University of Fairbanks. We went and did some traveling above. But you’re right. Lots of microgrids up in Alaska, down here and continental United States. So we serve some large areas. For example, out in L.A., like Los Angeles, Public water is one of our members. And then we have very, very small members as well who may only have even just a couple of employees. We’re helping to run the grid.
Stuart Turley [00:02:49] Boy, I’ll tell you, that’s quite a job. And when you sit back and think about I want to give a shout out to the linemen and line women and everybody keeping that grid up. Holy smokes, they’re out there in good, bad weather and everything else. And they are some unsung heroes. And I just want to give them a quick shout out as well.
Adrienne Lato [00:03:13] Absolutely. I mean, one of the. The line workers, men and women who go out every every time there’s a storm particularly, and mutual aid, I think that’s one of the things that the electric sector is well known for, including in public power, is when a storm hits or even if it’s a storm up in the northeast snowstorm or down in the southeast and hurricane alley, when something comes through on our members really kind of step into action and help one another out because as you said, the name of the game is to restore power as quickly as possible to to to serve communities. And that’s what’s expected and remind people really make that happen. So a big shout out to them.
Stuart Turley [00:03:58] You bet with grid security, I mean, when you there is so much you and I were chit chatting ahead of the discussion here and and and so when we sit back and think. You go in. There’s a lot of physics that are involved with turning on that light. Switch it in in the. I was visiting with an executive from Pakistan last Thursday and the rest of the world doesn’t have the grid that we have here. You know they get like so many hours a day they flat have on and we take it for granted. What do you see as far as some of the physics that go on?
Adrienne Lato [00:04:42] I think the changing nature of the grid is occurring as we speak. There’s more and more pressure, right? Whether through clean energy policies or even state policies to take a look at some of the different generation assets, perhaps maybe taking a look at retiring coal in certain areas. And really the industry is trying to move more into cleaner forms of energy you’ll see a lot of states and again utilities exploring things, as you mentioned, wind turbines or other types of DER and trying to understand and taking a look at the physics on how to bring those types of generation assets into the fold towards more cleaner types of energy. So there’s a definitely a changing generation mix that’s occurring and that’s being supported through some of the things that you’re seeing on the federal level as well as different states. So that’s changing.
Adrienne Lato [00:05:44] We have threats of cyber security from nation state actors. We have physical threats. So I think there’s many different aspects of the grid that are continuing to evolve. You know, with cyber security, I mean, excuse me, grid security, I’m going to square here for second. I just want to get everybody to this is a family show.
Stuart Turley [00:06:08] But the chuckleheads, they were shooting, the Transformers good, you know, that were going on around there. I’m going to call them chuckleheads or chattered heads. I’m not sure which, but there’s a real supply problem issue. So if we get a bunch of these guys going around shooting transformers, you deal with a lot of the legislative issues going around as part of the association’s normal job in trying to help that security measure. That is a national security issue. If we can’t get parts correct.
Adrienne Lato [00:06:43] Absolutely. So unfortunately, right now supply chain is one of the top issues that’s impacting the industry, particularly around distribution transformers. More and more, we are hearing from CEOs, from their procurement officers that lag time and wait times used to be, you know, for a distribution transformer, we could get them in a number of weeks. Now it looks like we’re getting the wait time can be upwards of a year sometimes depending even more or even in instances.
Adrienne Lato [00:07:17] We’re also hearing anecdotally that sometimes transformer manufacturers won’t even take their orders because they’re completely at capacity and they won’t be able to fulfill them. So as you said, Stu, right. When we’re looking at threats from storms, as we just mentioned, or physical security, at the end of the day, the American people just want, as you said, the light switch to go on and for the lights to come on. But that is an end to end process, including distribution, transformers. And we’ve been raising the alarm that there’s a shortage and we really need the federal government to act here.
Stuart Turley [00:07:57] I was visiting with another grid expert and they were saying that if and this comes up to that balloon incident that just went, you know, the Chinese balloon incident roll on by, we ever had an EMP in certain part of just any part of the state. It would take years in order to get the grid back on if all the transformers were cooked in that area. So we may be down for a long time. And that’s a big, big deal. I mean, we can’t. And so I guess what how do you convey your message to the legislator? That’s a big job.
Adrian Lato [00:08:42] We’ve been raising the alarm with the legislature for quite some time now. We’ve been meeting with officials at D.O.T. on a regular basis. We’ve gone and had meetings at the White House as well. We’ve even taken to the Hill to meet with congresspeople and really try to explain to them that this is an all hazards issue, as you just said. Here’s one We’ve already talked a little bit about physical security threats.
Adrienne Lato [00:09:13] Cyber is another one. Storms, I mean, we’re about to hit. Storm season is another. So although the threats and the landscape continues to change and evolve, the American people expect their way of life, as you said, right? You were talking to someone from Pakistan. It looks a little different here in America. So continuity is exceedingly important. And so continuity of keeping those lights on require transformers. And there’s other you know, there’s other things that we’re also hearing now that there are in shortage. I’ll give you a, for instance, on the trucks. Right. You mentioned your line, your line people earlier today, line men and women and the heroes of the grid.
Adrienne Lato [00:09:59] We are now hearing from some of our members that even bucket trucks are getting harder and harder to get in. So we want to just ensure that Congress continues to pay attention and make sure that they allocate funding. The next go around for grid components, not just, you know, they certainly funded clean energy components, which is important, but we need to ensure reliability first.
Stuart Turley [00:10:26] Oh, yeah. With renewables, wind and solar, if we’re going to get the carbon net zero, we have to have a ton of other stuff and upgrades to the grid. And you know, it’s kind of like air traffic controllers. You always hear how bad they are, but it’s the old balancing authorities. Those guys are like, need some serious help? Maybe we can put some counseling in those budgets for those guys that are doing the grid balancing authorities, because that’s pretty stressful when you’ve got a wind farm over here and you got a call and then you’re waiting and having them sit there. So the balancing authorities are just another group of people on the grid.
Adrienne Lato [00:11:13] That’s true. I mean, there’s a ton of as we talked about earlier, there’s a lot of legislation that’s advancing things like electrification. Right?. Electric vehicles are all the rage. A lot of if you read any car magazine now, there are many, many different car manufacturers are talking about just having all electric vehicles going forward. And they’ve made pledges to that nature. Will that all require upgrade to grid infrastructure? Right. So it will take a ton of planning. And, you know, some of that planning is is is ongoing. But I think ensuring that we can keep the basics on like like the lights on in people’s homes is is certainly of critical importance.
Stuart Turley [00:12:05] Boy, you open up a can of worms here. Now I’m going to throw this squirrel at you here and I’m going to try to see in California a couple a while ago, they had where they were, they said, don’t charge your your cars because it was about to black out. I mean, it was in. And then they had another proposal for the legislator, I believe it was a month ago I saw this and they were saying that if you plug your car into the grid, they want the cars to be used as a backup for the grid. I mean, talk about a nightmare for me. Yeah. I mean, well, how do we educate the legislator to be able to say, let’s have a nice way forward for all this? Because, I mean, they don’t. Work together that way.
Adrienne Lato [00:12:59] I think it requires conversation. I mean, similar to what we’re having now, right. I think I think a lot of legislation gets passed by very, very well-intended people who simply don’t understand either the physics of the grid, as you’ve just mentioned, or or the implementation of some of these policies and what it would take to actually ensure that these things don’t have cascading grid impact. So I think working within to advise of state, you know, your state regulatory offices, your state legislatures, I mean, oftentimes we find that, you know, it’s very helpful for the utility executives and their staff to go in and have open dialog to explain some of these things, because I think otherwise, I think some well-intended legislation can have really deleterious effects that were not intended. Right?
Stuart Turley [00:14:02] Oh, yeah. And so when you take a look at the infrastructure bill, in fact, in COP 26, they kind of snuck in some language about natural gas and nuclear being put in as available for renewable funding. Didn’t do anything until COP 27. And then in COP 27 and 28, the EU in Europe said, Oh, by the way, we’re going to allow natural gas. And then sure enough, the U.S. is now following in those same footsteps and saying natural gas is available for funding in some of these and nuclear. So nuclear, I think you’re going to see some nice stuff if they can get the regulations passed. Some of this because or nuclear with a steady output will be nice for the grid. I mean, it plays nice on the grid, right?
Adrienne Lato [00:15:01] Certainly. I mean, I think in know all of the above energy strategy makes sense here. I mean, we’re seeing some of the the DOE is continuing to work on school modular reactors. We certainly have members that are waiting to see the outcome of those seminars. And it’s positive. You know, I know they intend likewise to kind of hop on the summer bandwagon and see if they can bring nuclear in a smaller way back to their grids. So I think that certainly has a potential in the future. But like you said, you know, I think the generation we’ve seen with natural gas that it is a just in time generation resource.
Adrienne Lato [00:15:44] But, you know, there’s depending on where you live, there remains some concern about whether or not that is an actual true form of clean energy. I mean, for example, hydropower still doesn’t get I don’t think, the clean energy stamp that perhaps it should. And I think that’s another form of of generation that should get those types of that you get that recognition.
Stuart Turley [00:16:18] I adrina I agree geothermal also has not gotten the thing I would rather put a lot of money into geothermal. It is though it is good in some areas. I mean Yellowstone. Sure. But I mean I mean there’s other technologies coming around that I think would be good investments. So.
Adrienne Lato [00:16:40] Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a lot of money going into grid modernization, including different forms of generation, for which we’ve discussed. I think it’s, you know, like you said, we’re going to wait and see. I think our members are going to wait and see. But there are a lot of decarbonization goals that they are from states that are being promulgated right now. There’s a lot of at least, you know, some are even pushing, you know, carbon net carbon goals. So how we’re going to get there, it’s going to take a lot of planning and as you said, conversation with different entities really coming together to make it happen.
Stuart Turley [00:17:22] Well, also, one of the big things you mentioned about homeowner new homes and attaching these things with new legislation going on about reducing the home and the demand on the home would make a lot of sense. And so I’m sure you guys are working on that as well, too. I mean, because there’s a lot of legislation for lowering the amount of power that people use. Is that a thing that you’re also looking at as well
Adrienne Lato [00:17:56] We generally tend to we’re working with the homeowner’s association at the Manufacturing Homeowners Association at the moment, actually, because what we are hearing from them is that a lot of cities have and states have goals of economic development goals, and we’re trying to bring certain housing to certain communities to really rise up people out of poverty or areas that perhaps are, you know, maybe in lower socioeconomic areas.
Adrienne Lato [00:18:30] And unfortunately, some of those projects are literally getting put on hold because they’re unable, because of supply chain constraints to grid infrastructure because of the distribution transformer shortage. So when we are talking on the Hill or at the White House or, you know, over in DOE, we are trying to articulate that the administration has these very strong electrification goals and these very strong goals of economic development, right. Which are certainly, I think, you know, commendable. But it takes again, basic grid infrastructure like distribution, transformers get there.
Stuart Turley [00:19:20] And so when you talk about the disproportionately impacted communities like we were talking about I mean power, policy and regulations sometimes don’t get down to the disproportionately impacted communities, kind of like the big push for heat pumps and and sometimes heat pumps actually pull more power and are as efficient. But in the Northeast, they don’t like pipelines, so they don’t have any natural gas. And then they have to import LNG from Russia or Trinidad and then, you know, other areas. And then heating oil in that area is used a lot for electrical stuff, so getting people off of coal. Off of heating oil. It’s pretty important.
Adrienne Lato [00:20:13] I mean, you hit the nail on the head, right? So I’m a former New Yorker. If there is such a thing. I think once the meeting in New York reads like you’re always a New Yorker, But, um, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Right. So that’s, that’s an example where what you just discussed natural gas policy, there’s extreme opposition to getting natural gas through that upper corner of the state of New York. And you know we’ve seen with Nurk the winter reliability that.
Stuart Turley [00:20:46] Oh yes.
Adrian Lato [00:20:48] That you know there’s generally concern every time you know the winter kind of rolls around.
Stuart Turley [00:20:55] Right.
Adrienne Lato [00:20:55] but you mentioned Russia and China right. So understanding that. Those two countries play a significant role in some of the threats against the B grid. So you have interesting sort of geopolitics that also are impacting the United States and our citizens in a very interesting way.
Stuart Turley [00:21:25] Well, Adriene, how do we get or how are you visiting with your membership and your crew about cyber attacks? Because I believe it was a year and a half ago or two years ago when a Colonial pipeline got hit by cyber terrorists. And I always hear those rumors that are out there that cyber terrorist could take the grid down. How do you help or explain that one? Because that’s that’s frightening for me. I mean, you sit back and kind of go then and I’m going to use the word chatter head again, those chatter heads sitting there trying to get into the grid or like, you know, scary.
Adrienne Lato [00:22:04] I mean, I think the more and more about threats to the grid.
Stuart Turley [00:22:11] I love your you’re heavy sigh I’m sorry that was absolutely. Oh those guys breaking into the grid again.
Adrienne Lato [00:22:19] You know I mean there’s still what is the silver lining, if there is any. The silver lining is that it is that more and more things that were anecdotally discussed, like the risks to the grid, including cyber or were classified, are now more and more becoming declassified, right?.
Stuart Turley [00:22:42] Right.
Adrienne Lato [00:22:42] So the 2018 worldwide threat assessment clearly indicated that both Russia and China have the ability to look to to have or create localized temporary disruption to the grid. Also, to your point. Right, it’s. Unfortunate that our certain countries want to cause harm to the American way of life. But the fact that EPA and our partners, both at the ISAC, the electric and information sharing, ISAC and DOE (Department of Energy) , we are able to more and more inform our members of these threats and help them.
Adrienne Lato [00:23:25] We provide tools and services to help them build their cyber resiliency, their physical resiliency to the types of a threat. Know that I think enabling the public and the people who are actually operating these grids to get access to that information more and more rather than just, you know, in the cones here in Washington, D.C.. That is important that we continue to work with the federal government and make that happen. You know, unfortunately, as you said, there’s a lot of bad guys out there that want to cause harm.
Stuart Turley [00:24:02] Yeah. And, you know, I mean, even as we talked about, it’s the bad weather in this place. I’ve been through two tornadoes here and it even picked my pontoon boat up in the front yard and moved it ten feet. It took out all these neighbors all up and down two miles down the road. And I mean, the electrical team was out here. I was out helping pull my neighbors out. And I mean, our co-op was out there and they were out in force. I mean, it was kind of like they knew it was bad weather here. They had their trucks rolling in and everything else. I mean, that’s.
Adrienne Lato [00:24:45] I think that’s the trick, though, right, With with a storm more often than not a hurricane, at least you get 3 to 5 days warning time. So there’s pre-positioning that the utilities do up and down.
Stuart Turley [00:24:59] Right.
Adrienne Lato [00:24:59] And position themselves to be able to roll in during the mutual aid process. A little different, obviously, when it comes to cyber attack. Right?. A cyber attack is often you get very little notice. So I think the the industry has become well versed in ensuring that we have a emergency response plan. Cyber incident response plans were regularly exercising those plans, sometimes alone in in the utility itself, but often times, as you just described, with larger emergency personnel and staff, because it is an ecosystem of people who have to come together when when the bell rings to keep the lights on.
Stuart Turley [00:25:43] And so as for our listeners, and so since we have such a wide swath, everything of executives to the linemen, to the oilmen and everything else, what do you recommend people do to help get, I always like also talking about solutions. What can people do to help you with your mission call the representatives?, Read up on the grid. How do you how do we help you?
Adrienne Lato [00:26:15] In terms of our supply chain constraints? You know, I think sounding the alarm to your energy officials, both in your state and at the federal level, discussing this podcast, discussing what we are hearing from all of our members and the shortages. And I do want to add one thing, because this has come up a few times, sometimes people have asked me, well, is this just a public power issue? Is it only your members, Adrian? And the answer to that is no. Right. The IOUs. And you mentioned cooperatives just now. The cooperatives and the IOUs are brethren in this ecosystem are likewise facing the same constraints. So it’s across the board. So we would just ask that you talk to your local chamber of commerce, any representative to pressure on that federal government to ensure that they utilize funding or Defense Production Act funding to prioritize distribution transformers is really the call to action.
Stuart Turley [00:27:19] Well, that’s a huge one because, you know, with the pandemic, they they did use the Defense Production Act, in fact, for shipping of of things around the U.S. They’ve used that before to get rid of the Jones Act, you know, as a temporary thing as well, too. So the War Power Act, I believe, is how it’s called, I think something like that, that anyway, the the they can put in those effects for wartime exemptions and get those things move it.
Adrienne Lato [00:27:52] They’ve done it numerous times. I mean, again, we’re talking with local federal here in D.C. federal officials. Nice. It has been used on things. You may recall the baby formula shortage. Right. So there it is. When you think, of course, it was used during COVID, as you just mentioned, for things like getting obviously the vaccine out in toilet paper and things of that nature. But it even got used on things like baby formula. Believe it or not, there was a shortage in ambulances. The bed of the ambulances had a supply chain constraint. And so it’s it’s been used numerous times across very different industries. And so we see no reason why it shouldn’t be used here in the electric sector to keep the lights on.
Stuart Turley [00:28:44] We’ve got about five more minutes here. But what part of New York, since you’ve always you know, you’re always a New Yorker. Right. What part in New York are you hailing from?
Adrienne Lato [00:28:56] I lived in mostly in Westchester County. And prior to joining AP, I worked for one of our member companies at the New York Power Authority. So right there in White Plains, New York, Main Street.
Stuart Turley [00:29:10] Nice. Yeah. I went to high school and junior high in Plattsburgh, New York, and loved skiing up there and skiing in Vermont, Lake Placid. So I guess I’m a pseudo New Yorker, but New York, upstate New York is different than the city. So, you know, I don’t know that I’m even adopted then at that point.
Adrienne Lato [00:29:34] But I let Yorkers make the call on that one if they’re going to adopt you in or not.
Stuart Turley [00:29:40] Okay. Well, I can hold my own with them, if that makes sense.
Adrienne Lato [00:29:45] You certainly did today. So that’s for sure.
Stuart Turley [00:29:47] So as we take a look around the corner and we’ve talked about what people can do to help you, what’s coming around the corner for the association. What do you see your your next big hot buttons for Q2, Q3 and finishing out this year?
Adrienne Lato [00:30:05] So back to the cyber front. One of the things we’re tackling at the moment is cyber incident reporting. So the sector regularly has to report any cyber incidents, you mentioned, for example, a ransomware colonial pipeline. We have numerous reporting. If there’s a cyber incident, we have we have to report things. We have to report things to do. We under a force 17, most recently and soon to be implemented, we have to report to DHS under the New Sersia cyber incident reporting law,.
Adrienne Lato [00:30:41] Congress in its infinite wisdom, piled on yet another one. So we’d like to you know, we’re currently in Q2, Q3, hoping to find some synergy, maybe try to find and help Congress find harmonization among the various incident reporting mechanisms, because I think, you know, for our members, when a cyber incident occurs, they really want to be solving the problem. Having their hands on keyboards, not fundamentally worrying about have to having to report the incident to five different federal agencies. So I think harmonization is is the name of the game there. We’re continuing to keep our eye on fiscal security.
Adrienne Lato [00:31:33] And as you mentioned earlier, unfortunately, there was a number of incidents in 20 well, the end of 22 into the first part of Q1 here in 23, right, where knuckleheads have been trying to take the grid down for a variety of issues. So I think we need to continue to work with law enforcement and making sure that when people are perpetrating those crimes, they don’t get slaps on the wrist, but rather are really sort of prosecuting. So it’s a big deal, right? It’s it’s they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law so we don’t have copycats. So I think those are some of the main things we’re continuing to work on. And, you know, we have some great events coming up, too. So hopefully maybe squeeze in a little bit of fun and all of that as well.
Stuart Turley [00:32:27] Boy, that sounds fantastic. And reach out to you on your either your LinkedIn or public power dot org. Is there any other way that people should get ahold of you?
Adrienne Lato [00:32:40] I think those are the two big ones. Do they get in touch with your viewers? The greater.
Stuart Turley [00:32:46] Well, thank you so much and have a great rest of your day there.
Adrienne Lato [00:32:49] Thank you. I appreciate it. This was fun.
The post ENB #112 Adrienne Lotto, SVP of Grid Security with the American Public Power Association. – Do you think the Grid is secure, and do you take electricity for granted? appeared first on Energy News Beat.
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