Out West student blog

Meeting in the Circuit Room

Presentation to the executive team (photo credit: Byron Woertz)

By Yulia Chen MS '20
Hometown: Shanghai, China
Major: Energy Resources Engineering
Graduate Intern, Western Electricity Coordinating Council

Every Monday, the Performance Analysis Team of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) meets in the Circuit Room, a meeting room that has neither fitness gear nor circuit boards, but just like all other WECC meeting rooms this room is named after scientists and technologies related to electrification. “How was the Writing for WECC Workshop last Friday?” asked Matthew, head of the team. As an organization that promotes reliability of the power grid, WECC offers writing workshops for employees not just to help with effective writing, but also to ensure that WECC’s image of promoting reliability is conveyed in all facets of its work.

As Matthew asked me that question in the Circuit Room, I came to fully understand WECC's ethic of reliability. The message of grid reliability is externalized and reinforced through the naming conventions of the meeting rooms, the rigorously formatted publications, and temperament of the entire office which is housed in a converted historic warehouse. Just like this old warehouse, the grid is something we started building over a century ago and would deteriorate with careful attention and maintenance—California's energy future depends on the meticulous quality of our work.

“The writing workshop was very useful,” I answered Matthew’s question. This response came with the knowledge that, as my internship approached its end, I needed to transition from doing analytics to writing a white paper summarzing my work and findings. Over the summer, a fellow intern and I have been looking at a large dataset containing historical power demand data solicited from regional entities that WECC oversees. Demand is the independent variable that drives how the electric industry balances the electric grid equation - generation should always equal demand. Surprisingly, we found only a little literature that addressed how demand patterns have changed over the past few decades compared to work on how the generation landscape has evolved in the same span. With help from the entire Performance Analysis team, we developed a framework for analyzing electric demand and creating future demand scenarios in the Western Interconnection. Our preliminary analysis tells a worrisome story, making our framework relevant to WECC's reliability mission.

Now that we are putting our conclusions into words, I hope to learn how new frameworks like the one we developed are approved and incorporated into WECC's mission of a reliable interconnection. This has been one of the most rewarding summers I have ever experienced. I look forward to the rest of my time at WECC.


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