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Back Podcast Ep. 33: Udayan Nair is NYISO’s First Director of Grid Transition


Podcast Ep. 33: Udayan Nair is NYISO’s First Director of Grid Transition

June 25, 2024

When we talk about building a more sustainable future, the journey is as important as the destination. Steering the electric grid through these monumental changes requires leadership and creativity.

As the NYISO’s Director of Grid Transition, Udayan Nair oversees the integration of new elements of the industry into our operations and planning functions and works to facilitate coordination across teams.



“A change of this magnitude is going to impact all parts of the organization,” Nair said. “It's going to require the collaboration of the entire sector to be successful in this mission.”

New York’s ambitious climate agenda inspired Nair to relocate his family from Ontario to Albany last year to head up the grid transition team and make sure the organization is well-positioned for the future.

With combined expertise in demand forecasting, environmental engineering, gas and electric coordination and power system engineering, his team is tackling numerous challenges around the power system transition that is well underway.

In our latest Power Trends podcast, Nair discussed some of these challenges, including the impacts of the electric system’s evolving demand profile, the retirement of thermal energy resources, extreme weather events, shrinking fuel security margins, and questions around how renewable resources will interact with the grid.

Nair’s department works proactively to formulate solutions to these problems. Increasing coordination between the NYISO’s operations and planning elements is the first step. They also perform detailed engineering studies to integrate inverter-based resources, assess the impact of environmental policy on the generation fleet, and provide real-time engineering support to the control room.

Maintaining grid reliability through this period of uncertainty is central to the NYISO’s mission. Data can help illuminate the path forward, Nair said. His department is now looking to add a data scientist who can support the department’s various functions and enhance the NYISO’s forecasting capabilities.

“The most important piece, perhaps, is having the right people staff these functions,” Nair said. “We're going to have to think about how to present this information so that it can be actionable, so that operators recognize impending conditions and there are no surprises.”

Nair’s experience in three power sector verticals – transmission, generation, and system operations – has given him deep understanding of the grid and the conditions that must align to keep the system going.

“It helped me understand and appreciate all the things that have to happen perfectly, so that when you turn on that light switch, the power comes on,” he said.

Nair earned a Master of Engineering from the University of Waterloo and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Toronto. In addition to working for multiple system operators, he has held positions at the electricity generator Ontario Power Generation, leading transmission owner Hydro One, and the vertically integrated utility company ENMAX.

New York’s climate plan raises complex questions, many of which have yet to be resolved, but the state is not alone in its effort to transition to a cleaner, greener electric system, Nair said. Maintaining a stable grid throughout the transition requires close coordination with neighboring system operators, especially during extreme weather events.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. When we look across the nation, everyone is embarking on this clean energy journey simultaneously,” Nair said. “Other ISOs are on different points in their journey, but they may have trialed certain techniques and practices which work very well. What can we learn from them?”

Achieving New York’s clean energy goals will require collaboration with lawmakers, policymakers, market participants and industry stakeholders. In terms of the grid in transition, it is not just achieving the goals, but the “getting there” reliably that counts.