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Stakeholder Services: Meet the NYISO Professionals Dedicated to Customer Service in a Changing Electric Grid

March 4, 2024

Going above and beyond is an essential part of the job for the NYISO’s Stakeholder Services team, which works every day to solve problems for market participants and stakeholders in a quickly changing electric industry.

(PHOTO: Stakeholder Services team - left to right: James Scheckton, Kimberly Wiegand, Barbara Kappes, Tyler Casavant, Melissa Cannon, Christopher Tamasi, Kacie Hull, Emily Herren, Jason Baker, Benjamin Klouse. Missing from photo: Patrick Venable, David Hooper, Diana Ortiz.)

This team of 13 professionals provides technical support for energy providers, generators, utilities, renewable developers, policymakers, and many others with an interest in the operation of the electric system and competitive marketplace.

“We’re very often the voice and face of the NYISO for stakeholders and market participants,” said Diana Ortiz, lead stakeholder services rep, who has been handling questions from customers for the past 20 years.

“We build the relationships with the customer. It helps them know that when they call us, they have an advocate, a dedicated rep, and a team of people who know them,” Ortiz said.

Each team member must possess a deep grasp of how the electric system and wholesale markets work, including supply and generation, demand response, financial trading, distributed energy resources, and renewable generation. But a knack for customer service and a positive attitude is also required.

Team members get to know their customers on a personal level as well as the unique aspects of their businesses.

Reps take numerous calls per day while also handling emails, live chats, and website questions. They rotate being on call after hours and on weekends so there is never a gap in customer service. At times, Stakeholder Services’ team members may involve other NYISO subject matter experts from another department to answer difficult questions.

It is a customer service model that continues to evolve and be refined as the state presses forward with its climate objectives.

Recent state and federal policies have fueled a record number of proposals and questions from developers seeking to connect to the bulk electric system and deliver clean energy to consumers throughout the state. As the manager of New York’s power grid, we at the NYISO are tasked with evaluating the reliability and operation of renewable energy projects that come through our interconnection queue.

The increase in proposals to the interconnection queue has impacted Stakeholder Services. A year ago, the team realized it needed to grow to help provide customer service support to the influx of new developers navigating the important process of connecting to the grid.

“The rate of growth and the rate of change in the industry is just so vast and customer service is critical to what the NYISO stands for,” said Chris Tamasi, Manager of Stakeholder Services. “We knew we needed to evolve so that we can actually do our part to support the state’s climate mandates to bring new renewables onto the electric grid.”

Inquiries related to the interconnection queue have soared in recent years. Between 2022 and 2023 alone, the number of cases the team typically deals with rose from about 8,500 to 11,000. The increase is largely attributed to inquiries about interconnection, renewable development, and the process of interconnection.

To accommodate this growth, multiple NYISO teams have been working diligently over more than a year with developers, utilities, and other stakeholders, to streamline the interconnection portal, creating a process that is more transparent, more efficient, and easier to navigate.

Stakeholder Services has also recruited two new specialists dedicated to working with developers in the interconnection queue or contemplating entering the queue with one-on-one problem-solving and customer service. These specialists provide information regarding the status of projects in the interconnection queue and help customers resolve challenges as quickly as possible.

While Stakeholder Services works to communicate with developers and project managers, the dedicated engineers, attorneys, and analysts that make up the NYISO’s interconnection team perform the detailed work necessary to advance each project through the queue.

“We step in when a developer, a customer, or a market participant has a need or there's a gap in understanding how they can actually move their project forward,” Tamasi said. “Our job is to assist the developer. We also are here to support other NYISO teams so, together, we can make the progress necessary for the company to be successful.”

Upcoming improvements to the interconnection portal include a streamlined process that provides stakeholders with real-time information about where their project is in the queue, said Melissa Cannon, a Stakeholder Services team member who specializes in interconnection inquiries.

“There's going to be more of a granular look into what stage a project is in, who is it with, and what’s needed to address any deficiencies, outstanding questions or issues,” Cannon said.

When looking for new staff, Tamasi said technical background is important, but people with a passion for learning are equally valued, as well as those who are used to working with large amounts of data.

Stakeholder Services team member Tyler Casavant, who serves as a liaison for queue applicants, said he appreciates the fast-paced nature of the role, which requires thoughtful coordination with multiple facets across the NYISO.

“I love that we’re getting tossed new questions every single day and we’re always learning something new about the industry and the market participants,” Casavant said.

The Stakeholder Services team doesn’t only deal with developers who have interconnection questions. Callers may be policymakers, elected officials, or even academics who want to learn more about the changing electric grid.

“I look at all those people as our customers,” Tamasi said.

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