LEST Professional Excursion USA 2023
What: LEST Professional Excursion
Where: East coast of United States
When: 8th to 25th July, 2023
Our professional excursion to the United States from the 8th to the 25th of July, 2023, was a journey filled with insightful meetings and enriching experiences. Throughout the trip, we had the privilege of visiting prominent institutions, organizations, and landmarks, exploring various aspects of the energy sector, environmental research, and technological advancements.
Our excursion started in the heart of Boston, where we were warmly welcomed by Mr. Behnam Khaki from National Grid on July 9. We delved into the exciting developments in renewable energy sources (RES) across the United States and the necessary infrastructure upgrades required to accommodate these advancements. Mr. Khaki declared that approximately 65% of National Grid’s substations call for upgrades, emphasizing the scale of transformation underway. He also highlighted the surpassing success of photovoltaic (PV) developments in New York, which has exceeded expectations.
On our second day in the US, we visited the prestigious Harvard University where Ana Trisovic, Research Associate at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science (IQSS), gave us a private guided tour. After meeting at The Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center to discuss Ana’s research and its relevance for energy policy and practices, we explored Harvard Square, walked through Harvard Yard and saw the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments at the Science Center. Ana’s ongoing research is centered around assessing the impact of environmental exposure on society using big data and advanced computational methods. We had the rare and enlightening opportunity to learn about this crucial work from her.
From Boston, we traveled to New York, where we visited the United Nations Headquarters on July 12th. Thanks to the warm hospitality of Carla Galea (Policy Advisor) and Tjaša Tanko (Diplomat at the Permanent Mission of Slovenia to the UN), we were granted access to this distinguished global organization. During our time at the United Nations, we engaged in insightful discussions about the current situation in Ukraine and Russia, particularly how it impacts the field of energy and what are the strengths and weaknesses of the UN to solve these issues. We also got to know how Slovenia is included and which topics are covered and negotiated in the organization. While we were in the New York City, we visited cultural and iconic attractions: from the dazzling lights of Times Square to the serene beauty of Central Park, and from the historic Wall Street to the poignant Ground Zero and Statue of Liberty. To explore the wonders of the natural world and the scientific discoveries we stopped also at the American Museum of National history.
In Washington, our first company visit was to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on July 14th. During the meeting, Mr. Eric Ciccoretti provided us with a comprehensive overview of FERC’s role and tasks as well as the global operation of power markets in the US. Mr. Nezam Rabonik, together with his colleagues, introduced us to the Office of Enforcement (OE) and the Office of Energy Policy and Innovation (OEPI). It was fascinating to learn about their roles and contributions to the energy sector. After that, we shared our experiences from research and industrial projects with an emphasis on our work on local flexibility markets and the newly proposed market design within the EU. Our colleagues at FERC were genuinely interested and engaged in learning about these developments. Following the presentations, we engaged in an open discussion about the challenges posed by the increased integration of renewable energy sources into the power system. The insights shared by the FERC team were invaluable, and we exchanged ideas on how to overcome these challenges and foster a sustainable energy future.
Our second meeting in Washington was with Last Energy, where we explored the world of nuclear power and its potential implications. Last Energy is revolutionizing the development and delivery of small modular nuclear power reactors (SMR), potentially paving the way for a sustainable energy landscape. Their approach combines established reactor technology with an innovative delivery model and a fully modular plant design. Throughout the meeting, we had thought-provoking discussions on the benefits and challenges of nuclear energy. We explored its potential as a low carbon alternative, its contribution to global energy security, and the ongoing research and development efforts in the field. The meeting was hosted by Vice President Mrs. Michelle Brechtelsbauer, Mrs. Madeline Hibbs-Magruder and Mr. John Chaplin.
During our stay in Washington, D.C., we also had the privilege of visiting the Embassy of Republic of Slovenia. The warm reception and engaging discussions in Slovenian language made us feel right at home as we delved into various topics with our great host Mr. Bojan Škoda. We covered a wide range of topics, including the domestic and international economies, the Slovenian community in America, and the popularity of Slovenian goods and industrial products. Of course, we also discussed the constantly present subject of energy. Our visit to the Embassy marked the end of our stay in the city. In addition to energy matters, we also had the privilege to see the beauty of Washington and its major attractions. We spent some time visiting landmarks such as the White House, the mighty monuments that pay tribute to the nation’s history, the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol and other sights.
In Orlando, we participated in the 2023 IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES) General Meeting between July 17th and 20th. Our college Jan Jeriha, presented the STREAM in the session dedicated to European energy projects and grid development activities and showcased the first Horizon Europe project that University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Electrical Engineering is coordinating. IEEE PES brought together leading power engineers and key academics from all over the world to promote, share, and discuss vital issues and progressive developments in the field of electrical power engineering. We had the chance to listen to very interesting and knowledgeable speakers, even sometimes provocative, on the theme of power market pricing, steep integration of electric vehicles (EVs) into the grid, energy storage developments, and distribution grid resilience, among others.
Our excursion culminated with a visit to Microsoft‘s premises in Miami on July 21. David Urdaneta, a senior software engineer, gave us a tour of their spaces and engaged in candid conversations about the company’s work and ongoing development projects, providing us with valuable insights into the tech industry and how the future of office working could look like.
Our professional excursion to the United States was a tremendous success, offering us valuable insights into various facets of the energy sector, environmental research, and technological advancements. We would like to once again express our gratitude to all the organizations and individuals who graciously hosted us and shared their knowledge and experiences. This excursion has undoubtedly enriched our understanding and will greatly contribute to our future endeavors in the energy field.