- The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) elected Brandon Presley, one of three commissioners from the Mississippi Public Service Commission, as the organization's next president, during the annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas.
- Presley called for identifying and closing gaps in trainings, resources and technology for NARUC members during his installation speech on Nov. 19. He has identified cybersecurity as a priority and wants to ensure every state commissioner receives classified training on cyber threats, he told Utility Dive.
- He will serve as NARUC president until the 2020 annual meeting, after which members will elect a new leader. Throughout 2020, he wants to increase contact and familiarity between state regulators and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission or other pertinent federal regulatory bodies.
Presley represents one of the poorest states in the country with underserved rural communities as the commissioner for the northern district of the Mississippi PSC. He wants to showcase more opportunities throughout his leadership of NARUC for how grid modernization investments can benefit poorer service areas.
"I personally feel there is a strong intersection between grid modernization and the service [to underserved populations]," he told Utility Dive.
He highlighted a partnership in his state between Entergy Mississippi and C Spire to bring high-speed Internet service to 35,000 Mississippians while also meeting the utility's grid modernization needs by adding fiberoptic cable. The project came about "because we were asking what are other efforts within this infrastructure investment that we can get and that we can make work," he said.
Fiberoptic cable deployment, he said, unlocks a myriad of opportunities for utilities, such as taking advantage of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). Presley is a big proponent for AMI within his state.
"Simple things like prepaid electricity use has been very popular within our rural electric co-ops," Presley said. "It allows consumers to be in control of their usage. Without AMI, you can’t have that benefit."
"I have always consistently had a philosophy that [as regulators] we should be a door opener and not a gate keeper. We should be open to seeing what is on the market."
Presley has also met with FERC representatives, to discuss an "all-hands-on-deck approach" to ensure consistent training in cybersecurity. "We have many commissioners who have not gone through the one-day classified cybersecurity training" available in partnership with FERC and partners in the intelligence community.
"I want to revamp and strengthen the program that brings in commissioners" for the training done in conjunction with FERC, he said.
Presley is also interested in creating more partnerships with FERC in general, as well as more dialogue between commissioners on the state and federal level.
He would "work to try to demystify the relationship between states and FERC."
"I would like state commissions and the FERC to be on a first-name basis, whether we agree or not," he said. "Just by nature, states are somewhat removed from their federal partners."
"I think the public would be best served by an open relationship ... that can be done by [NARUC] purely trying to encourage communication."
He would like the same thing to happen at the Federal Communications Commission and other relevant federal regulators. "As a commissioner, I'd love to have a closer working relationship with the FCC," he said. "What are the things we can work together on, knowing there are things we can't?"
This initiative, he acknowledged, is not new. State matters are increasingly coming to the forefront with federal regulators. FERC currently works with NARUC, but Presley believes the relationship can be even more collegial.
"You see, the nature of the beast is states have policies that sometimes conflict with the FERC -- that happens from time to time... But we should try to look for ways to work together."