Photo courtesy of ATC.
Teresa Mogensen, chair, president and chief executive officer, ATC.

T&D World Interview: ATC CEO Teresa Mogensen

May 3, 2024
Transmission utility ATC hired an industry veteran as its CEO, and she answers T&D World's questions about the utility industry.

Editor’s Note: This interview is part of a series T&D World is doing with women in the electric utility industry. At T&D World Live, Oct. 1-3 at the Hilton Atlanta, we will highlight the work of women in this industry at the Empowered Breakfast — Inspired by Women in Energy. Register for T&D World Live 2024 at

ATC, which has its headquarters in Pewaukee, Wisc., named transmission industry veteran Teresa Mogensen its CEO last year. In this T&D World interview, Mogensen offered her takes on the state of the electricity industry, her career thus far and ATC’s plans for offering reliable service into the future. Mogensen has more than 30 years of experience inside the utility industry, most recently with
Xcel Energy Generation, following a decade with Xcel Energy Transmission where she led that utility’s CapX2020 transmission collaboration.

T&D World: What are the big challenges facing transmission-only utilities in 2023, and what partners do such companies have to rely on to meet them?

Teresa Mogensen: Transmission-only utilities face the same challenges as the transmission parts of vertically integrated utilities in responding to the changing resource mix, enabling interconnection of new generators and loads, managing assets for security, reliability, and resiliency, and operating in compliance with all applicable requirements in situations of increasing complexity. All transmission utilities work in collaboration with state, regional and federal entities, neighboring utilities, and industry groups because everyone is interconnected.

An advantage for transmission-only utilities can be privilege of focus, where the transmission utility’s sole goal is to meet needs for reliable and affordable transmission, and there is not internal competition for attention and resources.

A challenge for transmission-only utilities can be not having the same level of internal resources to draw upon or share with other areas within the same company. However, there are plenty of suppliers and contractors that can be engaged as partners to provide resources. It is important for any company to be able to use a mix of internal and external resources to flex with demand and keep costs down.

Our biggest challenges are related to the changing energy mix. As the electric industry moves toward renewable generation sources, we are transforming our system to continue delivering energy reliably and safely. ATC works closely with our entities including the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, the regional grid operator, and North American Transmission Forum members to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

TDW: Can you tell me a bit about your time at Xcel Energy Transmission, and the work you did there, including the CapX2020 effort?

Mogensen: I led the Transmission business at Xcel Energy for around 10 years. Early on we were ramping up to meet an increasing level of demand for new transmission, including the CapX2020 initiative projects. CapX2020 was a unique collaboration of utilities of different types (investor-owned utilities, cooperative, municipal) coming together to plan and implement a set of “no regrets” transmission projects that were critical to meeting collective future needs.

It was very powerful to have a unified group supporting a collaborative plan, and that helped us achieve necessary approvals. We worked out ways of efficiently implementing the projects with utilities taking different lead roles on different projects. The overall portfolio was supported by agreements and a governance approach to drive collaboration between utilities for the good of the whole initiative.

This is essentially what ATC is, encompassing this diversity within one company via different types of utility owners, charged with meeting all the customer and stakeholder needs of their collective service territories with a collaborative plan and process.

TDW: I see you hold a degree in electrical engineering from Marquette University and that you are a registered professional engineer. What are you hearing from your engineer colleagues about the industry today, and how can you bring their point of view to ATC?

Mogensen: First, the industry needs more engineers! Engineers are critical to utilities and serve in a wide array of important functions. In particular, we need the logical problem-solving approaches that engineers are trained to bring to any situation; the ability to break any presenting issue down into component parts and apply innovative thinking, based in technical reality, to drive new solutions.

ATC engineers see the electric utility industry undergoing an unprecedented transition as we shift from large centrally located, continuously operating synchronous generators such as coal, oil, and gas, to smaller dispersed, intermittent, inverter-based resources such as wind, solar, and batteries. Not only does the resource shifting and relocation require significantly changing the network to reliably address multiple new power flow patterns, the loss of auxiliary services from synchronous generation (e.g., voltage regulation, inertia) requires the implementation of new technologies to maintain system stability. This is occurring at a time when the grid is integrating more large new point loads, like data centers, and supply chain and workforce challenges are reducing the timely availability of the equipment and personnel necessary to design and implement the system changes necessary to maintain grid reliability.

By working with industry organizations, offering additional training opportunities and openly communicating these issues between groups, engineers at ATC expect to fulfill our obligation to provide a safe, reliable and environmentally responsive transmission system to our stakeholders at a reasonable cost.

TDW: Do you have any insights on women in utility leadership, or how the industry is supporting the next generation of women utility leaders?

Mogensen: I am proud to be the first woman CEO at ATC, and one of a small, but growing, number of women CEOs in the utility industry. Part of this is a numbers game, considering proportions of women in the industry in different stages of their careers, and how many of those can gain sufficient experience and opportunity to make it to the top leadership position. It is a constant challenge to increase diversity in STEM-heavy industries and occupations. I have been fortunate throughout my career to have worked for companies and leaders that cared about development and gave me opportunities to grow. I think the utility industry is especially good at this. We want our workforces to reflect the diversity of the communities we serve.

ATC is partnering with community members and educators to build awareness of STEM and energy careers throughout our community, including among women and other groups of people who have been traditionally underrepresented in our industry. We are seeking to create early career opportunities and exposure to the electric utility industry, the skills and commitment needed to be successful and advancement opportunities within the electric utility industry.

TDW: How does ATC’s geographic position, near the Canadian border, adjacent to the Great Lakes, situated in the middle of the US, provide advantages and challenges to its operation?

Mogensen: ATC’s geographic position creates some unique circumstances. While we are not an electrical island, we have historically been a kind of electrical peninsula located in a corner of the MISO region, with Lake Michigan to the east, Lake Superior to the north and limited transmission connections to the west. Adding to the complexity is the fact that to our south ATC’s system borders a different regional transmission operator (Commonwealth Edison in northern Illinois is a member of the PJM interconnection while all of Wisconsin is part of MISO).

The cost of construction across the Great Lakes has historically limited building of new transmission connections to ATC’s north and east, though ATC did strengthen the northern tie around Lake Michigan near the Straits of Mackinac.

The limited transmission connections to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan require strong working relationships with the utilities that own and operate generation in the UP and serve the end-use customers in that area. The presence of Ontario near the Eastern UP presents a potential connection opportunity with appropriate technology when system needs emerge.

As recent weather events have shown (e.g., 2021 Winter Storm Uri, 2022 Winter Storm Elliot), transmission connections are essential to keeping the lights on for the end-use customer. Multiple connections mean the system has more capability to move power where it is needed, either within the Midwest or for other regions. A well-connected network provides significant value for those connected to it.

ATC has constructed multiple new 345-kV tie lines, which have alleviated many of the past reliability concerns for Wisconsin and allowed MISO to transfer needed power across its footprint during extreme weather events.

Having strong transmission network connections to neighboring electrical utilities is a significant advantage in terms of maintaining reliable service. A strong regional transmission grid allows for geographic diversity in terms of accessing wind and solar resources – it may be sunny and windy in one part of the Midwest but not in another. In recent years, ATC has worked to strengthen our connections to the west and has also taken action to implement the recommendations coming out of various North American Electric Reliability Corporation event reports to better prepare our system for a future that is more reliant on variable resources such as wind and solar farms.

Being relatively centrally located within MISO is an advantage in terms of access to the regional energy market, but only to the extent the regional transmission grid can support transfers of energy. Continuing to develop a strong transmission backbone throughout the Midwest will provide regional benefits to ATC and all other interconnected utilities.

TDW: How are the relationships between ATC, electric utilities, cooperatives, and grid operators evolving nowadays?

Mogensen: Relationships overall are generally positive and productive. No one stands alone in a network. We affect and are affected by each other, so we all have a vested interest in each other’s success. Sometimes that inherent need for collaboration is negatively affected by rules that drive competition, but even in competitive situations we all aim to be able to work together at the end of the day. I am bringing an increased focus on delivering value to our customers and stakeholders and looking for the win-win wherever possible.

TDW: Last year, we editors at T&D World heard a lot about T&D equipment becoming harder to find, with longer lead times for projects. Is this a trend you’ve observed, and how do you see it developing?

Mogensen: Yes, equipment is absolutely harder to find. Part of this is the continuing after-effect from the pandemic shutdowns, and part of it is increasing demand. This trend will likely continue for some time. We look at suppliers as a critical stakeholder and seek a longer-term partnership approach to minimize lead time to the extent possible and ensure adequate supply.

TDW: There have been calls by industry groups such as APPA and NRECA for the adoption of a more streamlined process for transmission permitting. Can you provide any insight on this problem, and how state, federal, local authorities can help needed transmission get built?

Mogensen: Permitting processes are present for a good reason, and that is to help ensure that the right projects are built and sited in the public interest, as they serve a public need and provide a public service. So, we support working through them in collaboration with affected stakeholders to result in the most reasonable societal outcome. That said, some processes and jurisdictions are not streamlined or coordinated, especially for projects that cross political boundaries like state lines. This can add significant time and complexity that increases costs and may prevent needed projects from being timely built. We do need more coordinated and streamlined permitting processes for projects deemed in the public interest, as the public ultimately suffers from the gridlock.

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